Pre-Med Academics

How to Set SMART Goals for Success!

Learn how to set SMART goals in pre-med school to make larger goals – like getting into med school – more attainable.

Every pre-med student is working toward the same major goal: getting into medical school and becoming a physician. But there are plenty of shorter-term goals that pre-meds set and work towards on their path to medicine.

With goals ranging from acing biochemistry to getting a promotion at work, the primary factor that separates the goal achievers from those that fall short is the method through which you outline those goals. Let’s dig a little deeper into this and discuss the easiest and most effective way to set goals. 

Have you ever heard of the SMART goal-setting system? If you haven’t, here’s the rundown. SMART goals are as follows:


We have a habit of making our goals too general. In our defense, broader goals are a bit harder to fall short of because the target is so large..But with that approach, you may never achieve the specific goal  you had in mind in the first place. So, be specific.


Making sure that your goal is measurable or trackable is incredibly important. Not only will it allow you to track your progress and stay on a timeline, but it can give you a boost of confidence when you realize just how far you’ve come and how close you are to reaching your goal.


Big goals are great, but you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. So, be sure to tailor your goal to yourself, your interests, and your abilities. Your goal might  be entirely different from the next person’s. That is more than okay. Different people require different paths to success.


What’s the point in setting a goal if it’s not at all relevant to you and your dreams? Take an inventory of yourself, and craft goals that will make you a better person, student, friend, or even future physician.


This may be the most important part of the SMART goal-setting system! Before learning about this method, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into creating a timeline for my goals. I just spoke them into the atmosphere and hoped for the best. 

As soon as I started giving myself soft deadlines and adjusting my pace accordingly, my goals were getting reached  more quickly and more effectively. 

Examples of SMART Goals

This system can be used for your big goals or your small goals. Examples of big goals include getting into medical school, getting a publication, or landing a research position. Smaller goals might look like getting an A on the organic chemistry mid-term, securing letters of recommendation, or testing a new study method.

Not to mention that this also applies everything outside of school as well! Setting SMART goals takes a lot of the guesswork out of achieving your dreams.  It sets you up for success. 

Here are some examples:

Regular Goal SMART Goal
Get published in a research journal Get published in X journal as the first author on the manuscript that I am currently working on. I want to add this to my CV by the end of the spring semester.
Get an A in Physics 1  Score an average of 93 or above on 3 midterms and the final exam so that I can increase my overall GPA by the end of the fall semester. Use resources like tutoring services and my TA to help myself achieve this goal.
Develop a fitness routine Research the components of a healthy lifestyle and workout routine for a person like me. Use that information to create a beginner’s exercise plan by the end of the month.  Improve my overall health and develop habits that will carry me through this next phase of my life.

If you need tutoring help to prepare for the MCATs, or admissions advising to help you land a seat at a top medical school, check out the awesome advisors over at MedSchoolCoach today. Schedule a free consultation to talk to an advisor!

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia Brumfield is a 3rd year medical student at Harvard Medical School where she is pursuing her interests in pediatric neurology and getting involved in her class as the Vice President of Student Services! Before medical school, Olivia studied Neuroscience and American Sign Language at the University of Rochester (located in her hometown of Rochester, NY), two passions that she continues to explore in her medical school journey. Since beginning her clinical year, she has become involved in research exploring fetal brain development and healthcare access for children born with hearing differences. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with classmates and family, trying new foods, and working with aspiring medical students.

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