Jump to main content

Setting SMART Goals in college

A woman lifting weights in the gym while her personal trainer advises her.

Jason Keller
February 05, 2019

Have you ever tried to set a goal or resolution only for it to end in failure? That’s the story for a lot of people. Why do so many goals fail? According to Kathryn Lundberg, who holds a masters in Kinesiology and coordinates UNC’s Fitness and Wellness Programs, it’s because people don’t set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-oriented).

You can set a SMART goal for just about anything. For example, let’s say you wanted to learn German in a semester. The first steps would be to set more specific goals than just "learning German." It might be to learn enough German to order food at a restaurant, which is both specific and attainable. An app like Duolingo and some helpful reminders make sure you’ve got measurable and realistic ways to achieve your Träume!

All too often, though, people still stumble in achieving what they set out to do. Luke Skywalker did. Frodo did. You might too. Lundberg says that learning to fail is a natural part of the process. If you stumble a bit, it’s all right, she says. Just keep going.

Lundberg also has three more tips to make sure your goals stay SMART:

  1. Set short-term goals to reach long-term goals. Create project milestones.
  2. Ask yourself why you’re setting the goal and if it really matters to you.
  3. Stay on track with consistent sleep, hydration, nutrition and stress management.

“The vaguer the resolution, the more likely it will fail. This is where SMART goal setting becomes important.” – Kathryn Lundberg

UNC has lots of ways to help students achieve their goals. Here are some services Bears use to set and complete SMART goals: