Have you ever gotten to a point where you just felt like you couldn’t take another day of your strenuous schedule and you can’t help but wonder how to stay motivated in college?
I know that feeling all too well right now.
I actually just finished my master’s degree – something I never thought I would do – and although I’m super excited that I did it, I found myself using every ounce of motivation I could to make sure I stayed on top of my game during my last few courses.
I’d be lying if I said it was an easy ride. In the midst of working a full-time job, I was taking a full course load so that I could graduate sooner than later. I knew that I would have definitely struggled even more to get through it all if I had dragged it out any longer.
I had a similar feeling when I was working on staying motivated in college while completing my bachelor’s degree. I was working so that I could pay my bills, trying to maintain a social life, and studying to make good grades all at one time. There were a few nights that I honestly contemplated whether I could finish what I started. I have never been a quitter (nor do I plan on turning into one), but I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed (okay, maybe a lot overwhelmed at times) with everything that was on my plate.
How to Stay Motivated in College, Especially Through 4+ Years of It!
At the end of the day, I knew that finishing my degree was the right choice for me, so I set out looking for ways to stay motivated in college. Even throughout my master’s program, I found myself continuously looking for better ways to help me stay on top of everything.
Honestly, it has probably been one of the biggest educational challenges I have ever endured, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
I wish I could tell you that there is a clear cut method to help you on this journey, but the reality is that what works for someone may not work for you. That’s why I want to leave these tips for how to stay motivated in college on the broader side. My hope is that they will spark some sort of fire in you to create a method that works for you. Don’t be afraid to tweak these if your method doesn’t work the first time!
1. Associate Yourself with Supportive People
This was a big one for me. I needed someone encouraging me and reminding me of all the educational successes I had in the past, especially on the days when I didn’t perform as well on an assignment as I would have hoped. I needed people that I could talk to and vent to if I was feeling overwhelmed.
Ultimately, I needed supportive people that I simply knew would be there for me, even if we didn’t talk all that often.
Can you think of at least five people that you could go to if you needed some extra support?
Do you have a friend or family member who checks in with you to provide some encouragement?
If you answered no, I’m going to encourage you to step outside your boundaries a bit and ask someone to be a support for you. No, you don’t have to talk this person every day. In fact, they don’t even have to be someone you see face-to-face! A supportive person could be an old friend that lives a thousand miles away but connects with you via social media or email.
Here are some ideas for people who can provide support for you during college:
- Family members
- High school friends
- New college friends
- Academic advisor
- School counselor
- Residence hall advisor or director
Find your support system… Don’t let yourself be the only motivation you have to get through the college years.
2. Set Aside Some “You” Time
No matter how busy you get, it’s important that you set aside some “you” time. I guarantee that you will struggle with staying motivated in college if you fail to follow this tip!
We all need a break from life at some point. In these moments, don’t feel like you have to go out and conquer the world! IT’S OK to veg on the couch for a little and watch one of your favorite TV shows, go get some ice cream, read a book that you actually enjoy, or do something else you don’t normally get to with your busy schedule.
Self-care is absolutely crucial if you want to stay motivated in college.
Here are some ideas for what you can do during your “you” time:
- Go for a walk/run
- Watch a movie
- Take a nap
- Write in a journal
- Do a DIY project
- Arts and crafts
- Go for a drive
Be sure to read my Practicing Self-Care in College post for more details an ideas!
3. Create a Dream Board
For some of us, simply hearing people tell us that we are capable isn’t enough. Although these words aren’t necessarily empty to us, they just don’t carry the same weight as actually seeing something physically there. It would be fantastic if you could have your future diploma to look at, but since that isn’t really an option, you need to get a little creative here.
That’s why I’m providing this tip for how to stay motivated in college.
Never completed a dream board before? The process is simple. You find a poster board that you can hang on your wall or put in a place where you’ll see it on a daily basis. Then, you start covering it with things you are working toward. For example, if you are working toward getting your college degree, then you might put pictures of a graduation cap, GPA you want to have, or career you would like to be in one day.
Here are some things you can use on your dream board:
- Magazine clippings
- Inspirational words
- Career options
- A collage of you with a cut out graduation cap attached
4. Write Down Small Goals to Complete
I’ve seen students do this in a variety of ways. For me, I liked to have a physical copy of my degree plan in front of me so that I could check something off every time I completed a course. It was my way of seeing how close I was to graduating.
You may find that your methods for staying motivated in college require being a bit more specific and short-term. If that’s the case, you may want to create a checklist on a whiteboard or calendar so that you can see what assignments need to be completed each week and when. This will help you stay on track while also showcasing your accomplishments!
5. Create a Comfortable Environment
Your environment can make a huge difference in how motivated you feel. If you aren’t living in a space that is relaxing and comfortable, then how can you expect to stay focused?
I wrote an entire post about this topic, so make sure you check it out: Make Your College Dorm Room a Retreat with These Ideas.
6. Be Thankful for the Opportunity
If you are still struggling to figure out how to stay motivated in college, I hope this last tip will ring home for you.
Getting to experience college is a gift, one that not everyone will get to have during their lifetime.
This is your chance to do something great with yourself. This is a great step in reaching your dream career, working at a company you admire, or to gain knowledge in an area that interests you.
Never take this opportunity for granted.
Need More College Tips?
I’ve got a slew of resources on this site for you to check out! Here are a few of my favorites:
- Financial Advice for College Students: A Graduate’s Tips
- Best Study Tips for College Students
- Things Students Should Know Before Graduating College
christineJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:11 am
I really like this post. Even though I am not in college, it still would apply to anyone who has any type of stress or overwhelming in their life. Thanks for sharing
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:24 am
Thanks for stopping by, Christine! Completely agree that these tips can help with every day life 🙂
Li XiaoyueJanuary 10, 2017 at 7:12 am
I am the freshman.I think it’s very useful for me.
AMandaMadeJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:13 am
Thanks for the great pointers! I am no longer in college however some of the points you make are helpful in everyday life! Certainly being connected with supportive people is a great way to stay motivated! And making you time is always necessary! Thanks!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:23 am
Totally agree that these can be used in all aspects of life! I’m in the workforce but I’m finishing up my master’s degree and I’ve found myself going back to these pointers to help me balance work, school, and life in general!
Hannah DianeJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:23 am
These are wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing!!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:28 am
Glad you enjoyed them, Hannah!
Rachel HoughJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:59 am
Love this post! This is how I honestly got through my Master’s as well (completed in 2005). Hang in there!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 9:09 am
Thanks Rachel! I’m SO close!
ToryJanuary 28, 2015 at 9:22 am
This is such sound advice! I’m one of those people that always needs to schedule ‘me time’, and it’s usually one of the first things to go when I get busy!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 10:01 am
Same here Tory! I need to remember that it’s ok to have ‘me’ time!
MeghanJanuary 28, 2015 at 12:37 pm
Such great tips! Thanks for sharing, I’m not in college any longer, but I will still apply these tips to other parts of my life!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 1:35 pm
JessJanuary 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm
I was in the same boat last semester. Working full time, blogging and wrapping up that masters. It was exceptionally hard to make the time and have the motivation. However, the things you outlined definitely helped. Especially supportive people by my side and keeping in mind that education is a tremendous privilege.
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 1:36 pm
You are so right about viewing education as a privilege!
theunperfectfamilyJanuary 28, 2015 at 5:01 pm
I needed this today. I am a full time student, mother of 3, working part time. It is really hard to stay motivated sometimes and I’m so close to finishing. I love the dream board idea! I might start working on thar tonight!
ToriJanuary 28, 2015 at 6:21 pm
I’m so glad you found it inspiring!!!
DanikaSeptember 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm
This helped me so much! Since I just started college, working, and blogging, it can be so easy to just slack in one of those areas. I will try to keep myself on track like this! Me time is something I cherish so I will definitely utilize that to keep myself on track. Thanks so much!
ToriSeptember 16, 2015 at 8:02 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Danika! It’s hard to balance everything and stay motivated in the process, but these tips definitely helped 🙂
ShaYSeptember 21, 2015 at 10:13 pm
Thanks so much for sharing this article. There are some great tips in here and I plan on taking your advice to help me get through this semester!
ToriSeptember 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Shay! I hope that you have an awesome semester 🙂 Make sure to check back regularly for new posts about college!
Joel LernerMarch 10, 2018 at 9:33 am
Tori, this is great information, especially the dream board. Visualizing success keeps your mindset and motivation levels to succeed healthy and strong. Please keep this type of useful information coming!
ToriMarch 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm
So glad you enjoyed this one, Joel! I agree – visualizing success helps you put things into action!
KyraOctober 15, 2019 at 3:17 pm
Thanks for sharing this I really needed to hear this I just started online college it will be almost 3 weeks in now and i be feeling so discouraged some days but I think of my three support systems which are my boys and know I’m doing it for them and me..