How to Stay Motivated as Finals Approach

By Maranda Bennett on April 17, 2017

Summer is galloping toward us like a knight in shining armor, ready to hoist us onto his handsome steed and whisk us away from it all into the steadily intensifying sunset.

Unfortunately, before we can clasp his merciful, metallic hand, we must slog through another month or so of essays, tests, presentations, projects, research, busywork, mental breakdowns, et cetera. In that final stretch before we reach the light at the end of the tunnel (or at least a break in the tunnel), how are we supposed to stay sane, productive, and — dare I say — happy?

I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips for how to stay motivated not only at the end of the semester but throughout the rest of your college education and beyond.

Stay inspired

This is the best piece of advice I have, so I’m sticking it right up here at the top. As a young girl, I was fortunate enough to encounter a nugget of wisdom greater than all the teachings of the Dalai Lama, Buddha, and Bob Ross combined. I’m about to share it with you.

Meet Gretchen. You may know her from the cartoon Recess. In the episode in question, someone, possibly T.J. (hey, it’s been a long time — I can’t remember all the details) asks Gretchen how she manages to stay focused on her schoolwork when there are so many distracting opportunities to go out and have fun.

“But, T.J.,” Gretchen says with a saintlike mixture of goodwill and pity, “school is fun.”

Gretchen had it all figured out: the secret to success is learning to enjoy hard work. If you want to be academically successful and non-suicidal at the same time, you should develop a positive mindset toward schoolwork. Set aside time for it, develop an interest in it, find a cozy study spot, put in earnest effort, and it can actually become a relaxing activity that you look forward to.

Hang out with passionate people

This sort of ties in with the previous point. They say you become the average of the people you surround yourself with; it stands to reason that if you get chummy with the smart cookies, then their intellectual zest will rub off on you.

Target the students who regularly speak out in class, are interested in the subject matter, and have a real desire to learn. This isn’t high school (thank God) — everybody should be there because they actually want to be there. In college, being passionate about your classes is a sign of knowing what you want and engaging fully with your own life, not geekiness or obsequious compliance with the system or whatever.

Hell, get to know your professors better, too. Hanging out with smart people is smart.


I know I just said you should enjoy schoolwork and it should be relaxing and all that jazz, and I stand by that point. However, it can be pretty tough to relax when you’ve been working for eons and not getting much done, and you have like nine different assignments due the next day. I’m all for doing your best, but there comes a time when a little triage is in order. If you’re short on time, writing five paragraphs when the requirement is only two or spending hours on a reading that you’re not going to be grilled on is a waste of time and energy.

Save your effort for the more important assignments, the professors you really want to impress, or the ones who are stricter with their grades. Figuring out when it’s okay to fudge it is an essential life skill that allows you to store your brainpower for the work that really matters.

Also, don’t try to take on more than you can handle. If you’re so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things on your plate that it’s preventing you from actually enjoying any individual thing, then you need to cut some stuff out. By all means, be active, hardworking, and involved, but don’t spread yourself so thin that it negatively affects your quality of life or your ability to do a good job on the activities that matter to you.

If all else fails …

If you can’t find the slightest spark of motivation inside you to fan into a nice, toasty psychological fire, then consider switching majors. There are countless areas of study out there; you shouldn’t shackle yourself to something you don’t actually like out of fear or inertia.

College is for exploring different things and figuring out what interests you and what you’re good at. This is your time to start building an environment around yourself that’s conducive to happiness and success, and that can involve a lot of experimentation and soul-searching. It may be messy and difficult now, but it will make everything a whole lot smoother in the future.

Maranda is an NYU student with a passion for reading and writing. She is originally from Arkansas and enjoys long walks on the beach and narrowly avoiding getting hit by bicycles. Her other interests include classical music, movies, traveling, and drawing.

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