From degree programs to study time, setting higher education goals before you begin your online education will help you get more out of the experience—now and in the future.

A man is working on his computer while taking notes.If you’re choose to enroll in a degree program at an online university, you’ll be joining nearly 5.3 million people already reaping the benefits of an online education.*

Online learning is a great way to pursue higher education in a format that’s ideal for busy adult learners. While it’s tempting to jump right into a degree program at an online college or university, it’s important to first set clear-cut objectives that can help nail down exactly what you want to do—and the best way to do it.

A popular way to do this is to establish something called “SMART” goals. Popular in the business world, this acronym stands for goals that are:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-Based

We’ve prepared some ideas for you to use as you formulate your SMART goals to help clarify what you want out of your higher education and your online college or university—and how earning your degree can help you achieve what you want, personally and professionally.

Specific
When planning your online education, be as specific as possible, taking into consideration the what, when, and how of your goals. What kind of degree program are you interested in pursuing? When will you begin your higher education? How will the online college or university you choose help you achieve your career objectives? The more specific you are about your higher education goals, the better.

Measurable
Besides graduating from your chosen degree program, how will you measure whether you’ve achieved your goals? A good approach is to break down your measurable higher educational goals into steps. Your first goal may be to apply to a particular number of online colleges and universities. Once you begin your online education, perhaps you’ll set a goal of 2 hours of study time each night, or you’ll establish a certain grade point average (GPA) target. Whatever you decide, make your higher education goals at your online university measurable and actionable.

Achievable
It’s essential to set higher education goals that you believe you can realistically achieve. If 2 hours of study time each evening is unattainable, consider revising your plan to study every other night, or for just 1 hour a night. Some college degree programs take longer to complete than others, so don’t convince yourself that you can finish in 1 or 2 years if it will realistically take you 3.

Relevant
Take the time to ensure your online education plans are relevant to both your academic and career goals. As you research your higher education options, you’ll find that some colleges will have stronger degree programs in your area of interest than others. Be sure to select the online college or university that will connect you with what you need—before and after graduation.

Time-Based
Your higher education goals also need to be time-based. This is especially important for adult learners who are balancing work and family commitments. The advantage of an online education is that you can enroll, participate in, and complete your degree program coursework at a time and place that’s convenient for you. Create time-based higher education goals that will fit into your life, from the number of classes you take to when you’ll graduate.

Ready to put your SMART higher education goals into action at Walden University, an accredited institution offering online degree programs? Earn your doctoral, master’s, or bachelor’s degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


*I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2015, on the Internet at www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradelevel.pdf.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.