The major difference between students who graduate college and those who do not is motivation. Students with motivation study hard, learn as much as possible. Students who lack of motivation often feel overwhelmed by class works; have difficulty in their study to meet college requirements. Without motivation, they are easily influenced by other unmotivated friends to spend time for games or parties rather than study. Some are distracted by relationship with boyfriends or girlfriends.

According to a university’s research, there are many factors that affect students’ motivation: Their interest in the subject; their perception of its usefulness; their desire to achieve; their self-confidence; and their patience. Of course, some are also motivated by the approval of their family and friends.

Many students told me that professor’s enthusiasm is the key for their learning. A good professor can make a big difference. If the professor is tired or become bored, students will too. A professor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence and the excitement about course material that they teach. If professors enjoy teaching, students will feel it too.

Another factor is the involvement of students in class. Today students are very active, they do not want to sit quiet and listen anymore. Most want to participate and discuss about the class materials. Students learn best by doing and solving problems. Professors should ask more questions in class, challenge students to find answers. Do not tell them something when you can ask them. Encourage them to discuss among themselves, solve problems of a case study.

Sometime students do not know the usefulness of the materials. Many often ask: “Why do I have to study this or that? A better way to teach is to use examples, the more examples the better. Professors should point out the relevant of the course materials with what they will need later in life. An article from a newspaper; a story in the news, or a website’s forum could point them to the right direction. Professors should tell students what they need to do to succeed in class. Do not let them guess what is expected of them.

Another technique is to increase the difficulty of the material as the course progresses. Start out with some easy tests to encourage students to succeed at the beginning. Once students feel they can succeed then you can gradually increase the difficulty level. Every assignments or exams should include both easier and harder questions so students have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. Traditional way of making exams difficult to eliminate students should never be used, It produces stress which can interfere with learning. The old way of compare students to one another should also be avoid.

Many students did not do well in college because they have unclear career goals. Professors should ask them to produce some realistic career goals that are appropriate to their abilities and interests. Remind them that short-term personal goals may often be in conflict with long-range educational objectives. Let them know that present school work is related to their future career goals.

Families are the number one motivating factor for most students. That is why it is important that professors to enlist the help of a student’s family to motivate and help plan for his or her college education. The key is building contact with the student’s parents because professors can help parents to understand all the steps necessary in getting a student to succeed in college.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University