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Motivating the Unmotivated Student

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Written By: Felicia Minor-Mewborn

WCC Co-Owner

In my experience as a school counselor there are usually always students who have a plan by senior year regarding what they want to do after high school. There are also students who begin their senior year without a plan, but usually after working with a counselor, they end up developing one by the end of the first semester. Even though I meet with students throughout the school year to assist them with making plans and executing them, there is always a small number of students who are not motivated to begin planning out their life after high school. What I have come to realize is that some of these students are not completely unmotivated, it is that they just have not given their future much thought or it may be that they do not know where to start when it comes to planning. Sometimes parents of these students reach out asking for guidance on how to motivate their unmotivated student and wonder with graduation being only months away if it is too late to plan. It is never too late or too early to motivate a student, especially when signs of an unmotivated student are visible.

My advice to parents and anyone who needs help motivating the unmotivated student:

  • Talk to the child/student and actively listen. Find out their interests and dislikes when it comes to subjects and/or careers. You do not have to wait until senior year to begin these conversations, have them in middle school or during early high school years. It is also a good idea to have this conversation several times during the year, much like a check in with your child/student.

  • Be understanding and supportive. Try not to make your child/student feel bad for not having an after high school plan. Let your child/student know that you will support his/her career dreams.

  • Assist your child/student with exploring options. Do things together such as career exploration search, college search or employment search. Spending one-on-one time could increase motivation.

  • Help your child/student set goals and create a plan. There are many goal sheets that are available on the internet. Using a goal sheet as a guide will not only help your child/student to set goals but will also assist with breaking those goals into small steps, possibly making them more attainable.

  • Find a mentor for your child/student. A mentor could be someone in the community, from a school, or a family friend. It is good to have someone outside of the immediate family for him/her to talk to about career plans and the future. The mentor could also assist with exposing the child/student to different options and opportunities.

  • Be careful not to compare your unmotivated child/student to others. Each person has their own journey as to how he/she will get to their goal. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

  • Set expectations for the child/student. While it is important to support the goals, it is okay to set expectations that come from you. An example of an expectation could be, “Today is the first day of the month, but by the end of the month on the 30th, I would like for you to report to me about the research you have conducted on your career interest.”

  • Recognize the positives and celebrate milestones that your child/student reaches, no matter how big or small.

  • If you detect that your child/student’s motivation is deeper than just not having after a high school plan, reach out to your child/student’s school counselor or social worker.

The Wise College Counsel staff has many years of experience working with students in areas such as career exploration and planning after high school. We offer free consultations and would be happy to meet with families to determine how our services can be utilized to help students find their educational fit.

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