Back-to-School SMART Goals for School Counselors

Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.

Back-to-School SMART Goals for School CounselorsMany school counselors are charged with creating SMART goals each school year. This can be a challenging task, especially if you have never written a SMART goal. Below is the process for creating a SMART goal and some examples of SMART goals for school counselors.

Wikipedia has a great description of SMART goals, including the history of the concept and how to develop them, but basically, SMART goals are:

  • Specific: They precisely spell out what you want to accomplish and usually answer the 5 Ws (Who? What? Where? When? Why?)
  • Measurable: They provide a specific indicator of success.
  • Attainable: They are realistic.
  • Relevant: They are important and practical.
  • Time-bound: They specify a deadline for when the goal will be met.

In many districts, school counselors and educators create a district-aligned SMART goal and an individual SMART goal each year. Here are some thoughts on preparing each:

District-Aligned SMART Goals
For a district-aligned goal, check what your district’s goals are for the upcoming school year and create a goal that will support one of the district’s goals.

Example District Goal: To support the XYZ school district’s mission of all students being college- and career-ready, all XYZ students will receive explicit instruction and exposure to careers and higher education opportunities.

Example of School Counselor SMART Goal aligned to District Goal: During the 2015–16 school year, I will provide two classroom lessons at each grade level (K–5) related to career exposure and higher education opportunities. These lessons will be aligned to the state career education and work standards.

This goal is:

  • Specific—It addresses what you want to accomplish and answers the five Ws.
  • Measurable—It specifies a number of lessons that need to be completed (two per grade level).
  • Attainable—Two lessons for each grade level is manageable in the course of a school year.
  • Relevant—Lessons related to career exposure and higher education opportunities support the district goal of students being college- and career-ready.
  • Time-bound—The goal is specific about being completed “during the 2015–16 school year.”

Individual SMART Goals for School Counselors
Districts may also ask you to complete a personal SMART goal that does not necessarily need to be aligned to a district goal. However, this goal should support the mission of the school counseling program and/or the mission of the school you serve.

Here are examples of SMART goals for different school levels:

Elementary School—Attendance
Poorly defined Goal: Increase attendance.

SMART Goal: I will reduce absenteeism of at-risk students (students who missed 7+ days of school the previous year) by 25 percent during the 2015–16 school year through providing targeted group interventions.

This goal is:

  • Specific—It addresses what you want to accomplish and answers the 5 Ws.
  • Measurable—It provides a specific percentage decrease (25 percent) that can be measured.
  • Attainable—A 25 percent decrease is manageable and realistic.
  • Relevant—Targeting chronically absent students is a relevant way to decrease overall absenteeism.
  • Time-bound—The goal specifies the time frame (the school year) for when the goal will be completed.

Take it a step further: Check out resources such as Attendance Works to help you in planning your group sessions and other attendance initiatives that support your goal.

Middle School—Providing More Direct Services to Students
Most middle school counselors would probably agree that they would like to spend more time providing direct student services, which include delivering school counseling lessons, facilitating counseling groups, facilitating individual counseling sessions, and doing student planning. The American School Counselor Association recommends that school counselors spend at least 80 percent of their time on program delivery, which includes direct and indirect services to students.

Poorly defined Goal: Spend more time providing direct student services.

SMART Goal: I will increase the amount of time I spend providing direct student services from 40 percent to 50 percent for the 2015–16 school year.

This goal is:

  • Specific—It addresses what you want to accomplish and answers the 5 Ws.
  • Measurable—It provides a specific percentage increase in the time you want to spend providing direct services to students (from 40 to 50 percent). As with any goal, you want to first determine your baseline, or where you currently are, before you determine the measurable aspect of your goal.
  • Attainable—A 10 percent increase is realistic.
  • Relevant—It addresses the American School Counselor Association’s goal of spending 80 percent of our time on program delivery.
  • Time-bound—It specifies that the goal will be completed within the school year.

Take it further: I like to come up with ways that I will meet the goal for my own planning. For this goal, some of the focus areas might include reaching out to teachers to provide more classroom lessons, hosting minute meetings with students on your caseload, and brainstorming schoolwide programming you would like to provide students.

High School—FASFA Completion
Poorly defined Goal: Students will complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

SMART Goal: All high school seniors (100 percent) will complete the FAFSA by the end of the first semester of the 2015–16 school year.

This goal is:

  • Specific—It addresses what you want to accomplish and answers the 5 Ws.
  • Measurable—It specifies a specific percentage of students (100 percent).
  • Attainable—Having every senior fill out the form is realistic.
  • Relevant—The goal is relevant to high school seniors preparing for higher education opportunities.
  • Time-bound—It specifies a deadline (by the end of the first semester).

Take it a step further: Brainstorm other initiatives you may do to support this goal. Planning a parent session about the FAFSA can increase buy-in from families and help them understand the importance of completing the FAFSA. You could also provide an incentive for students to complete the FAFSA, such as being entered in a raffle or drawing.

Setting SMART Goals WorksheetBonus! Download a free printable SMART goals worksheet.

What SMART goals are you setting for the upcoming school year? Share your SMART goals in the comment section below.

Stay tuned for my next post about back-to-school SMART goals for students.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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About Danielle R. Schultz

School Counselor blogger for Free Spirit Publishing Blog
This entry was posted in Counselor's Corner, Professional Development, Social & Emotional Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Back-to-School SMART Goals for School Counselors

  1. Pingback: Hey, that is NOT our job – The School Counselor Kind

  2. Terry Larsen says:

    I would appreciate SMART Goal ideas for the elementary level, especially program implementation.

  3. Kathryn Cross says:


  4. Trinita Porter says:

    I would like to have some examples of what other counselors are using for School-wide SMART goals.

    • Hi Trinita,

      Let’s say that survey data at your school shows an increase in bullying behavior incidents, so your Campus Improvement Plan includes equipping bystanders to mobilize upstanding. As a result, you set this goal for your September lesson: By the end of this lesson, all students will be able to articulate helpful strategies for upstanding in a bullying situation.

      Is it specific? It addresses what you plan to accomplish and answers who, what, when, where, and why.

      Is it measurable? All students means 100%. Use an interactive assessment like Kahoot or Plickers to help evaluate.

      Is it attainable? All students can learn the upstanding strategies.

      Is it relevant? It supports your campus improvement plan to equip bystanders with skills to mobilize upstanding.

      Is it timely? You state that the goal will be met by the end of the lesson.

      At the end of the quarter or semester, take a look at the discipline data and see if there is a noticeable increase in upstanding yet. If not, set another specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goal to support your Improvement Plan.


      • Lori Schmit says:

        I love this SMART goal. This goal can be as simple as teaching students what to day in response to what they hear, see, or are asked to do.

        Count me out.
        How would you feel if someone bullied you?
        There’s not way I’m going along with this.
        No, I’m not interested in bullying.
        There’s no reason to bully anyone.
        I won’t do it.
        No, I will not help you hurt someone.
        I don’t want to bully anyone.
        It’s wrong.

  5. Mary Desjarlais says:

    I would also love to see examples of smart goals. That would be so helpful!

  6. laura smith says:

    Would love examples of SMART goals for middle school adjustment counselors

  7. Nola says:

    I am interested in seeing examples of SMART goals for school counselors. I seem to struggle with this every year. My email address is

  8. Sandy Henderson says:

    I would like to see several examples of detailed SMART GOALs with Data my email is

  9. Lois Miller says:

    I would love to see examples as well. I have to have 2 SMART goals that are working on academic progress.

  10. shelly seabrook says:

    Our district is doing this also. I would love to see what others are using for School-wide SMART goals!

  11. Colleen H says:

    Examples of actual school counselor smart goals would be helpful.

  12. Pingback: Counselor’s Corner: SMART Back-to-School Goals for Students | Free Spirit Publishing Blog

  13. Lois Barros says:

    I also would be interested in knowing what other School Counselors are using for their School-Wide, Year-Long SMART goals!
    My District also is demanding that School Counselors work on Smart Goals.

  14. Laura McMahon says:

    Love the fact that you are showing SMART goals because that is exactly what our district is asking of us this year. Does anyone have any suggestions for a school-wide SMART goal that a School Counselor could use? It is recommended that the SMART goal addresses the Academic domain as opposed to the Personal/Social or Career domain. I would love to hear what other School Counselors are using for their School-Wide, Year-Long SMART goals!

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