How to Be Realistic when Setting Academic Goals | ASPIRA City College

Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, planning for civilian life post-discharge from the military, or an adult seeking a career change, enrolling in college is a milestone. The next step is to create a success plan with realistic education goals to help you stay on track and motivated through graduation and beyond. Take it from us – working with a success plan is how to get through college. Here, ASPIRA City College explores how to set realistic goals to succeed in school and when you start your new career.

Form the Right Mindset: Get SMART

Maybe you’re a Medical Secretary student who plans to finish all assignments early. Or, perhaps you’re a Web Design or Computer Support Specialist student who sees yourself acing every exam. No matter which program you enroll in or your personal and family life conditions, virtually all students experience some unexpected challenge while in school.

Because daily life doesn’t always go as planned, reassessing and adjusting your education goals keeps you from stressing out and feeling frustrated or disappointed. You can accomplish this without delaying your graduation date or new career by setting goals that will enable your long-term success. To do this, consider using the SMART goal-setting method:


Goals that are in any way vague or too general are wishes or dreams for your future and not goals at all. Make those dreams specific enough to build an action plan, and then, you have a goal. For example, aiming to finish all assignments early isn’t nearly as detailed as a goal to complete all current homework assignments this coming Saturday by 10:00 a.m.


To stay on track and motivated, measure your progress toward your goal. It can be as simple as crossing weeks off on the calendar, checking items off a to-do list, or tracking your quiz and exam scores.


An objective like completing an entire project in one night might be quite hard to achieve. Objectives, your short-term goals, must be attainable. Setting an unattainable intention generally leads to frustration, poor performance, and disappointment. Before filling your planner, make the objective (i.e. completing an entire project) attainable by breaking it into smaller, manageable, and therefore attainable action steps.


Just as a goal must be attainable, it also has to be realistic. For instance, the goal of earning 100% on every quiz and exam may not be realistic. However, aiming for a grade of 80% or better is a more realistic goal to achieve good grades.


While there is nothing wrong with setting long-term academic goals, like graduating college on time, it’s important to set bite-sized goals you can achieve in the immediate future. Whether it’s studying for an hour each day or being on time for class, creating a timeline for your journey will keep you motivated to reach your goals.

Hold Yourself Accountable

You aim to complete your college program, graduate, and gain employment in your career field – a worthy objective. By turning it into smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely short-term goals, you can accomplish your aim, no matter how full your plate. Graduating from college and gaining career employment takes your commitment, planning time to set SMART objectives, effort, persistence, and willingness to hold yourself accountable. It’s the Success Plan – and it’s how you achieve the goal of a better, more rewarding career with a higher income, competitive benefits, and growth potential.

At ASPIRA City College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, students succeed with a plan in place and access to supportive instructors, admissions, financial aid, student and career services staff, and peers. Every aspect of the ASPIRA City College student experience has student success in mind. For more information about how we can help you reach your education and career goals, contact us today.