Motivation for college: Do you know yours?

Everyone has a reason for attending college. Some of the reasons students give for attending higher education are somewhat shallow and one-dimensional. “I don’t have anything else better to do” or “If I want to make good money in the future.”

Still, other reasons may tap into a different kind of source – one that is much deeper and personal. “I want to dance on Broadway” or “I want to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

In general, the motivation students give for attending college can be classified in one of two ways: ‘extrinsic’ and ‘intrinsic.’ Henry Clay Lindgren writes in his book, “The Psychology of College Success,” about that the difference between the two terms lies in the source of our motivation.

“Extrinsic motives, as the term indicates, have their sources outside of us and refer to the behavior that we carry out in response to the demands and expectations of others, whereas intrinsic motives refer to behavior that is self-initiated.”

Dr. Kim Patterson, Director of UAA Student Support Services, tries to teach his students that eventually the extrinsic reasons for going to school will wear off; that the surest route to graduation is found when students gain a picture of their purpose in life. It helps the student derive more intrinsic benefits of having a college degree.

“Once you tap into why you want a college degree for yourself – that will motivate yourself when it gets difficult” said Dr. Patterson.

Many incoming students, uncertain as to the larger direction they desire to go in, begin school as ‘undeclared.’ This means they haven’t selected a major yet and likely taking all general elective requirements.

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UAA Computer Science major Peter Trinh fit into this category. He was “running out of GERs” when he decided to declare as a computer science major.

“I realized I really liked using computers,” Trinh said.

Now almost two years into the program, Trinh has a new appreciation for the science “behind the monitor.”

“In computer science, its like an art form in itself,” Trinh said.

Patterson says even if you aren’t totally set on your major, you can still be thinking critically about your options.

“The homework for the student in that first year, that first semester is really to do some soul-searching and ask themselves, ‘What do I want, why am I here?’ ”