Are your children excited about their academic goals?
Do they even know what those academic goals are?
Don’t worry, most parents answer with a resounding “No”.
Motivating your children to do well in school is tricky, and distractions like smartphones and social media don’t make it any easier.
And yet, it is possible to get your children to pursue academic success — no exhausting micromanaging required.
Here’s the thing…
Goals matter, but not all goals are created equal.
It all boils down to setting the right educational goals.
Let’s take a closer look at what it means to set smart academic goals. I’ll also walk you through a proven system to help students set achievable goals and build life-long success habits.
What is an academic goal?
The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score. – Bill Copeland
Academic goals are educational objectives your children set for themselves.
Notice that I said “your children set” — not you, the parent.
I know that’s easier said than done.
I’m a parent, too. As parents, we only want the best for our children.
Even so, our kids want to feel in control of their lives. They need to know their opinions matter.
You can help your children set smart academic goals without dictating the details of those objectives. In turn, they will be more motivated to follow through on their commitments.
They’ll build significant traits like focus, determination, and confidence, too.
When setting academic goals, it’s good to consider both short-term and long-term targets.
Short-term academic goals
When I refer to short-term academic goals, I mean educational objectives that typically take a year or less to achieve.
Short-term goals create powerful opportunities for confidence-building wins. They also provide direction — your children will know which side of the field to run towards to score that game-changing goal.
Plus, short-term academic goals lead to improvements in study habits, character, and resilience.
It’s this process of setting goals (not necessarily achieving the outcome) that sets your children up for ongoing success.
Here are some examples of short-term academic goals:
- Get an A on my next math exam
- Connect with a mentor who will give me guidance
- Finish my research project by [specific date]
- Join chess club
- Participate in classroom discussions at least X times a week
Long-term academic goals
Long-term academic goals are a student’s North Star.
Motivation is fleeting, and focus may not always come easily.
Sometimes, your children might think:
“It’s only one grade — so what if it’s not an A?”
Relying on inspiration doesn’t work, but long-term academic goals do when they’re compelling.
The key is to help your children identify the why behind their big goals. There must be a meaningful emotional attachment to the dream.
Some students find it exciting to plan for their futures. Others get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it, and that’s okay, too.
Remind your children that long-term academic goals might change as they develop new interests. What’s essential is creating a long-term educational plan that brings meaning and purpose to their academic studies.
Examples of academic goals
Since long-term academic goals are crucial, let’s take a closer look at some common examples.
Achieve a high GPA
Getting a high GPA (grade point average) is not the main thing to focus on.
A grade is just a letter on a page. There’s no doubt that it’s possible to lead a fulfilling and successful life without straight A’s.
Still, a high GPA is a sign of a hardworking, disciplined student — traits that many scholarship committees, universities, and job boards value. Achieving a high GPA might be a long-term academic goal that makes sense for children and teens.
Get accepted into their dream university
Have your children or teens already selected their dream universities?
Maybe it’s a local university with an esteemed journalism program. Or perhaps your children want to study where you earned your degree.
Acceptance into a dream school can be a motivating and exciting long-term academic goal for students.
Earn a bachelor’s degree
Earning a bachelor’s degree is a necessary first step for many career paths. Even if the subject doesn’t provide a direct job path (like English or Philosophy), pursuing a bachelor’s degree is an opportunity for your children to dive deep into their interests while paving the way for ongoing education.
In addition, university classes build communication, social, and problem-solving skills — all great reasons for your children to want to get a bachelor’s degree.
Earn a master’s degree
Some career paths require a master’s degree. If your children dream of being mental health counsellors or urban planners, they’re going to need to spend additional time in university.
Another reason to consider a master’s degree is for the financial benefits. The data shows that some jobs pay individuals with a master’s degree up to 18% more than those with bachelor’s degrees.
Whether your children and teenagers’ goals are career advancement or financial security, earning a master’s degree might be a relevant long-term goal.
How setting academic goals helps students
We’ve explored different types of academic targets and made a sample list of goals for students. Now, let’s look at how you can help your children and teens to set and attain their academic goals.
Academic goals are a training plan for success
Let’s imagine that your boss tells you that you have to run a marathon.
(Let’s not get into why your boss would want you to do this.)
If you’re not a runner, running 42 kilometres probably sounds exhausting. Impossible, even.
You have no idea where to start, so you don’t. You tell your boss you can’t run the marathon, and that’s the end of it.
Now, picture this instead…
No one is forcing you to run a marathon. You’ve decided it’s a long-term goal that motivates you to become a healthier person. Plus, you’ve always wanted to get outdoors more.
So you find a coach. She gives you a 16-week training plan, and you start with some short runs. The weeks go by and suddenly, you’re on your way to running the full marathon. You have milestones to keep you on track as you race towards a finish line you’re excited to cross.
Long-term academic goals are like a marathon; short-term objectives are the training workouts to help them stay the course.
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating.
It’s the process — not achieving the outcome — that makes the difference.
Finishing a marathon is fantastic, but what’s even more important than that?
Who you had to become to complete those early morning runs and exhausting training sessions. The mental fortitude and physical strength you gained through the practice of showing up, day after day.
Life is a continuous journey of learning, improving, and developing.
Educational goals enable your teens to develop valuable life skills, regardless of the outcome.
Academic goals measure progress
There’s a well-known business saying that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.
This goes for academics, too. Short-term educational goals give your children clear benchmarks to track their progress and make any necessary changes along the way.
Academic goals build a sense of purpose
Students need to know that they have control over their lives and that their decisions make a difference.
Having academic goals does precisely that. Suddenly, schoolwork has meaning. Homework no longer seems pointless, and getting good grades becomes exciting.
What’s more, a sense of purpose builds self-confidence, motivation, and autonomy — all excellent traits of responsible teenagers.
How to set and meet academic goals
At this point in the article, you’re no longer wondering what academic goals are. Even better, your children now have (or will soon have) lists of short- and long-term objectives they’re excited to pursue.
But there’s one problem: Not all goals lead to results.
It’s not because your children aren’t working hard enough or don’t care about their studies.
The secret to setting the right academic goals is to focus on achieving progress — not perfection.
Your children are going to face challenges and encounter setbacks on their journey.
Maybe your children or teenagers studied for weeks yet still didn’t ace their big exam.
Or maybe they fell behind in calculus while working on their college applications.
Such disappointments are normal. At the same time, obstacles present powerful opportunities for personal development and growth.
What matters most is making progress towards academic goals.
We can’t control the outcome, but we can manage the processes that move us closer to the desired result. And we do that by helping students set process-based goals.
Here are a few examples of process-based goals:
- I will work with my math tutor twice a week.
- I will get at least 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
- I will sit in the front row of the class to ensure that I stay focused.
- I will put my phone on aeroplane mode while studying so that I don’t get distracted.
- I will drink at least eight glasses of water daily.
Get specific with your process-based goals.
“I will study for 2 hours every weeknight” is much easier to track than “I will study more”.
Then, every week or two, monitor your progress. Encourage your children to review their process-based goals and assess how they’ve been doing.
Are they getting closer to achieving their short- and long-term academic goals? If not, that’s okay!
Help your children to make any necessary tweaks or adjustments to their process-based goals.
This way, your children will continually be working towards their academic goals without being fixated on a specific outcome.
They’ll begin to enjoy the process of improving and developing — and be much more likely to get the results they want, too.
The difference between academic and career goals
As we begin to wrap up this article, you might be wondering, “What’s the difference between academic and career goals?”
I like to say that academic goals are the stepping-stones to future career objectives.
If your children want to become doctors, they will first have to get specific grades and diplomas.
Job success isn’t as straightforward as getting straight A’s. Employees are “graded” on performance, creativity, teamwork, and leadership — all valuable skills your children will learn through the process of pursuing their goals.
Don’t worry if your children have no idea what career they would like to pursue. Career goals often evolve, and students tend to change their minds over time.
The bottom line is that it’s terrific if your children have career goals, but don’t focus on them too much.
Instead, focus on both short- and long-term academic goals that bring purpose to your children and teens’ studies, and enable them to build vital skills.
Want even more tips?
When you help your children to commit to smart academic goals, you set them up for long-term success.
It’s great if your children achieve their goals. Even better, though, is the process of becoming hardworking and disciplined students with compelling visions of the future.
Setting academic goals is only one way to motivate your children and teens. Want even more tips?
Do you want to learn how to help your children and teens…
- Find a renewed passion for learning?
- Take responsibility for their education and life?
- Build character and resilience?
- Do what they ought to — without you nagging?
If so, download my e-book, 16 Keys to Motivating Your Teenager.
The guide is completely free, and I’ve received countless emails from happy parents who have benefitted from the e-book.
So click the link in the box below and get your copy today!