How to Set Goals for Academic Success in 5 Simple Steps
By Rick and Teena Kamal

Most parents realize that helping their children set goals is important, but few realize that not all goals are created equal. While some goals can indeed empower children to get better grades and achieve academic success, others can actually discourage children or cause them to become frustrated and overwhelmed.

How do you know the difference, then, between a goal that inspires and one that is counterproductive? Follow the five steps below to ensure that the goals your child is aspiring to are ones that contribute to his or her long-term academic and professional success:

1. Inspire Dreams and Translate them into Long-Term Goals – When children are small, they’re often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Parents laugh lightheartedly as their tots talk about becoming ballerinas and astronauts. As children get older, however, the question becomes more serious. Too often, parents begin to discourage their children’s lofty dreams or assume that their own dreams for their children are more suitable. Unfortunately, this often causes children to become complacent and lose the passion they once had for their futures. As youngsters enter middle and high school, it’s important to help them revisit their dreams and begin thinking seriously about their personal and professional goals. Talk to your child about her future openly and without judgment. Allow her to dream as big as she wishes, and encourage her to jot down several long-term goals she hopes to achieve as an adult. This practice can be a really powerful motivator. Once children see the connection between their dreams and achieving academic success, they’re much more likely to put in the effort to make better grades.

2. Transform Long-Term Goals Into S.M.A.R.T. Goals – An important part of the goal setting process is determining whether the goals are S.M.A.R.T. In this case, S.M.A.R.T. refers to Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. In order for goals to have the intended effect of inspiring kids toward academic success and personal/professional achievement, all goals must meet these basic criteria. Go through your child’s long-term goal list, and together, decide which goals to keep, which to modify, and which to discard. Then, work with this refined list to transform these long-term goals into their short-term S.M.A.R.T. counterparts. In essence, the more specific the goal is, the more targeted your child’s focus will be on achieving this goal. In addition, goals that are measurable tend to be much more satisfying as children can clearly see their progress toward achieving the goal. Furthermore, actionable goals can be easily broken down into specific action steps, making them much easier to implement, and therefore more achievable. You should also ensure that each of your child’s short-term S.M.A.R.T. goals is relevant to them and compatible with their long-term goals and dreams. This will ensure that your child is working toward his eventual success efficiently and consistently. Finally, be sure that each of the short-term goals you’ve identified is time-bound. This means that it has a definite starting and ending point, so that you child doesn’t fall prey to procrastination.

3. Make an Action Plan for Each Short-Term Goal – The next step in setting goals for academic success is to help your child develop an action plan for each of the short-term goals she’s set for herself. For example, if your child has decided that she wants to make better grades in English, then her action plan may consist of daily tasks such as reading for an hour each day, joining a study group that focuses on reading and writing, and spending an extra 30 minutes of study time on this particular subject each night. Once this plan is set in place, encourage your child to post it in a place where she will see it every day and commit to completing these tasks on a daily basis. You will also need to come up with a plan to ensure accountability. Ideally, your child will hold herself accountable for completing these daily tasks, but she may need a little help from you or another adult, at least initially.

4. Monitor Progress and Adjust Goals Regularly – Once you and your child have set some goals in place for his academic success and aligned them with a daily action plan, you’ll need to make a schedule for monitoring his progress and adjusting goals as needed. Whether it’s biweekly or once a month, decide upon specific dates when you will meet together and talk about how the action plan is progressing. As you monitor these plans, discuss whether or not the goals need to be adjusted. If your child has met a goal on the list, for instance, then it may be time to set a new goal to encourage continual progress. On the other hand, if your child is making little progress despite remaining committed to his daily action plan, then you may need to reevaluate how realistic the goal is and modify it accordingly. Although it’s understandable that you want your child to make much better grades right away, setting the bar too high can be counterproductive. Your child should be challenged but not intimidated by his or her goals.

5. Reward Success – Finally, as your child works hard to make better grades, accomplish her short-term goals, and ultimately achieve her academic success, be sure to appropriately praise and reward her efforts. Positive reinforcement can keep your child motivated to continue her efforts. Whether you decide to grant her a special privilege, give her a tangible reward, or simply pat her on the back for a job well done, be sure to take time out from your busy schedule to stop and recognize her triumphs.

Goal setting is undoubtedly one of the key elements necessary for a child to achieve academic success. Natural intelligence and even effective study skills can only go so far without defined goals and a plan to achieve them. When helping your child develop goals for his present and future, be sure that these goals are S.M.A.R.T. and also ensure that you regularly monitor his progress. Don’t forget to provide plenty of positive reinforcement to keep him motivated as he follows his own unique path to success.


Author's Bio: 

Award-winning study and life skills experts Rick and Teena Kamal founded EduNova to prepare students to lead and thrive in the global economy. They worked with 33 top university education experts and many successful senior executives to produce resources that empower middle school, high school and college students to succeed. Learn more at