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15 Examples of Good and Bad Smart Goals for Students

These examples of good and bad smart goals for students will help you teach kids and teens how to set meaningful goals for themselves.

Teaching goal setting for kids?

three teen students around whiteboard setting goal, text overlay "example good and bad smart goals for kids"

Getting examples of good and bad smart goals for students is going to be really helpful for you.

The ones below will give ideas for how to guide your students as they set their own goals, as well as how to edit and make tweaks to the goals they set (so that they have a better chance of meeting them).

But first, let’s quickly go over what a “good” SMART goal looks like so that you know the measuring stick we’re using here (as well as my personal SMART (ER) goals that I think will get your students a bit more excited about setting one).

Examples of Good Smart Goals for Students

Before we dive into examples of good smart goals, I want to make sure we're all on the same page about what makes a goal a SMART goal.

And not only that, but a SMART (ER) goal.

SMART (ER) Goals are:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time-bound
  • E – Exciting
  • R – Rewarding

So, what does this look like out in the wild (you know, in real life)?

Here's one example of a good SMART goal for students:

I will apply to 4 colleges by the end of December.

Sounds simple, but what makes this a “Good” SMART goal is that it's specific (they're going to apply to 4 different schools), it's measurable (they can track the number of applications they've submitted), it's achievable (let's assume it's September, so they have four months to achieve this by), it's relevant (they're in high school and college is coming up next year), and it's time-bound (by December).

How can you tell if your students have written a good goal?

When your student or child submits their SMART (ER) goal to you, they should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you want to be/do/have?
  2. How will you know that you’ve accomplished this?
  3. If you really put in the effort and focus your energies, is this something you can reasonably believe you’ll achieve by the deadline?
  4. Will achieving this help you in some meaningful way in your life?
  5. When do you want to achieve this?
  6. Does this put a “fire in your belly” (meaning, get you excited)?
  7. Have you set up several mini-milestones to reward yourself with plus to help with measuring results and seeing progress?

5 Reasons a Smart Goal is “Bad” (aka, not finished being written)

A goal isn’t ever really bad…just maybe not finished being written.

Let me explain.

When a student sits down to write a goal out, they might not know how to write an effective one that they can actually achieve. Or they might forget to include any measurements with it. Or they might choose something they’re not really passionate about.

Common reasons a SMART goal just won’t work (i.e., needs some tweaking):

  1. Too vague
  2. No time limit to achieving it
  3. The student has no passion/interest in it
  4. It’s not clear when they’ve achieved success/Can’t know when they’ve achieved it
  5. It will take too long to achieve, and they’ll likely lose interest (you can check out my delayed gratification exercises here)
  6. It’s a goal a parent or teacher wants, not the child wants, so it’s not a priority for them to complete (there’s nothing in it for them)

When a teacher or parent looks the goal over, they can easily spot the changes that need to be made and help that child tweak things so that the goal can actually work.

That might mean asking the child to:

  • Add a timeline to achieve the goal
  • Scale back what the student is trying to achieve
  • Add in rewards along the way, so that the child will stay engaged
  • Choose a goal they’ll reach quicker, first
  • Shoot for more than they’re going for
  • Find what makes them energized about the goal and emphasize that

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s go through specific examples of good and bad smart goals for students. We’ll first use the “bad” version of the goal, and then show you some tweaks that make it a good one.

Examples of Good and Bad SMART Goals for Students

We’re going to take a series of common student goal examples through an exercise of showing how to write it badly, and how to write it so that it POPS.

And what do I mean by “pop”?

I mean, so that the goal:

  • Is exciting and motivational
  • Is something they can achieve
  • Is something they’ll be able to celebrate because they know they’ve achieved it
  • Is something that progresses their life forward in some way
  • Can be measured and has milestones
Example of a Bad SMART GoalTweaks to Turn it into a Better SMART GoalExample of a Good SMART Goal
I want to get a horse. – This goal needs to be measurable (how much to save up to buy a horse?)
– It needs to have a deadline (by what date)
– It's a long-term savings goal, so it should be broken up into mini-milestones that are rewarded along the way
I want to save up $1,500 to buy a horse by the time I am 16.

I will reward myself for each $500 that I save up.
I want to study abroad. – This goal is not specific enough – what country do they want to study abroad in? Using what program?
– This goal is a long-term one, so they need to break it up into mini-milestones to meet with rewards along the way
– One way to add a measurement to this goal is how the child will pay for the trip.
– This goal needs a deadline to it.
I will study abroad in Spain by the time I am 17.

To do this, I will save up half of the money, and then apply for 3 grants & scholarship for the other half.
I want to get on the Varsity cross country team– This goal is a bit out of the student's control – they can control what they do to TRY and get on the team, but not ultimately if they get picked. SO, it's better to have them set a goal for working on something that the team coach would like to see in a Varsity candidate (like better run times, exercising, good grades, etc.).
– This goal needs a deadline.
I want to get on the Varsity Cross Country Team my freshman year, so I'm going to get my mile run time down to 9 minutes by next summer.

Examples of Personal Smart Goals

How about some examples of personal SMART goals for your students?

  • I will increase my number of social media followers on Facebook from 200 to 250 by the end of the school year.
  • I will get on the Varsity tennis team by the time I'm a junior in high school. To do this, I'll set the mini-milestone of getting on the junior varsity team this coming Fall.
  • I will get my first job this summer, starting by the first week in June, and I want to make at least $10.00/hour.

Pssst: Here's 29 more personal goal examples for students, 100 goals for teenagers, and 17 New Year Resolutions for teens.

Examples of Smart Goals for Middle School Students

Looking for examples of SMART goals to inspire your middle school students? Here you go!

  • I will read the whole Goosebumps series by the time I'm in 8th grade. My mini-milestone to meet is to read one new Goosebumps book each semester.
  • I will get better at skateboarding by learning 3 new skateboard tricks over the next 3 months (one each month).
  • I will save up to $30 to buy my brother and sisters a Christmas present this year.

Psst: check out these 37 short-term financial goals for high school students and teens.

Examples of Academic Goals for Students

  • I want to become a better student, and my goal is to write down the homework I need to do for each class before I leave the class so that I have an exact list of things to do each night.
  • I want to learn how to code and will save $75 towards an online coding class for kids that I want to take this summer.
  • I want to graduate high school on time and will meet with my guidance counselor once a week until I get back on track.

Examples of Savings Goals for Kids

You're on a site all about teaching kids money. SO, let's focus on some examples of awesome short-term savings goals for kids!

  • I will save up $200 to buy a used iPhone (pssst: check out my article on how to save up for an iPhone as a kid).
  • I will save $5 each week for the next 4 weeks so that I can take my best friend out to Chuck E. Cheese's (my mom will drive us!).
  • I will save up $14.99 to buy the new cookbook from my favorite chef, the Pioneer Woman when it comes out in November.

I hope I've shown you both examples of good and bad smart goals for students in a way that helps you to help your students choose a goal and to tweak the goals that they have for themselves.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money,, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here or on LinkedIn.