Last week, we addressed the factors that instructors believe keep college students motivated. This week, we’ll share the student perspective. Will the responses that instructors gave align with those shared by the students?

In our recent Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked: “What motivates you most to succeed in college?” Over 3,500 students responded. Here’s how they answered:

What keeps college students motivated?

  • Almost half (49%) of the students selected “career goals” as their primary motivating factor for success. (Nearly the same percentage of instructors—46%—listed this as the most important factor.)
  • “Future earning goals” came in second, with 17% of students ranking this as their top motivator. (Approximately the same percentage of instructors, 18%, answered in this way.)
  • Fourteen percent of students listed their GPA as a primary motivator. (A greater percentage of instructors, 22%, felt that students believed the GPA is most important.)
  • Another 14% of students stated that their plan for an advanced or additional degree motivated them to succeed. (Only 6% of instructors thought this was the most pressing motivation for students.)

 

What else keeps college students motivated and on a path towards success?

The results show that 6% of students selected that something other than the above-named choices served as the main catalyst of their success. We noticed some commonalities among these responses, too. Here are some of the top answers:

  • Family. Quite a few students listed their children, their spouses, and other members of their family as a strong motivator. Inspiring responses related to their families’ role in their motivation included:
    • “Knowing that my career goals will allow a better life for my family.”
    • “…it was the last thing my dad asked me to do before he passed, because he knew I could do it.”
    • “Setting a positive example for my child”
    • “Show kids it’s never too late”

     

    • Knowledge and learning. A good number of students place a high priority on the joy of learning and the empowerment it can bring. They said things like “I want to learn new things & be educated to better conquer my world,” and “…I love school, which is a motivator in itself… It is hard to not be motivated for something you love.”

     

    • Personal satisfaction. Many students are primarily driven by wanting to fulfill their sense of accomplishment, and their dream of completing a long-held personal goal. One student is motivated by “self-satisfaction for doing a job to the best of my ability,” while another wrote, “I have always wanted to go to college and get a degree, so I want to finish what I have started.”

     

    • The ability to help and set an example for others. Other students feel the responsibility of serving as an encouragement to others in their lives. They wrote that they want “to set an example for the younger ones in my family to acheive higher education and earning potential,” and “to spread the knowledge that I have learned throughout my college years.” They also hold on to “the knowledge that someday, upon completion of requirements for my bachelor’s or master’s degree that I will be able to help people.”

     

    How do you keep college students motivated in your courses? In what ways do you encourage them to keep their “eyes on the prize”? Share your strategies in the comments.