How to Help Your Teens Reach Their Goals in 2020

I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready to crush some goals this year! Maybe you don’t feel so ready, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re ready, but you’re worried your high schooler isn’t.

Don’t stress. No matter where you find yourself at the beginning of the year, it’s never too late to get on track and set yourself (and your teen) up for success. The most important thing you and your teen need to do is: Have. A. Plan.

Here’s how I break down the goal-setting process in a way that not only helps me plan for the whole year, but also helps me create positive change in myself that lasts way after I’ve hit my goals.

  1. The Vision

Before there can be a goal, there has to be a big-picture vision. Encourage your teen to think about what kind of person they want to become and what they want to achieve as they learn and grow in their lifetime. Thinking through these things will give your teen the why behind their goals. Their why will really keep them motivated!

  1. The Goals

Goals are what we set in order to help us work toward the vision. All goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-sensitive. For example, “save money for college” is vague, but “save $1,000 by graduation” is specific. It’s driven by a deadline and makes sense for your teen.

  1. The Habits

Help your teen build some smaller, consistent habits that help them achieve their goals. A habit for the example above could be setting aside a certain amount of money from each paycheck. That way, once they reach their goal, they’ve already formed a pattern that will help them stick with their smart choices over time. Boom!

Now it’s time to start putting the goal-setting process into action! If you have a student in the family, chances are that college––or at least thinking about college––is somewhere in their near future. If they’re interested in going to college (without student loans), here are a few examples of goals they could set for this year that will help them get ready for that big step.

9th graders should:

  • Get solid grades by having healthy study habits and turning assignments in on time.
  • Research three colleges that fit with the careers that interest them.
  • Meet with their guidance counselor at least twice (this goes for all four years of high school).

10th graders should:

  • Consider getting a tutor or taking a prep class for the ACT or SAT tests.
  • Research job shadowing or internship opportunities.
  • Research scholarships every day.

11th graders should:

  • Take the ACT or SAT multiple times to boost their score.
  • Make a list (resumé) of their grades, awards, organizations, volunteer time, and clubs (colleges look at this stuff!).
  • Spend at least an hour every day looking for scholarships.

12th graders should:

  • Apply to the top colleges on their list.
  • Plan to visit their top three colleges before making a final choice.
  • Look for scholarships every day and apply for as many as possible.
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)!

For more in-depth tips for students and parents on what to do during each year of high school, check out the College Prep Checklists at

With some solid habits and goals, your teen will have a successful year––no matter what educational or career path they choose. Major props to you for supporting them and helping them reach their full potential. Now, go kill it in 2020, you guys!

About Anthony ONeal

Since 2003, Anthony has helped hundreds of thousands of students make smart decisions with their money, relationships, and education. He’s the national best-selling author of Debt Free Degree and travels the country spreading his encouraging message to help teens and young adults start their lives off right. You can follow Anthony on YouTube and Instagram @AnthonyONeal and online at or