Knowledge, skills, and talent can get you far in life… but more often than not, confidence is the essential element that helps you achieve your goals and enjoy your successes. This is as true for college students as it is for any one of us, at any point in our lives.

In our recent Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked students what makes them feel confident that they’ll succeed in college. Over 3,500 responded. Here’s what they had to say about the various factors that build college students’ confidence:

Feedback from their instructors. “Encouragement” and “thorough feedback” from you, the instructor, provide can prove invaluable. As one student wrote, with the assistance of an instructor’s thoughtful feedback, “I can then understand what I’m doing wrong and appreciate the praise when I do well.” Another said that “having professors that genuinely are concerned about my future” has been an essential confidence builder.

Support from family, friends, and mentors. A strong support system can help students find the motivation and confidence to tackle even the toughest challenges. One student said that “having support from my family is the biggest confidence-booster for me, because I know that when I start to get stressed, they’ll be there to help me calm down and get through it.” Others gain strength by observing their role models: “Seeing people in my career field that are just like me and are succeeding makes me feel confident that I can do the same, and succeed.”

Belief in themselves and their abilities. How do students know they’ll succeed in college? A number of them would echo the sentiment of the student who simply wrote: “Because I will!!” Through “passion and perseverance,” “ambition,” “drive,” “self discipline,” and “sheer tenacity”— along with the “life experience and current knowledge” they brought with them along to college— students know they have what it takes to reach their academic goals. Other students cited important traits such as an “ability to accomplish the work,” “being able to schedule out my days so that I’m achieving every goal that I have for the day,” and “an increased ability to complete high quality projects and successfully engage in collaborative work”— all of which are skills and attitudes that will stand them in good stead for success in college and wherever life will take them.

Many students look back at their previous grades as an indicator that they have what it takes to continue on the path of college success. As one wrote, “I have been successful thus far and have learned how to study efficiently.” But the definition of success spans far more broadly than than grades alone. One student told us that “actually understanding the material, rather than simply memorizing, and being able to teach it to others” is a sign of success.

Suggestions that can help you boost college students’ confidence and motivation

Seeking ways to motivate your students and bolster their confidence? The following posts offer some suggestions to help you do just that.

Seven Elements of Academic Resilience

Positive Habits that Lead to Student Success

Helping Students Take Charge of Their Own Attitudes

Ten Tips for Motivating Students

 As an instructor, what things do you do to support college students’ confidence? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.