As a student, I am sure you are constantly juggling tons of workload. Academics combined with extracurriculars can be hectic. A lot of students, especially those taking on more challenging curriculums such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB), find themselves pressed for time. This is primarily because more often than not, they don’t have a set system that helps them manage their goals. Since they struggle to schedule time for study and leisure/exercise, they are naturally unable to find time for the ‘extra’ curricular.
If you are aiming for highly competitive universities abroad and in India, you would need a couple of stellar extracurricular activities under your belt. This is especially when goal setting comes into play. While goals are typically categorized into short-term and long-term (also medium-term), it is quite common for high school student to scale up their projects. In this case, a short-term goal converts to a long-term goal. Most long-term goals will demonstrate high-impact projects that show dedication towards a particular idea. A lot of these also then are picked by students to write their Common App Essay or Personal Statement on.
Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
There is no set definition for the duration of a short-term goal. Given that high school includes four years – grades 9 to 12, your short-term goals could range anything from 1 month to 6 months depending on the activity you wish to complete. Anything beyond that would probably count as a long-term goal.
As mentioned, short-term goals give leeway to long-term goals. For instance, a student who started working on a gender-focused research paper completed it in two months during her summer break. Soon after school started, she reached out to her English professor to help her scale this project. In that, she reached out to people she had surveyed and started an awareness campaign on gender issues. Since her audience was individuals from rural India, she collaborated with a couple of NGOs to have her voice heard. All in all, even though her research paper was completed in two months, she tried to fill gaps in this area through her knowledge and skills. The awareness initiative went on for one and a half years before she completed her school. Because she also happened to have a personal story linked to this project, she chose this as her Common App Essay topic.
What does a goal need to be?
You may have heard that goals need to be SMART.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound
In today’s competitive education world, it is also important to set goals that help you distinguish yourself from the crowd. Think in terms of what has not been done or what could be done differently. And thus, it is important to have a SMART-C goal; C standing for Creative.
Tips for Goal-Setting
Write down your goal (e.g. creating an app)
Break it into its constituent parts (e.g. who would this help, why are you doing this over something else aka personal interests, does it help your case for a specific major, what skills do you need to achieve this goal)
Critique your goal (e.g. in which cases would this not work; does it achieve your initial purpose)
Plan your goal (use the SMART-C approach for this and see if it fulfills these criteria)
Monitor your progress and work towards achieving your goal (e.g. use a spreadsheet)
Journal thoughts and emotions as you work on this goal (this would be especially handy while writing your essays)
Incentivize your goals! (Treat yourself when you achieve them. This extrinsic motivation also helps with intrinsic motivation)
Goal Setting helps you focus and refocus your aims in life. It is not restricted to academics, extracurricular activities but also your personal life. Personal goals could be as simple yet vital as managing your grocery shopping or learning recipes, to state the most relevant ones to our situation today. Overall, goal setting is considered to be a lifelong skill that would most definitely help you with your college life.