Diversity among college students is part of what makes learning together so advantageous. From student to student, you are sure to find a wide range of personalities as well as motivators for student success. To better encourage your students to succeed, it’s a good idea to speak to what motivates them most. In a recent survey, we asked hundreds of instructors, “What do you think most motivates students to succeed?” 

What motivates students to succeed?

Of the above options, the most popular response was “career goals,” with 46% of instructors voting this to be most important to students. After career goals, 22% of instructors feel GPA is most important, and 18% believe students’ future earning goals are the top motivators for student success. A small amount, 6%, believe future degree plans are the biggest motivators.

Keep this in mind as you plan your lessons as well as throughout the semester as students come to you for guidance. You may even consider asking your students themselves what motivates them most. Perhaps MBA students would choose “Future earning goals,” while Social Work students might choose “Plan for additional degree.”

Future career and earning goals

For a student whose primary motivation is their career goals or their future earning goals, do your best to work in life-lessons and career training wherever possible. Show students how the material may help them in their future career or aid them in personal growth.

Naturally, material may not always translate well to the workplace — for example, in a core curriculum course, where many students may not be pursuing the subject any further. An easy solution to this would be to make the lesson style the transferable skill. Working critical thinking into a lesson plan is a sure-fire way to let students use the material to enhance their problem solving skills, which are an asset in any career.

GPA and plan for additional degree

For students whose main motivators are a high GPA and their plans for obtaining additional degrees, be sure to speak to their academic career path as a whole. Focus some lessons specifically on how mastering this material will aid them in their subsequent courses. While some individuals hope to simply pass a course, these students likely aspire to go above and beyond and become life-long learners.

What would you consider to be the main driving force behind how well a student does in school? Share your ideas below.