How to Set Study Goals That Work for You

The school year is well underway and you know what that means: you need to figure out how to make study goals that work for you.

Most students aren’t able to breeze through their academic life without studying. If you’re not one of the lucky few who can, you need to set study goals so you can thrive.

If you’ve never had to study before, setting these goals is difficult. We’re here to help you get started with our tips for setting study goals for students. Keep reading to learn more.

Get a Planner

If you’re someone who struggles with studying (or school in general), it’s important that you invest in a good planner. This will help you set and stick to your goals.

Different people benefit from different types of planners. Some people prefer planners that are on their phones or laptops while others like having something physical.

We suggest getting a large erasable calendar as well. This way, you have the entirety of your “plan” in front of you every day. It’s easy to make changes with erasable markers and you don’t have to worry about replacing it every year and wasting resources.

List and Prioritize

Once you have your planner, you’re going to have to start coming up with a list of study goals that you need to achieve. This isn’t as easy as it looks because you’re going to have a lot of things to do.

Break down your study topics into individual classes. What do you have to do for every class? Are some things more time-sensitive than others?

Let’s say that you have four classes this term. To keep it simple, you have math, English, biology, and U.S. history. You have tests at the end of the term for all of these classes.

Which class are you struggling in the most? What classes have other assignments before exams that you need to attend to?

If you have a mid-term exam in math, but no other classes, your math studies are going to move up the priority ladder. If you do well in math but struggle with English, English may still come before math because you need extra time.

If you’re struggling to determine what should go wear, bring out all of the course calendars or syllabi for your classes. Go through and see when each individual assignment or test is going to happen. This can help you figure out which lessons you should be prioritizing at any given time.

Talk to Your Professors

Too many students forget that their professors are helpful resources. Sure, their first job is to hold lectures and classes, but they also want to help you succeed.

If you’re struggling to set smart study goals, use your teacher to help you. Visit them during their office hours and they should have available time to sit down with you and discuss your struggle.

Professors can help you target specific areas that you should focus on based on your current grades and they may even help you learn some useful study habits. Remember, professors were once students as well (and some still are).

Make a Schedule

Do you struggle with staying focused? Use the planner that we mentioned before and make a strict schedule for yourself. After some time, you might be able to deviate from the schedule, but it will help you at first.

Start by listing things that are necessary, regardless of whether or not they’re study-related. This should include things like appointments, work, and classes. These are times that you won’t be able to allocate toward studying.

Block those times out in your schedule so you can see how much free space you have leftover. If you commute, block in the average commute time as well.

Block in enough time for 6-8 hours of sleep every night and remove that time as well. This will remove the temptation to pull an all-nighter to get your studies done. Pretend that the time is already gone.

With the remaining time, write your study plans based on the prioritized list you made before. Try not to burn yourself out on studying. You should factor in study breaks for food, rest, and fun.

Believe it or not, breaks help you retain information and stay focused. If you schedule them ahead of time, you’ll feel less rushed.

Keep this schedule with you and cross things off as you do them. The practice of crossing off accomplished tasks can result in a small dopamine spike. You’ll feel rewarded even if you aren’t getting a literal reward for your efforts.

Take Notes

When you’re setting study goals (and while you’re studying), make sure that you take notes. Take notes in class, while you’re working with friends on projects, and while you’re doing your homework.

We recommend taking physical notes instead of typing. While typing is more convenient in 2021, taking physical notes may make it easier to remember information.

Bring notes from class with you when you study, even if you already have a textbook or available notes from teachers online.

Set Boundaries

Are you good at setting boundaries?

When many people think about boundaries, they think about them in reference to interpersonal relationships. Boundaries also apply to the way that you work and study. You’re responsible for maintaining these boundaries.

Your boundaries should be around how you take care of yourself while studying. For example, you may set a boundary with yourself about never skipping a meal to study, or never getting fewer than eight hours of sleep despite your schedule.

Check-in with Yourself and Be Flexible

Studying for exams and projects is hard work. There will be times that you’re going to feel burnt out. Make sure that you recognize those times and that you’re ready to pull back and take a break if you have to.

You should assess your goals every so often to make sure that your study habits are still benefiting you. If they’re not, exercise flexibility to change them.

For example, let’s go back to the math example. While math was a stronger subject for you, you knew that the exam was coming up. You’ve now realized that you’re beyond prepared for that exam, so your study sessions are no longer effective.

This is the right time to move math down the ladder. It’s no longer serving you, and you’re confident that you’re going to do well on the exam. Move your efforts toward a weaker subject even if the exam is farther away.

Find Ways to Enjoy Studying

Do those two words go together? “Enjoy” and “Studying?” They can if you know how to do it.

You can make fun study games for yourself (or find games online. There are games for almost every subject). You can listen to music or podcasts if you don’t get distracted and you can even offer yourself a reward system.

For example, offer yourself a special (and affordable) snack when you accomplish a specific goal. This will give you more motivation if the idea of passing or failing an exam isn’t motivational enough.

Some people enjoy creating tests and trying to pass them. If you’re worried about making your own test, look for practice tests online or ask your professor if they’d be willing to offer you practice test questions that aren’t the same as real test questions.

Studying isn’t fun by default. Making it interesting is your responsibility.

Get an Accountability Group

Speaking of making studying more fun, assembling an accountability group is a great way to keep things interesting while you’re setting goals.

Pick a group of people who have similar study goals to yourself so you can work together to make those goals more actionable. Are you all taking the same English class? Do you all struggle with the same U.S. history concepts?

When you work in a group, whether it’s in person or online, you have other people holding you accountable for your progress. You also have a group of people to bounce ideas off of and play study games with so you can progress more quickly.

Set Your Study Goals for Academic Success

No one ever said that school was going to be easy. Getting a degree is hard work for many students, but setting tangible and actionable study goals will help.

Get an accountability group, talk to your instructors, gather some organizational tools, and make sure that you prioritize your studies. You’ll ace your exams in no time.

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