Motivational Activities for College Students

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

A healthy community depends on active people who strive to achieve all their potentials. Most college students, however, are overwhelmed by work responsibilities and school tasks. They can’t reach their goals to improve themselves and they don’t engage in community activities. Motivational activities for college students can help. These activities are designed to boost students, so they can make progress in their lives.

Whether you’re the one seeking motivation, or you’re a teacher that wants to inspire students, this article will give you some ideas. We’ve spent a lot of time searching for inspirational activities that can also be fun and we found the best ones for you.

Before you continue scrolling down, we’d like to note a few things:

  • People are different. Hence, the source of motivation for each person won’t be the same. If some activity fails to inspire you or your student, be sure to keep looking. Maybe the next one will be more suitable.
  • Sometimes it’s okay to push yourself to be more active even if you’re not in the mood. If you don’t want to exercise, you need to force yourself to start. This doesn’t indicate that you’re weak. It just means you need the motivation to be better. When you know something would be good for you in the long run, you must encourage yourself to do it.
  • Don’t give up too fast. We all have our ups and downs, so it’s perfectly normal that you have “bad” days. You need to survive those days and persevere.

Understanding motivation

Motivation is the force behind our actions. It’s something that keeps us going, no matter what. Behind every task or responsibility stands mental and emotional preparation for it. Most people do this subconsciously and don’t define the goals of each activity. A lack of motivation can be a blockage and makes us underperform. That’s why you need to have a clear purpose for your daily agenda, so you would be more motivated for work.

All aspects of human behavior are underlined by motivation. If you understand someone’s motive, you will have a bigger understanding of his/her behavior. It’s hard to figure out everyone’s motivation. You need to practice empathy to be able to understand what others are feeling, so you can comprehend why are they doing (or not doing) certain things.

You can’t, for example, motivate the students to do their assignments without trying to understand their struggles. Some students might miss deadlines because “they’re lazy”. However, a good professor will ask what is the source of that? Why do they lack motivation? Are they having problems at home or with their self-esteem? If you ask these questions, you can recommend counseling which will surely help them improve.

Note that people will be motivated by a wide range of factors. All people strive to fulfill their basic needs like having a roof over their heads or be loved. After that’s covered, most people tend to broaden their horizons, so naturally, they have other needs. They want to learn and experience new things, seek career growth, etc.

Sometimes the motives are mixed, so you can be looking for friendships and good jobs at the same time. When motives contradict each other, we prioritize and choose the need we want to fulfill the most. Values define the things we consider important and set goals that we are working towards. Understanding someone’s values and goals will help you motivate him/her to achieve it.

Student assignments, we mentioned before, are just stepping stones. They will lead you to better grades and, hence, to more career options. Besides that, assignments can help you learn new and interesting things, develop some skills, etc. As you can see, it’s all connected. When you look at the “bigger picture”, you’ll have more motivation for finishing the task. Or inspire someone to complete them.

Two people might have the same goal, but different motivation. Let’s say the goal is to win the race. One person might want to win because it would make him/her feel good. He/she has a “need” for self-esteem and thinks that success in the race will help. The other person might try to win because of the cash prize for the winner. He/she could be having financial troubles and think this prize might help.

You can always ask someone about his/her motivation. Keep in mind that some people keep their motives private, so the best thing you can do is encourage achieving goals with indirect support. Giving motivational tips for college students or encouraging inspirational group activities are great ways to provide distant support.

Classroom activities

We can’t stress enough the importance of making learning interesting for students. Some fun motivational games for students can be very helpful. They will make your lesson plan exciting and encourage the students to be creative and imaginative. If you’re a student, it would be a great idea to suggest some fun activities for your class. Don’t be shy and take initiative, so your entire class can more motivated to work.

Motivating activities for students will take their minds off the stressful academic responsibilities while also boost their confidence and develop social skills. Encouraging your students to participate in team-building and icebreaker games will create a productive learning environment. Some activities can be used along with learning material and can complement your lesson plan.


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Interactive Q&A

This is an activity you can adapt as you wish. Split students into groups and let them come up with questions. You can give each one a chance to ask questions and provide assistance with the answers when needed. This will enable the students to play as a team and actively learn at the same time.

Encourage communication by asking the first couple of questions. Keep the question easy and simple but ask for extended answers. Don’t be afraid to get off topic and expand the subject a bit. Let your students share questions and doubts even if they’re in contrast with your class subject.

Quizzes are also fun activities for college students. Include them in Q&A sessions by splitting the students into teams and let them compete with each other. You can choose the judge or someone to keep score, so they don’t see you as an authority. Let them organize themselves and be there to offer assistance and guidance.

Group discussions

If you don’t know how to motivate college students to participate more in class, here’s one classic idea. Organize a group discussion about the subject you’re currently working on. Discussions will increase students’ interests and engagement while also giving you feedback on what needs to be improved in the classroom. Students will develop speaking skills and learn how to form an argument.

The best way to engage students is to let them choose the subject. You can recommend some topics and encourage them to give more recommendations. After that, have a vote and choose next week’s topic. This will give students a chance to discuss the most interesting things which means they are more likely to engage. Also, it will teach them to value everyone’s opinion.

There are various topics you can discuss. Science students can talk about the best methods of conducting research and experiments, the latest discoveries and hypotheses, things not explained in the textbooks, etc. Students of humanities and social sciences can choose historical subjects or contemporary problems for discussion.

Scavenger Hunt

Games like scavenger hunt are the best entertainment activities for college students because they are not just futile fun. The game of treasure hunt enhances critical thinking, builds team spirit and develops problem-solving skills because students need to think-out-of-the-box for a chance of winning.

Although scavenger hunt requires a lot of preparations beforehand, it’s not complicated as it seems. Once you acquire all the needed resources, you can use them multiple times (with different groups of course). Question cards, audio materials, and other resources should be related to your subject. Scatter clues around the classroom before students come and the game can begin. If you haven’t organized a scavenger hunt before, check out this video for all the needed information.


At the beginning of the school year, students don’t know each other, so it’s wise to organize activities that can help them relax and introduce themselves. Some icebreakers are excellent for the first day of class and others can be used to make students comfortable when working in teams. Use these activities whenever you need to “break the tension” and make an encouraging working environment.

Complete the sentence

This is a quick game and it can be played in a variety of ways. Start a sentence and ask one student to finish it. That student will start another sentence and pick one of his/her colleagues to continue. This game can be played in teams or small groups too. Then multiple people could finish the sentences and compare the answers.

Choose engaging sentences like:

  • In my free time, I like to…
  • The most fascinating thing about my home town is…
  • After college, I would like to…
  • The person I admire is…

Questions in a line

Divide the students into two groups and form two lines. Every student should have a partner that is standing in front of him/her. If there’s an odd number of students, you could fill in. Start conversations with the person across from you and change partners every couple of minutes.

Ask interesting questions that are not too personal. For example:

  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you like to travel?
  • What’s your favorite band?

Pick a side

Have the students choose between dichotomies. After the group is formed, discuss the options they chose. Make sure to keep the light atmosphere in the room, so stay out of politics, religion, and other controversial topics.

Play something like:

  • Chocolate vs strawberry
  • Country vs pop 
  • 007 vs Batman
  • Morning vs night

Self-motivation and individual activities

It’s not easy to motivate yourself. Driving yourself to work towards achieving your goals is an everyday task. Self-motivation is driven by your actions. You’ll be motivated to do more if you first put effort into building the right mindset. It’s a full circle of progression. You need to start with:

To achieve some of this we singled out these personality development activities for college students. Be sure to check out the activities below to enhance your self-motivation.

Fortunately – Unfortunately

Create a series of statements about your life. The first sentence should start with “Fortunately” to emphasize something positive in your life. Then you come up with a negative statement, and alternate between them. Finish the exercise with a positive statement. That can help you build an optimistic mindset. This activity will boost your creativity and storytelling skills. It’s also very useful for analyzing your development through time, so you can be motivated to perform even better in the future.


Write your thoughts. Collect them in a notebook, so you can let your creative talents loose. You could write “morning pages” which are basically just stream-of-consciousness on paper. Writing your thoughts as soon as you wake up can help you declutter your mind and start your day fresh.

You can also keep an old-school journal with notes about events and feelings. By reading about your experience, you’ll see your progress through time. That will help you put things into perspective and think clearly about new challenges in life.

Other activities

Any activity that helps you understand yourself better is useful for building up motivation. Creating a bucket list, meditating or working out will surely help you be more productive. The important thing is to have some “alone” time, so you can be focused on your self-growth.


In this article we tried to include a variety of activities. Hopefully, some of them will suit your needs. Whether you want to get more motivated or want to inspire others, you now have a place to start. You can also get more motivated if you try some of the generosity activities for adults, we recommended. Be sure to check that out and you might find something that would be inspiring for you.

If you know someone who needs a little boost, maybe you can inspire him/her with a gift. Check out our articles on Cool gifts for grad students.





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