Articles & Resources > Student Learning >

9 Tips for Staying Motivated in College

9 Tips for Staying Motivated in College

An online student sitting outside doing homework on her comuter, with a banner that says "how to stay motivated in college".

Last Updated March 8, 2024

Success in college can depend on staying motivated and persevering despite periods of frustration. For those struggling with motivation, or finding difficulty balancing school, life and work, here are some tips to help you get back on track.

  1. Change your perspective – Your perspective can set the tone for how you experience your studies. While it’s true that some classes may seem more important than others, it’s also true that students are taking these classes for a bigger purpose. English classes can help professionals communicate more effectively in writing, for example, and basic coursework in general topics can serve as a foundation for more interesting specializations down the road.
  2. Prioritize high-impact tasks – It can be easy to become bogged down in coursework every night when you don’t have a plan. If you find yourself with an upcoming exam to study for and some general reading homework, you might benefit from prioritizing the exam. Getting studying out of the way first can help reduce stress and build confidence.
  3. Set small goals – With big presentations or papers, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Look at the project from the outside and create a plan for how to address it. In many cases, it can be useful to divide big tasks into smaller, achievable steps. Each time you complete one of these steps, you can gain the sense that you’re making progress toward the overall goal.
  4. Celebrate incremental successes – Celebrate the small achievements. While you don’t want to sidetrack yourself completely, rewarding yourself with small breaks or enjoyable activities can help you feel positive and motivated to keep working.
  5. Don’t let failure derail your focus – We all can experience setback from time to time. If something doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, try not to get discouraged. Failure can be an opportunity to assess what went wrong and use what you’ve learned to help propel success in the future. Keep reminding yourself that you can do better if you don’t give up.
  6. Set a Routine – It is important to make time for study as well as time for yourself. Set a routine that makes room for personal wellness and health in addition to the study time that allows you to reach your academic goals.
  7. Re-evaluate regularly – Your routine doesn’t need to be seen as set in stone. At set points every few weeks, it can be useful to consider what has worked and what hasn’t. Each of these moments can be an opportunity to reevaluate and make a fresh start, continually tweaking and refining the routine until it works well for your needs.
  8. Get support – In many cases, friends and family members can help you relax when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking the time to update friends, family and teachers on how you’re doing and where you’re having issues can open the door to good advice and increased motivation to keep trying.
  9. Remember the big picture – It’s sometimes easy to forget why you’re in college in the first place. All of the work you’re doing, whether big or small, is being done for a reason: To help you reach your goal of obtaining a certificate or degree and taking life in the direction you want to go. It can be helpful to remind yourself of this when you’re struggling with motivation and potential burnout.

The End Result

College can feel overwhelming at times. If you find yourself struggling with focus and motivation, take some time to consider what isn’t working and set reasonable goals. Even the biggest project or responsibility can be successfully handled if broken down into small, achievable steps. Keep pushing through and remember that all of this hard work will be worth it when you’ve finished your certificate or degree program.