Motivating College Students Across Campuses

Why can it be so difficult to motivate college students? I have asked myself this question countless times.  When leading an organization and working with a diverse group of students it can be difficult for some students to understand the importance of what they are doing and why they should be doing it.  I talked to my best friend, Caitlin, who is the Vice-President of the Student Government Association at Ramapo College of New Jersey who expressed the same concerns.  She works with the “Student Senate”, other leaders and professionals on campus to achieve common goals as well as personal goals.  It can be difficult to motivate other students she works with.  One thing I expressed to her that I thought help to motivate students is to explain to them why they are there; why they are working towards these goals. Simon Sinek explains the importance of starting with why and I firmly believe that starting with why is very important.  When given a task, a student may feel it is unimportant or that they don’t need to do it.  If you start by explaining to the student WHY you are there and how this contributes to the overall goal they will understand their importance.  

Don’t forget to thank everyone and be appreciative.  If you are working with another student or faculty member, it is important to remember your “thank you’s”!  If you don’t thank someone after helping you with a task or project they will not want to help you in the future.  This is just basic reciprocity.  If someone does something nice for you then you should be nice to them in return.  I read an article once that stated that reciprocity is a value within societies of baboons as well as humans! 

Empower them! Empower the people you are working with! Whether they are students you work with often or a quick task you are working on; you should empower them! Give them all the tools you can to do their best.  If you share your resources it will help achieve a greater result.  Also, it’s important to remember that by empowering others you will also become empowered and that will help you to do your job better!

Anyway, getting back on track… When I spoke with Caitlin and we shared some common concerns with the students we work with we also discussed how great the reward is when the goal is achieved.  She also told me that each year before the year starts they put a team together of executive members and they go to a bonding event, whether it is helping to keep Liberty State Park beautiful or attending a US Open match together, it helps the board members to get to know each other better to work as a more cohesive team.  This was something I could relate to because within Dance Marathon, our Central Planning Team is made up of 33 students and getting to know one another is important.  Throughout the year we have team bonding events, two workshops in the Summer before the year starts, and other various events throughout the year that each person has the opportunity to get to know every other member personally so throughout the year many new friendships are formed!

So don’t forget that the next time you’re working with other people in your organization, at work, or even with your roommates don’t forget to start with why, empower them and be appreciative! 


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