Take a deep breath! In… Out… Okay, now we can talk about staying motivated during finals week during college. Honestly, though, no matter how many times you go through final exams, you will not quite get used to the stress that accompanies it. However, you can help yourself stay motivated despite the pressure your parents, your professors, and you, yourself, put on you. 

We’ve put together a survival guide blog post for finals, which you can read here. Now, let’s get on with giving some tips for motivation:

1. Positive Reinforcement
Yes, this is a psychology term and whether or not you’ve taken a psych course you may know what this means. This concept is the equivalent of giving your dog a treat after he sits or does a trick. Treat yourself the same way to stay motivated! For example, if you study for 30 minutes, you can give yourself a break to watch a 20-minute episode of your favorite TV show. This system will work with pretty much any kind of reward that you like: eating chocolate, hanging out with friends, etc.

2. Change Your Scenery
College is a great place to find out which environments you work most efficiently in. As for studying, you can also help yourself retain information if you study a certain subject in a certain environment. This is another psychological phenomenon called the theory of encoding specificity, in which you can recall certain information associated with a particular environment. How does this work in practice? For instance, if you study biology in the biology building where you’re going to take the exam, you’ll associate the biology information with the environment of the biology building. Then, you could study your literature class in the library and change your surroundings with each subject you have an exam in.

3. Set Goals
This may sound like an obvious tip, but it really works! Plus, it works with the two tips previously listed. Set a goal for the amount of time you’ll study each subject each day, then you can give yourself a reward for reaching your goals. If you don’t reach your goals each day, don’t get too down on yourself. Adjust your schedule for the following day to make up time for what you couldn’t get to the previous day. 

4. Get Inspired
If you’re really feeling a lack of motivation, you may want to look for videos to inspire you like a TedTalk, or perhaps an article or a film clip that you find inspirational. It’s completely normal to become stressed and discouraged, especially during final exams. Talk to a friend who’s going through the same difficult time and you may be able to cope together or become supportive study partners who keep one another reliable, even if you’re not in the same classes.

5. Look Ahead
Aim for the finish line! What’s waiting for you on the other side of your exams? What about winter break? What about going home to relax, hang out with friends, and not study? Sure, looking ahead at the finish line may be tantalizing, but it also helps motivate you to get there “faster” and have something to look forward. Keep a journal of everything you want to do once you finish your exams and look at it every time you feel unfocused and unmotivated.


Good luck on your exams and we hope you have a joyful, safe holiday season!

Come back to the Future Blog for more articles on college and career success!