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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Student Motivation

One of the biggest factors in a successful college career is your motivation!  Are you a motivated student or are you just putting in your time?  Do you look for challenging courses or are you on the lookout for a course where you can make easy A?

Professors struggle with the issue of student motivation because we know how important it is for success.  Unfortunately, motivation is really how we approach life challenges and getting a higher education is certainly a life challenge! 

When I reflect back on why I ended up with a doctoral degree, I realize that it was 95% my motivation and persistence; 5% smarts.  I was not your ideal scholar as an undergraduate.  I flunked a few classes.  However, there were several factors that motivated me to continue pursuing a higher education.  For example, being a woman, I knew that if I wanted a decent paying job, I had to get a college degree.  I also didn’t like looking for jobs, so staying in school for graduate studies seemed easier and more fun.

As I continued to pursue my education, I realized that some classes were just boring and others unchallenging.  Obviously, it is difficult to maintain your motivation under these circumstances.  For me, I began taking more classes that challenged me.  I looked for the more “hard” professors.  I looked for subject matter that were not my strengths (math and statistics).  It is very gratifying to say that you mastered a professor or subject matter that was very difficult.  This is not to say that you have to take ALL “hard” classes and/or professors, but at least a try a few each term!

If you find yourself in a boring or easy class, there are tricks that you can use to stay motivated.  If you are attending the class, it is fun to play "Stump the Professor."  This requires you to prepare for class ahead of time and to study the material.  As you are studying the material, jot down a few questions you can ask your professor about the material.  The goal of the game, to get the professor to say:  That is an interesting question or I will have to look into it and get back to you! For my students, they all prepare questions prior to attending class.  I enjoy this as a professor because it makes the classroom environment more dynamic and it assists me in knowing the material students want to discuss in depth.

Although Professors can inspire you by what they are teaching and how they interact with you, motivation comes from within you.   What are you trying to achieve in your life?  Are you content in letting others make decisions for you?  Have you selected a major that really doesn’t interest you because you know graduates are paid high salaries?  Do you want to be a leader or follower?  Take some time to understand what you want to achieve and then plan a course of action.  Don’t forget to take advantage of what your professors can offer you!  Professors love helping students succeed and make their dreams a reality.