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10 Essential Academic Goals for High School Students

Remember the first day of high school? I do! I remember it being a very stormy day and being lost in the weather on my way home after school. Among the new-ness of it all, my academic goals for high school were waiting to be molded.

But other than that first day, what might be some other things you remember? Do you remember what it was like attending your classes as a freshman? It may have been overwhelming, as courses were structured differently in middle school. 

You perhaps would’ve heard many misconceptions about high school from your peers around you. Some will say that high school is a very important stepping stone towards your future.

This is when your grades and academic success matter and are taken into consideration for university applications. Setting short-term goals and long-term goals may give some clarity on this.

But what happens if you felt that you were never a strong student before high school? Fear not – habits can definitely change and it’s never too late to set some educational goals for high school.

High School Student Goals

Establishing Academic Goals for High School

Whether you’re in your freshman or senior year, you can definitely tweak a few study habits. And you can start by doing this through setting goals for yourself. 

While you set these specific goals, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s academic journey is different. So, you shouldn’t sweat if you feel like your peers know more than you. Instead, focus on yourself throughout the goal-setting process and see what you could do. 

Setting educational goals starting with high school will help better prepare you for your college education. Approximately 59% of high school students have an action plan to become college students. If that’s you, goal setting will benefit you immensely!

So without further ado, here are some realistic goals you can work towards in the beginning, in order to see how you can improve your studies: 

1. Don’t Stick to One Stream of Courses

I know we’re all pressured to focus on a specific stream, or type, of classes because guidance counselors and teachers encourage us to narrow ourselves to a certain field. However, this is often an incorrect approach because we’ll only be sticking to a specific set of courses. What if we have other talents and interests? 

Well, the answer to exploring other talents is to take a variety of courses with different focuses. When you’re selecting courses or electives, search for some courses that are outside of your comfort zone.

For example, when you select a visual arts course, perhaps select a business course to complement it. This is a good goal because you can develop more of your talents and skills for long-term success. 

2. Set a Study Schedule 

Try to see which extracurricular activities you plan to join, and keep track of the meetings. Plan these meetings in your agenda and see if you have any other obligations to fulfill. Do you have a part-time job? Or did you pick up any volunteer shifts? 

Once you note these times down, you can then create an action plan for a set study schedule. This as one of your academic goals in high school will ensure that you have a solid routine in order to prepare for busier weeks. 

Honing your time management skills will be essential in your academic career and future career too. You will have a better chance of setting goals you can actually achieve over a longer time frame.

College students need realistic goals and longer goals too, so consider how managing your free time in high school can be beneficial. You can leave your senior year confident as you take your first step into the busy schedule of university students.

A monthly planner can be used for goals for high school students.

3. Don’t Pressure Yourself When Feeling Unwell

Do you ever feel pressured to go to school even when you’re feeling sick? Going to school anyway is the best way for your condition to get worse. 

Therefore, if you’re feeling down in the dumps, try to eliminate your study time as much as possible. Your health comes first, as you’ll always have another opportunity to make up for your grades. 

So, don’t pressure yourself to study when your body tells you to rest. Your individual needs are more important than a busy schedule. Make sure you do rest because the sooner you get well the sooner you can take your next step towards your ultimate goal. 

4. Learn How to Read and Think Critically 

Many of us aren’t taught how critical thinking skills in high school are vital to academic performance. Even throughout our English literature or other humanities courses, we are basically taught to summarize the material and regurgitate it in our own words. 

However, university-level coursework usually evaluates an individual by their critical thinking skills. So, it’s important to gain that skill within the classroom throughout your high school years, as it will become more applicable later on. 

To accomplish this as one of your academic goals in high school you can start by analyzing your surroundings around you. See how they are applicable to your coursework. Additionally, get in the habit of taking notes and annotating what you read especially.

For example, if you’re taking a psychology course, you can perhaps analyze what each personality theory is about. Maybe consider how each personality may handle different types of situations. 

Encouraging high school students to think critically about what they’re reading is essential for developing their analytical and comprehension skills. This will also help with persuasive writing skills. Here are some questions that can help stimulate critical thinking:

High School Student reads a book for academics


  • What is the main idea of the text?
  • Can you summarize the key points in your own words?
  • What are the supporting details or evidence provided by the author?


  • How does the author support their argument or viewpoint?
  • Are there any assumptions made by the author, and do you agree with them?
  • What literary devices or techniques does the author use, and how do they contribute to the message?


  • What do you think the author’s purpose is?
  • How might different people interpret this text differently?
  • Are there any underlying themes or messages?


  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s argument?
  • Do you find the evidence convincing or lacking?
  • How well does the author address counterarguments?


  • How does this text relate to other readings or topics you’ve studied?
  • Can you connect the ideas presented in this text to real-world situations?
  • What new insights or perspectives does this text offer?


  • How can the information from this text be applied in a practical context?
  • Are there examples from your own experiences that align with or challenge the ideas presented?


  • Do you have a better understanding or changed opinion after reading this text?
  • What questions does the text raise for you?
  • Would you recommend this text to others, and why?

Cultural and Contextual Considerations:

  • How might cultural or historical context influence the author’s perspective?
  • Are there biases or assumptions that reflect the cultural background of the author?

Ethical Considerations:

  • Are there ethical implications in the author’s argument or the topic discussed?
  • How might different ethical frameworks interpret the content?


  • What strategies did you use to understand and analyze the text?
  • Were there any challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

This will also improve your understanding of the course material. You’ll be ready for university in no time!

5. Learn to Stay Focused 

An important lesson I learned throughout my adulthood was staying focused on a specific task. Many individuals who achieve great results are always known for their performance consistency. 

But in order to maintain consistency, that often means staying focused. For example, if you want to study calculus for 2 hours, allocate that time to only studying for the subject matter. You will not have a great time if you try to go on social media while studying, as it can prove to be a distraction.

When you know how to eliminate your distractions, you’ll be able to stay focused. The more you focus on your coursework, the better and more consistent results you’ll achieve in your academics. 

A high school student is focusing in class.

6. Learn How One Mark Does Not Define Anything

Let’s say that you value good grades and worked super hard on an assignment. You were aiming for an A+, only to receive an A-. You may have felt super discouraged this moment as you feel that the effort you put into your assignment should have given you higher grades. 

Well, fear not, there are always ways to improve your scores on assignments. You’ll always have more to assignments submit and more to prove to yourself by getting better grades. In fact, one mark won’t dictate your potential in the course, or in the bigger picture in life. 

7. Find Your Preferred Study Method 

This is an easily achievable goal as there are many study methods which people live by. Some of these include the Pomodoro technique, and many high school students often use flashcards. However, although many students utilize these methods, they may not be the best for you. 

Instead, you can experiment with different study methods and see what works and does not work. Perhaps, if you’re more of a writer, you probably find it more effective by summarizing your study notes after you complete the chapter. 

Regardless, everyone’s different so experiment with different ideas, and see what works for you. Additionally, establishing an efficient study method as one of your academic goals in high school gives you an advantage when beginning your college courses.

8. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

I remember when I was in my teenage years, I would often see my peers doing better than me in school. Everyone expected me to do well, although I was consistently scoring on the lower end of the spectrum. 

I continuously asked myself; “How come this person got 10% higher than me on this assignment?” 

It sounds cliche, but the truth is that comparison isn’t often helpful. There are plenty of external factors that can affect a student’s mark and some of these factors cannot be uncontrolled. It’s often difficult to predict other people’s circumstances, so why compare? 

In the end, it’s best to focus on your own progress and see what makes you happy. Especially when others around you seem to have lofty academic career goals. As long as you can improve and reach your long-term goals, you should be happy about that. 

High School student work on their goals

9. Engage with the Course Material 

Many people would think that engaging with the course material often means participating in the classroom. Though this is true to some extent, good students always tend to go above and beyond. They would think about how the course material which they are learning can apply to their lives. 

Let’s say that you are taking grade nine English and you’re studying Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Sure, they were tragic lovers. But you can perhaps try to relate some of the themes to the current world. 

For example, we know that Romeo and Juliet’s families weren’t allies at first. Now, think about a society where family ties are important in consideration for marriage. Ask yourself: What happens if the two children in these two families end up meeting each other and becoming friends? 

As soon as you’re able to think of the course material in a practical manner, everything will become more clear. When incorporating this as one of your academic goals for high school, you will also better remember what you are learning.

10. Find Hobbies that Bring You Joy 

Many people would often say that studying harder is the key to succeeding. However, this can be further from the truth. If you’re studying a specific subject for 8 hours and your mind isn’t into it, will you be able to absorb the information you’re learning? 

Sometimes, we need a break from our coursework and studies. In fact, there are times when we perhaps want to focus on something else outside of school. And that’s great because doing so is great way to detach and relax.

So to live a balanced lifestyle, find a couple of hobbies that bring you joy and support your mental health. This can range from playing sports to writing. Or from dancing to singing.

Whatever you like to do, find a few activities to de-stress from all the hard work and studying. Ultimately this will improve your academic performance and support your educational goals.

Academic Goals for High School

In Summary: Essential Academic Goals for High School 

Sometimes, it’s not as effective to quantify academic goals as it focuses on the outcome, instead of the process. Indeed, marks are very quantitative: they’re very numbers-focused, and it often becomes difficult knowing how to utilize some of the strategies. 

However, once you set goals to develop these strategies you’ll be more prepared to tackle advanced-level coursework. You’ll learn more about yourself and see what works for you. Instead of seeing what others are doing, you’ll be more focused on your own specific goals. 

Therefore, in order to fulfill your academic goals, try to set a goal on how you can apply the course material learned. See if there are opportunities to apply what you learned to the external world whether that is through everyday conversations with people, or through the media you interact with. 

As soon as you apply what you learned, you’re more likely to retain the information and perform well on tests. With that being said, finding the best study method is a never ending journey.

There’s always room for improvement and growth, so see what works for you. You got this and good luck with your studies!

About the Author


Candice is currently attending school for social service work. One of her passions is helping others through my writing. In her downtime, you'll find her listening to music, watching random YouTube videos, and writing about career goals and resumes. She hopes to start freelancing for writing and obtain a leadership position in a public services sector.