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How to Stay Motivated in College | College Series

College experiences differ for many students. No movie or TV show is going to determine how yours will be like. Do you want to prioritize social life? Maybe you prefer nights studying and having time to yourself? Are you working full-time and are taking college part-time to expand your educational background? Do you want that sense of freedom and independence from your family? Or are you a little of all of the above?

With any situation you’re in, you are the only one who can make your college years one of the best experiences of your life.

Of course, for many students, taking heavy classes, attending all those heavy classes, getting involved on campus, pulling all-nighters, being financially stable, eating, maintaining self-care, hanging out with friends, and keeping in touch with family is what defines their college experiences.

Mine included.

But what greatly helped me conquer my seven years of school was taking things one day at a time. I had to stop worrying about what’s going to happen 10 steps ahead and focus just on the next 3 steps.

With this said, below are some ways that have helped me stay motivated during college, as well as a couple of my favorite study habits.

Student Motivation

Staying motivated as you go through your program can be challenging.

You’ve tackled too many difficult classes at once, so you feel overwhelmed and don’t put in as much effort as you’d hope;

some classes aren’t as interesting as their course description made them out to be;

outside responsibilities – finances, work, medical, or family – could be needing more of your attention;

you lack a support system;

you’re not comfortable with the learning environment, such as having to switch to online classes.

I understand.

Your family understands.

Your instructors understand.

Remember that everything in life is temporary. The only things that matter are how you react and go through them.

College isn’t any different.

When things got tough, I thought of quitting and going back to the comfort of my parents and home.

When things got tough, I wondered if I made the right decision going to college and taking this certain major.

When things got tough, I looked so much into the future, assuming numerous scenarios of what could happen if I continued or if I stopped.

When things got tough, I decided to stay motivated.


With a workspace, our tasks, our files, etc. Designate a space, anywhere that gets us away from the comfort of our beds, in our room to be the workspace. Get a yearly planner for all of the important events, tasks, and reminders. Keep files in folders assigned to specific classes every semester.

I don’t know about others, but I find it more difficult to get things done when I’m working in a messy space. I just can’t do it. This is why I often have to keep my space, my tasks, and my laptop and files clean and organized at all times. It’s much easier getting things done and staying on top of everything I have to do. I also feel more productive and energetic when everything is organized.


Having a schedule is incredibly helpful in every part of our lives, personal, and professional. They remind us of important events, tasks, and due dates. They help us prioritize our daily to-do list and avoid getting things done at the last minute.

What helps me stay on schedule without it feeling like a chore is not restricting tasks to specific times, unless necessary. What I mean by that is that unless they are wake-up/sleep times, scheduled meetings and events, and classes, I won’t limit my daily tasks to certain hours throughout my day or week. When I’d do my assignments, I don’t think that I will start at 9:00 AM and end by 12:00 PM. Instead, I just say that I’m going to work on them during the morning or afternoon. This helps me get things done on time without feeling so burnt out and disliking the tasks.


Setting short and long-term goals allows you to stay focused and on track with anything you want to achieve. Short-term goals are suggested to be achieved throughout one school year, or even one semester. Whereas long-term goals are often revisited and sometimes adjusted throughout any time during your degree. These goals can range from anything regarding your academic, personal, or professional life.

Short-term goals

Take X number of classes by X date;

Professionally connect with at least two instructors and peers;

Video call with parents at least once a week;

Join a club / participate in an organization;

Put at least 30% of my scholarship refund into a savings account;

Spend at least one hour in nature at least once a week;

Spend X amount of hours studying for each class;

Track and budget finances.

Long-term goals

Have an X GPA upon graduation;

Complete the program in X years;

Get accepted to dream job;

Study abroad for one semester (if the school offers this opportunity);

Do an internship;

Build strong connections and grow a network;

Start and grow a side hustle(s) for extra income.


Or even at least one hour every day throughout the week to do the things you tend to skip due to being too busy with life. Classes, work, and socializing take up a huge amount of our time and energy. Remember that your mind, body, and soul also need your time and energy, so please take care of yourself as well.

"Me" Day/Hour ideas

Cook favorite meal;

Watch that movie or TV show you’ve been wanting to see;

Have a cleansing, relaxing bath;

Catch up with family and friends;

Go to the beach or hiking;


Develop a hobby.


In my experiences, who I surround myself with often influences my thoughts and actions. I spent about four days at a friend’s home who lives a pretty productive life. So, even if it was my Thanksgiving break, I found myself working on my projects and wanting to constantly be productive throughout my days as well. Similarly, I’ve always been such a pessimistic and worrisome person. I have a friend who always found ways to turn negative situations into constructive, uplifting ones, so I began training my mindset to think that way as well. And the worries and pessimistic thoughts lessened, and I found my works improving even better.


We choose to get into things because we feel passionate about them. They make us feel confident and help us discover new things about specific parts of our lives. So, “whenever you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

If there was one thing that truly kept me going through my degree, it’s constantly reminding myself why I started, why I’m still going, and what I want to get out of this journey.


Similar to how we go through life, we often look at the big picture that we bypass the details that help us get to where we want. Sometimes even the smallest things make the biggest impact.

Progress can be celebrated as...

Receiving a compliment from instructor/peers about the work;

Sleeping by 10:00 PM;

Getting some work done every day;

Attending all classes each week;

Asking for and receiving the guidance needed with the assignments/projects;

Trying, getting it right or wrong, and trying some more;

Giving it our best.

Study Tips

I was grateful to not have as many tests and quizzes to worry about on top of my design projects for every class these last couple of years.

Studying was the one thing I was very accustomed to when it comes to school. It was the one thing I was quite fond of doing during high school because the answers were set in stone, and, I admit, that I relied a lot on simply memorizing a lot of the information given and didn’t really bother delving deeper into the subject matter.

Of course, simply memorizing materials was insufficient, and it wasn’t a progressive method of retaining and understanding information, especially once I reached my first year of college. So, after a couple of hits and misses, I figured out the best ways that have worked for me in studying better, whether I’m studying for an onsite or online class.

All, some, or none of these study tips may work for you. Try a couple of them and focus on ones that do, and feel free to tweak them to your advantage.


These materials are any audio or visual resources that will help with studying, such as textbooks, lectures, video tutorials, etc. The majority of the time, reading materials are already suggested by your instructors. Sometimes they go beyond reading materials and provide additional notes that they’ve taken the time to prepare for you as well. Don’t be afraid to stick to what your instructors provide you. They’ve given you the initial subject matter, feel free to research more about them at the library, search engines, and even Youtube. Knowledge is gained almost everywhere around you. You simply have to be more open, patient, and determined to gain them.

One of my favorite ways of gathering information from my instructor and peers during class lectures is audio recording the session, with the approval of my instructors. I’d have my phone placed down on the table during lecture and feedback times. By doing this, I don’t have to switch my attention between what’s being said and what I’m rushing to write down. My attention is solely focused on whoever is speaking, and when it’s time to review, I can simply playback the audio and jot down what was most discussed during class.


Before actually taking notes, whether, from the audio recording or a textbook, I recommend going through all of your reading materials and resources at least twice and then try to process and understand the information. This helps determine what information is worth focusing on, avoids line after line of highlights, and reduces over-cluttering your notes.

It is also helpful to go over the reading material and any lecture notes the same day of taking the class, then a couple more times throughout the week, and again before class. The information actually stayed with me better and I felt more relaxed as I continued reviewing them.

Although there are a ton of apps and software that allow for helpful note-taking, I still prefer taking notes by hand. Similar to the tip above, I’m able to retain the information better, and it’s much quicker for me to find any specific topic I need to go over. If you want to avoid making mistakes with your notes, feel free to do your notes digitally first and then hand copy them onto paper.

Whether you’re typing or writing your notes out, it is good practice to label them with the proper class and/or instructor name, date, topic/chapter, as well as include page numbers to keep things organized.

Don’t be afraid to include any information you’re confused about along with questions you want to ask your instructor later.

Use symbols to categorize sections and subsections of your notes. I also often use the asterisk (*) symbol to identify important information that my instructor emphasized during the class.

All of these are great ways of taking notes. What’s worked for me is switching up my note-taking style for each lecture because I sometimes understand each lesson better using different note-taking styles.

Note-taking ideas


Summarizing / Paraphrasing;

Charts and graphs;

Webs and mind-maps;

Drawings and graphics;

Bullet Journaling.


What I personally believe in because it’s worked for me is that when you assign a specific space for a specific purpose, and actually carry out that purpose, that space will typically hold that energy so long as it’s still being carried out. So when you create a space for your studies and constantly use that space to study and do academic work, whenever you go to that space, you can already feel the energy and motivation to focus on that. This space can be a desk in one corner of your room. Decorate that corner with motivational messages/quotes. Organize your books in an aesthetic manner. Have all your school supplies and other stationery / work-related items in the desk drawers (if available). If not, place them right next to that area for quick and easy access.


Even if you’ve created a study space, sometimes it’s good to change your scenery every now and then. Maybe you can try studying in different rooms of your house, or even in your backyard, patio, and balcony. Your school library, study area, or cafe are also ideal places for schoolwork. You might never know that you may stumble upon something interesting for your project or upon a real-world example of a solution to a problem you’ve been stuck on.


I made the mistake of thinking that studying had to be done for about 5+ straight hours every day, with additional hours on the day before the test/quiz. Spending a couple of hours every day on schoolwork is recommended, but not to the point of cramming everything into one single study session. Try studying in time blocks per day. Start out with 30-45 minutes of study time, with 10-minute breaks in between. Then, change it up to 50-90 minutes, with 15-minute breaks. Use these breaks to take a walk around or outside your home in order to relax your eyes from the tension built from lengthy staring at your screen.

If things get too challenging with one subject, don’t burn yourself out with it. Take a 5-minute break and try working on a different subject. Maybe your eyes and brain need a break from said subject.

Don’t forget to have some water bottles on your desk for hydration, as well as some snacks for brain energy.


Our phone is probably the biggest distraction we can possibly have. I get it – seeing a notification is exciting, what more if there were about 10 more. You’ll probably be more excited to see 50+ notifications once you’ve gotten some study time done. One of the most helpful ways for this is to simply put your phone in airplane mode. All incoming notifications won’t be available until you turn off airplane mode. Another way is to put your phone a good 10+ ft distance away from you.

It’s also understandable that emergencies might occur where people have to reach you or if something important is suddenly going on with school or your surrounding area. For this situation, I’m not sure if all phones have this feature, but on my phone, there is a “Do Not Disturb” feature located in the Notifications section of the Settings. This feature mutes all alerts, including calls, except for your selected exceptions, such as calls. With this, you can basically select to keep alerts for incoming calls and messages turned on, while alerts for all of your apps turned off.


Looking at anything for too long strains your eyes. Cramming too much information in a short amount of time over-exerts your brain. Your hands need a break from writing and typing. Your muscles need stretching. Your body is looking for water and additional energy. You’ve reached your study time goals and completed all your readings, assignments, and project section you’ve planned out to do for the day. Treat yourself by getting some rest. Your mind and body will be grateful that you’re taking care of them.

Keep being inspired and take care always,


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