The alarm rings, and you roll out of bed with just enough time to grab your coffee, slip on your backpack, and rush off to class — and you aren’t overly thrilled about it.
You aren’t alone if you feel college burnout creeping up. Some of the most common reasons college students seek counseling — a step more students take now than students in past years did — include anxiety, depression, and stress. These negative emotions compound over time, causing students to feel overwhelmed and, ultimately, lose their sense of motivation. For some students, being close to the finish line can tempt them to start coasting, a condition you probably know as senioritis.
Whether you feel overwhelmed or bored, you may feel like zoning out and watching TV instead of focusing on school. However, that’s the last thing you want to do. Staying motivated in college can help you learn more, do better in class, and enjoy your overall experience. Here are some ways to reignite the spark and learn how to get motivated for school again.
Why You Should Want to Get Motivated
Staying enthusiastic in college might seem tricky — maybe even like an impossible task or another to-do on your already long list. But it’s easy to practice some simple steps that will keep you from feeling the college drag. And once you get started on your journey toward college motivation, you’ll find that other things start looking brighter, too.
Once you get inspired, you might notice the following benefits.
- Your grades improve:An optimistic outlook on your overall college experience, from campus life to the classroom, can help you get better grades. That extra motivation will translate into more productive studying and work on assignments, and your additional effort will be apparent to your professors.
- You get along with people: Have things been tense between you and your roommate? Do you get frustrated with your sorority sisters or fraternity brothers? Do you find yourself snapping at a professor? Having a more positive outlook and pepping yourself up to do well in school will not only help you academically, but you might find your relationships will start to improve, too.
- You sleep better:Stress can play an outsized role in how your body functions and how you feel. A wealth of research has shown that stress can keep people from getting a good night’s sleep. That lack of shut-eye means you could be forgetting valuable information learned in the classroom. You might also experience other health issues, and you’ll be less likely to feel motivated to work hard the next day.
- You’re healthier: Along with improved sleep, staying motivated in college can improve your overall health, physical and mental. When you’re happy, you’re more likely to eat regular meals and have a more optimistic outlook on life. That joy is contagious. Share it with others you see feeling the same burnout and lack of enthusiasm.
How to Motivate Yourself Overall
Now you know the benefits of staying motivated in college, so you only have to figure out how to achieve that happy state of hard work and dedication. It helps to first work on getting into the right headspace overall. Consider these tips to help you get there.
1. Eat Healthy Meals
The best way to renew your enthusiasm is to stop your unhealthy habits and begin taking care of yourself. For some students, that includes making improvements to your diet.
Instead of grabbing pizza in the cafeteria, try to find something more nutritious. And so you don’t feel like you’re overwhelming yourself with a new, healthy diet, it’s OK to start small. Replace one meal a week with something healthy. Walk past the pizza and grab some baked chicken and — gasp! — a vegetable. You may start feeling more energized and experience other benefits when you give your body the nutrients it needs.
2. Prioritize Sleep
The hour of sleep you got between an all-night study session and dashing off to your biology midterm is asking for disaster. No wonder you’re feeling the college blahs. Nearly a third of Americans from the ages of 18 to 24 get less than seven hours of sleep at night, which is inadequate for most people.
Even if you’re getting enough sleep, you may be able to improve your sleep hygiene. Put your phone away before you go to bed. No more Facebook stalking while you lie on your pillow and think about eventually going to sleep. Scheduling yourself a bedtime can also help you get into a healthy sleeping pattern. Your body gets used to going to bed and waking up at specific times, which can help you feel rested during the day.
3. Get Some Exercise
Also, make time for exercise, even if it’s only a little bit. If you aren’t a student-athlete, you might be shaking your head at this suggestion. However, even if you lack athletic prowess, exercise is a great way to motivate yourself to do well in school. Of course, exercise has physical benefits, but the advantages don’t stop there — according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise can improve your mental health, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk.
Experts recommend you get 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 30 minutes per day for five days out of the week. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by that number, spread it out. Try a quick rotation of squats, jumping jacks, and pushups for 10 minutes, three times a day. You can also take the long walk back to your room after lunch and avoid the shortcut. In the evening, climb the stairs in your building a few times.
4. Keep an Organized Schedule
When you have classes, a job, and other obligations, it can be challenging to figure out where to start. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the things you think you have to do, write them down. In most cases, you’ll see it isn’t that bad after all — and you’ll be more likely to remember tasks in the first place.
When you block out time on your calendar for the consistent things — classes, your job, club meetings, etc. — it’s easier to see what free time you have left. Prioritize how you’ll spend that downtime. In your hour break between classes on Monday, you can start researching your next paper. After dinner on Wednesday, you can prepare for the weekly quiz you get in your Friday math class. Carve out time for work, sleep, and play. Sticking to a schedule can help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
5. Change Your Usual Routine
While consistency has its perks, it can also be beneficial to change your daily routine once in a while. With a set schedule and the same group of friends to hang out with each weekend, things can start to feel a little bland. Refresh your enthusiasm for school by shaking things up.
Walk a different route to class, find a new study spot, or search for leisure time hangouts — like an unfamiliar coffee shop or art gallery. Making a few slight adjustments in your routine can give you a fresh perspective on your college experience and help you feel motivated to do more.
How to Motivate Yourself to Do Better in School
Tackling some of the earlier suggestions is an excellent way to feel more engaged in most aspects of your college life. Once you start taking care of your body, sleeping better, and setting a schedule for yourself, you’re well on your way to a healthier lifestyle and a renewed sense of enthusiasm.
We also have some practical tips to help you specifically with school-related motivation.
1. Set Some Manageable Goals
It’s wise to set goals, so you have something to work toward. Sure, we all want an A in every class, but you might already know at this point in the semester if that’s unlikely to happen. So what grade do you want to earn on the next exam or next paper? How do you want to feel the next time you go to class? Keep goals small and specific so they’re attainable.
For instance, your final, 30-page paper on the works of Shakespeare might be looming at the end of the semester. But instead of getting overwhelmed by the size of the task, break it up into smaller goals you can easily tackle. Try to write five pages a week for the month leading up to the paper’s due date. Not only have you given yourself smaller goals that are easier to master, but you’ll also feel better having finished each small milestone along the way.
2. Try a New Study Method
Studying the same way semester after semester can quickly get old. If you’ve never tried a study group before, now might be a good time to see if some classmates want to get together and swap notes or discuss a tricky class topic.
If you’re always highlighting things in your textbook, but you never remember the facts when you sit down to take the exam, you might want to try writing essential takeaways on notecards and quizzing yourself in the weeks before the test date. If you typically go to the library, but your friend from the student newspaper wants to chat instead of letting you concentrate, try finding a new location.
3. Take Breaks When Necessary
Studying for hours into the night isn’t doing you any good if you aren’t retaining any details. Set a timer and study one subject, or part of a subject, for a set period. When the timer buzzes, get up from your place and stretch, grab a glass of water, or take a quick walk down the hall. Studies show that taking breaks, even if they’re only five minutes, can substantially improve your mood and mental performance, so they should be a crucial part of your routine.
After giving your brain a chance to rest for a bit, reset the timer and move on to the next topic. Keeping information fresh in your mind is a great way to retain it. Overall, concentrating on small segments at a time seems to work better than beating your brain up with countless hours of reading the same page over and over again.
4. Take Advantage of Office Hours
If your grades are slipping in a class and you feel frustrated with how you’re doing, it’s a good idea to have a one-on-one with the professor. They were a college student at one point, too. Sure, now they might like sweater vests and thick-rimmed glasses — and that red ink they scribbled all over your last exam didn’t seem all that inviting — but they are here to help you. They want you to pass their class and be successful. For them, your progress is theirs.
If you’ve been struggling with tests or papers, schedule a meeting during office hours and find out how you can improve. Many professors are willing to work with you as long as you show you want to try. They might let you rewrite a paper or give you extra-credit opportunities. They can also explain concepts differently if the class lecture or textbook description didn’t make sense to you. Give professors a chance on this one. It can go a long way.
5. Maintain a Proactive Mindset
If you have a goal or an idea, don’t be afraid to chase it yourself. You’re in control of your future, professionally and personally, and your level of determination will help you get as far as you want to go.
Instead of waiting for someone to tell you what to do or have them baby-step you through the college process, get out there and learn independently. Do some research. Show a little initiative. Become self-sufficient. You’ll find you have a lot more confidence than you might have initially credited yourself for — and you have the drive to go far.
6. Reward Yourself for the Successes
After all that hard work and somehow learning to motivate yourself to do homework, it’s a good idea to reward yourself. Give yourself an hour to meet a friend at the end of the week. Indulge in that ice cream cone. Go out to dinner with your family at the end of the semester.
Whatever you want to do to celebrate your accomplishments, you should go for it. You’ve worked hard, and you’ve earned a well-deserved break. When the fun activity or indulgent treat follows your hard work, it will mean more, and you’ll enjoy it to the fullest.
7. Remember What You’re Working Toward
When you’re feeling bogged down, it’s easy to forget why you enrolled in college to begin with. An excellent way to combat burnout is to reflect on why you’re doing all this hard work. Think big picture.
For example, your ultimate goal isn’t to finish that nursing degree — it’s to help care for patients during health challenges. Or maybe you’re studying business because you want to be an entrepreneur someday, like you’ve talked about since you were a small kid. Whatever your goal is, write it down and keep it at the forefront of your mind when times get tough. Remember what you’re working toward, and you’ll feel a significant boost in motivation.
Check out Our Online Degree Programs
If you’re feeling the doldrums of the college experience, don’t fret. It’s possible to get excited about school again. You only need to make a few changes in the way you do things or refresh your perspective. You’ve got this.
If you’re looking ahead to school, or you know it’s time for a change, consider an online degree program from Vista College. You can take charge of your future when you enroll in a program that will help you achieve your personal or professional goals. To get started, learn more about our online programs in some of the nation’s fastest-growing career fields.