Student Success Centre

Set realistic goals

Career goal setting helps determine what you want from your career and from your life. As a student, goals help you focus on “why” and “what” you are studying and provide you with the motivation you need to achieve the best results possible. They also help you establish priorities and decide where to spend your time and effort. Goal setting is a necessary part of turning your dream into reality.

Most goals require hard work and sacrifice. As all successful medical school students know, for example, there is a tremendous cost in terms of effort, time, and money in order to gain admission into a highly competitive program.


Use the acronym SMART to think about your goals:

SPECIFIC – state your goal clearly. The more specific the goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. A specific goal answers the “W” questions – Who, What, Where, When, Which (requirements, obstacles) and Why.

MEASURABLE – how will you know when you reach your goal? Are there interim stages? Long-term goals usually have short-term phases. What will you do to keep yourself on track?

ATTAINABLE – understanding yourself is the first step in setting attainable goals. Acknowledging both your strengths and weaknesses helps you decide upon a plan to address gaps in knowledge or resources. Are you willing and able to put the effort, time, and/or money into this goal? Most goals can be attained if you carefully understand what is required and commit yourself to putting in the required time and effort.

REALISTIC – a realistic goal is one which you believe can be accomplished. You need to be both willing and able to work towards this goal. Ask yourself - is your goal within your reach or your control?

TIMELY – achievable goals have timeframes. Establishing dates and deadlines helps you work toward achieving your goals.

Final Tips