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How to Keep Your Motivation as You Progress through College

How to Keep Your Motivation as You Progress through College

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Start a degree program at American Military University.

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

Completing a college education is one of life’s major accomplishments. In addition to amassing knowledge that you can apply professionally, a college education shows employers that you are committed to reaching goals, despite the common conflicts that exist for college students.

These conflicts adversely affect the college dropout rate. For example, while 70 percent of Americans begin a college degree, less than two-thirds of them make it to graduation.

This fact is unfortunate because of the potential that a college education offers. College graduates typically earn 35 percent more than non-college graduates and those without a college education are twice as likely to be unemployed.

As an Adult Learner, You Must Balance Many Responsibilities

I pursued my college education as an adult in the military at American Military University. This required me to balance my military service, family responsibilities and school work.

Balancing multiple responsibilities creates challenges for college students. I learned the importance of remaining motivated despite these challenges. That is important because balancing employment, school responsibilities and family requirements is one of the leading reasons why students drop out of college.

Educational Setbacks May Occur, but You Can Work Through Them with Motivation

In addition to organization and time management, remaining motivated is one of the most important things working adults can do to remain on track with their educational goals. The first step in staying motivated is to prepare for setbacks. Setbacks may include a difficult class, a family emergency, a conflict with an instructor or other unexpected events.

To be prepared, you must recognize that setbacks are temporary. The overarching reward of earning a college education is worth enduring the challenges and setbacks.

While you obviously cannot plan for unexpected events, their effects can be mitigated by working with school advisors, instructors and family members. Setbacks are a good opportunity for you to work with your support network to overcome these challenges.

I had a setback in college involving an unexpected military deployment. While this initially resulted in a stressful situation, I mitigated the problem by talking about it with my professors and school advisor.

I was able to work out an arrangement that gave me extra time to complete my assignments when I needed it and even a course extension. As a servicemember, I found AMU especially understanding of the challenges associated with military service because many of my professors had previously served in the military.

Develop Written Goals to Remind Yourself Why You’re Pursuing a Degree

Another important way to remain motivated is to develop written goals associated with earning a college degree. These written educational goals may include starting a new career, preparing for career advancement, a leadership role or employment specialization.

You should routinely think about your career goals. That will help you remain committed to your educational goals.

Reward Yourself When Goals Are Reached

To aid your motivation, reward yourself when you reach a milestone in your education. A milestone could be passing a major exam, successfully completing a challenging course or reaching a degree level before pursuing the next higher degree.

Following the successful completion of an education milestone, I would reward myself by taking my family to dinner or for a short vacation. That reward helped me to build motivation for the next educational goal.

Developing a strategic approach to retain your motivation is essential to earning a college degree. Although the academic work may seem endless at times, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you are committed to a goal and will reach it.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been with the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security, contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has also received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.

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