Set Goals Together with Students 

By: Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min

Do you set goals with students in counseling? In individual counseling, I try to weave SMART goals into a student's sessions. It helps them feel in charge of their progress and be partners in their progress.

There are a number of ways that you can introduce and use goal setting. I find that the secret sauce is being transparent about my own goals while a student sets theirs. 


Setting goals is the perfect time to share more about yourself with students. When you set your own goals while students set theirs it builds rapport and encourages students to be honest about what they want to change. 

When I set my goals and track them with students, they gain a deeper understanding and more practice of its importance. They learn:

  • Missteps happen. Progress towards a goal isn't always a straight line and we need to tweak our goals.
  • Everyone's goals are different. Goals should be personal to what the student needs and wants.
  • When you monitor your goal along with a student, they get to see how someone works on their own goal.

Set Them Together

Spend one session with a student reviewing what SMART Goals are and working on setting your goals together. I try to use kid-friendly materials that explain SMART goals step by step.

Think about what goals you are comfortable disclosing with a student, how much is appropriate to share, and what the student can relate to.

Check In Together

As part of your regular session with your student, check in on each of your goals. Talk about what challenges there were, what positive things happened, and make any changes. 

This is such a helpful time for students to see how someone handles setbacks and also how goals can be adjusted.

Reflect Together

Take time to reflect with the student. I reflect on my goals, I ask them their opinion. They reflect on theirs, they ask me my opinion. At this point they are an expert on my goals and what I have been doing, and I am an expert on theirs.

Get Started

I was at a conference a few months ago and one of the presenters talked about the power of learning out loud. Basically, being transparent with your growth and your struggles. When we have clear boundaries with students, learning out loud with them can be a very powerful tool in counseling.

Get started with goal setting today and join your students in tracking your progress.

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Setting goals with students helps them take control of their progress. Check out this resource filled with student friendly materials for goal setting.

Setting SMART Goals with Students

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Goal setting together with students is a great activity for the new year in school counseling. Set your own goals while a student sets theirs is a great way to build rapport, show a growth mindset, and build goal setting schools.

I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.
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