With a new year and semester underway, now is the perfect time to plan out your academic, personal, and future goals for the next two quarters of the year. Identifying, defining, and executing these goals is one of the most valuable skills you can master.
Whether you’re setting goals that are short-term or plotting out long-term aspirations, your academic plan should offer a concrete framework that dictates how time should be allocated to specific tasks and which habits to cultivate for effective execution.
The question many face is, “How can goal setting help with academic performance?” Research has consistently shown that students who set clear and achievable goals are more focused, motivated, and likely to achieve academic success.
Now let’s take a look at the upcoming milestones for the next two quarters and lay out how to make these goals a reality!
First Quarter: January to March
Our first stretch spans from January through March, setting the stage for spring. This interval is a great opportunity for proactive goal setting for kids and outlines what they aim to accomplish as the weather warms.
Spring break in March is a great time for a week-long internship or an educational family trip. It’s also not too early to start preparing for midterm or final exams because they tend to sneak up on you.
The best way to prepare is to stay up to date on your homework and assignments to better minimize stress in the future and enhance overall time efficiency. Try creating objectives for each individual class, or set aside some time each week to make sure you understand the course material. If you are finding that a class may be too challenging, it is important to take proactive steps early in the quarter to set yourself up for success at the end. This may mean setting time aside outside of class to focus on the material on your own or with a tutor who can support your academic growth.
If you’re a senior in high school, the first quarter is a perfect time for students to re-take any exams if necessary and finalize their college applications.
Second Quarter: March to June
As we transition into the second quarter of the year, from March until June, students should continue their academic planning by selecting fall classes that align with their interests and educational goals.
For students in high school, this is a critical time for college admission planning, so you’ll want to work on developing a structure and a narrative that is both authentic to yourself and enticing to the college. When selecting your fall courses, take classes that challenge you or help express your creative self. It’s also beneficial to build an academic plan and course schedule that’s structured so you can maximize your time, for example, take harder classes in the first semester or take classes earlier in the day so you have more time after school.
It is also a good idea to start thinking about exams you’d like to take. Students who are interested in taking AP or IB exams will want to build their schedules according to the criteria required for them.
Even elementary students can start thinking about taking extra assessments such as MAP, STAR or CogAT/CCAT, so they can spend the summer strengthening their knowledge in certain subjects and preparing for the new school year ahead.
It’s not too early to begin thinking about your summer plans. Internships, enrichment programs, summer courses, or camps are all great opportunities for learning this summer. Sometimes students find that taking a summer class, or even simply learning from online videos before starting a class in the fall, is helpful for seamlessly completing the course. It’s important to keep in mind that registration for most summer activities can fill up quickly, so the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to be selected.
If you’re a junior in high school, this would be an ideal time to apply for a summer internship or enrichment program at a University. This is also when you should start preparing for any exams such as the SAT/ACT or TOEFL/IELTS.
Crafting SMART Goals
To lay a firm foundation for the year ahead, engage in SMART goal setting for kids and students: setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Specific goals are as they sound. Ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish? Who’s involved? What needs to occur to achieve it?
Measurable means providing quantitative tracking or benchmarks for your progress.
Achievable goals mean making sure they are realistic and attainable within your resources.
Relevant is the why behind your goal and serves as a reminder of its need.
The final element, Time-Bound, instigates the parameter of your goals. When you will begin the process and when it is to be achieved.
An example of a goal for a student with established SMART goals would be:
- Specific: Read one book of your choice each month for 6 months.
- Measurable: Read at least 40 pages every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Tab each section with the day to mark its completion.
- Achievable: Start off with a shorter book to solidify that it is achievable, and then work your way up to something longer while you learn to manage your time to include this new goal.
- Relevant: To improve reading skills, gain knowledge, and limit screen time.
- Time-bound: 6 months to read 6 books.
It’s important to write out your plans so that they are visible and so you can see them as the year progresses. Add rewards if you’re having trouble staying motivated, get creative, and be open to new ideas and approaches. Try learning a new language, taking a new class, creating study groups, or pausing to meditate more frequently.
One of the key benefits of academic planning is being able to try new things and learn from your mistakes. It can also be helpful to build a network of support. If your friend wants to watch a show but it’s a reading day, they can compromise that they watch only one episode with you to give you time to read. Being supported by your friends and family can make it easier to prioritize and reach your goals.