Motivating an Unmotivated Student

Scholarship essays are more than just the answer to the essay question.

One of my friends recently asked me for some tips on motivating an unmotivated student. Honestly, it’s a question I asked myself years ago when my son was an average student and not making any attempt to focus on college goals. Part of his lack of interest was my lack of participation as a parent.

He was making average grades and never had to crack open a book. I was somewhat content to let him be and concentrate on other things. Once he made the decision to join the Marine Corps I realized he felt he had no options left but to enter the military. It taught me a valuable lesson: parents play a pivotal role in motivating our teens toward college. I did not make the same mistake with my daughter.

Here’s what I did differently the second time around:

  • I researched all financial options, including scholarship opportunities. My son always knew that paying for college would be difficult and I never let him know that we had committed to help him and would pursue all options available.
  • I helped my daughter stay organized and on top of the college process. We began early looking at colleges and applying for scholarships.
  • I had numerous discussions with her about the importance of a college education and the importance of attending a college that fit her aspirations and goals.
  • I let her be a part of the process but I didn’t leave her alone to figure it all out by herself.
  • When her grades started to drop, I had conversations with her teachers and got her set up for extra tutoring.
  • I taught her about consequences and she understood that ignoring her grades in high school would influence her acceptance into college.

Here are some other helpful tips that I have learned as a Parent College Coach:

  • The best motivator is other teens. If your teen is hanging out with other teens who are motivated and achieving, they are more likely to do the same.
  • Hook your teen up with a local college mentor.
  • Encourage your teen to sign up on College Week Live and talk to current college students in the chat rooms.
  • Here is a great article that gives some positive advice: Get Your Unmotivated Child on Track
  • Get inside your teen’s head and find out why they aren’t motivated. Are they afraid of college? Do they feel they won’t get accepted if they apply? Do they have a dream that is so big they need your encouragement?
  • Listen. Quizzing never helps. Just sit in their room and listen to them talk. Listen to them talk on the way to school, at dinner, during television shows, and when their friends are hanging out at your house.

My daughter always wanted to go to college. But as I think back, so did my son. As a child he dreamed of attending Harvard. He had the brains and ability to be accepted there, but I never encouraged him to follow that dream. I honestly didn’t think as a middle class family we could afford to pay for it. I have since learned otherwise. That’s why I want to pass this information on to other parents who are struggling with motivating their sons and daughters to succeed in high school so they can succeed in college. The best teacher is ALWAYS experience!

Updated July 5, 2019

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