Motivating college students begins with helping them see down their academic path as clearly as possible. To achieve academic success, it’s important that students understand precisely what it takes to excel and set appropriate goals early on.

We asked college instructors if they agree with the statement: “Most students do all they can to succeed in college.” Learn what you can do to help students determine their motivations and achieve their goals.

Students do all they can to succeed in college

From our pool of more than 700 instructors who weighed in, 3% strongly agree, 39% agree, 27% appear unsure, 28% disagree, and 2% strongly disagree.

Only 42% of instructors agree or strongly agree that students do all they can to succeed in college. 

But what is keeping them from doing their best? Students who set ineffective goals may quickly find themselves less determined to do all they can to succeed, thus setting themselves up for failure. For example, students choosing a major based solely on what their parents want for them may lose interest in completing coursework. Or students who do not fully appreciate the requirements of a given academic path may become discouraged and lose steam.

It’s also very important to challenging goals. In her recent webinar “The ABCS Approach to Goal Setting and Implementation,” Dr. Christine Harrington, explains that students who set challenging goals are more likely to do well. To learn more from Dr. Harrington on goal setting, visit our blog post, “The ABCS of Setting Goals.”

Student motivators

According to Dr. Constance Staley in her book, FOCUS on College Success, 4th Edition, it is important for students to determine what motivates them early on:

To assess your own motivation, it’s important to understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. People who are extrinsically, or externally, motivated learn in order to get a grade, earn credits, or complete a requirement, for example. They are motivated by things outside themselves.

People who are intrinsically, or internally, motivated learn because they’re curious, fascinated, challenged, or because they truly want to master a subject. They are motivated from within.

For some driven students, “extrinsic motivation” may be enough to get them through their courses. But many students will find that a passion for a subject will make or break their success. Ask your students to determine what type of motivation speaks to them to ensure that the goals they have set for themselves truly align with what they would like to get from their college experience as well as life.

Reference: Staley, Dr. Constance C. 2015. FOCUS on College Success, 4th Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning.

How do you encourage your students to achieve their academic goals? Share your ideas below.