Maintaining Motivation


Joe didn’t feel like himself. At the start of the year he felt so energetic, motivated, and excited to begin vet school. He was up late each night studying and he genuinely enjoyed his clinical skills practice. But as the year went on his feelings began to change. He didn’t feel like opening his notes. Each class seemed to blend into the next and attending lectures became more and more difficult.


No matter how devoted a person is to a particular career or course of action, it’s completely normal to find motivation waning at different points in the year. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve chosen the wrong career or that you aren’t committed. Consider some of the tips below to find the “spark” again.

Tips for Maintaining Motivation

  • Ask yourself why you came to vet school. Remind yourself of your overall goals.
  • Reflect on the things that you’ve enjoyed about vet school; new friends, new knowledge, etc. and remind yourself that between the studying, there have been many enjoyable moments.
  • Vary your routine. Switch things around to make it new and fresh. See things from different perspectives.
  • Identify things that sap your energy or are causing you concern. Don’t let them linger or fester. Address them right away so that they bother you no more, or seek guidance from trusted friends, faculty or counselors.
  • Spend more time with people who motivate you. Who makes you laugh? Who inspires you?
  • Contact family members who can give you an emotional lift.
  • Reflect on the positive impact you’ve made on the lives of some of your patients.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Try presenting a learning issue in a different way than you have before. Make it fun.
  • Develop a personal reward system- reward yourself for a good day’s work. The reward can be a small thing like a favorite dinner, or a great movie. Perhaps, start a collection of something you value (e.g., stamps, rocks, baseball cards, etc.), and reward yourself with additions to your collection with each accomplishment of an academic goal, or a transition. Plan a trip at the end of the year or an outing at the end of each unit or sub-unit. Vary the type, amount, and frequency of your rewards.

Final Thoughts

If these tips don’t seem to work or you feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, see the chapters on Recognizing Depression and Test Anxiety.

People to talk to about maintaining motivation

  • Your supporters (family, friends, classmates)
  • Yourself – give yourself the same advice you would give a classmate!
  • Dr. Erin Malone, 612-625-4762,
  • Dr. Vesna Hampel-Kozar,, (612) 625-6630
  • Anyone in Academic and Student Affairs
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Your physician


What helps me keep up motivation more than anything is keeping a positive attitude. If there’s a test you’re struggling to study for coming up, look beyond it. Maybe there’s a cool lab you’re looking forward to, so tell yourself that you just have to get past the difficult test and then you’ll get to do something really interesting! As bad as things seem sometimes, there’s always something to look forward to, so do your best to focus on the good and the bad won’t seem so bad anymore.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2020

Stay close to your friends that aren’t in vet school, they will give you a good perspective and its nice to have that outlet when you need to get away.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

“Dog and Cat Dissection Guide, A Regional Approach” Pasquini, Pasquini

If you buy one thing for vet school, make it this book!! It was required for my anatomy 1 class, and I have used it every single semester of vet school. Unlike many other anatomy books, it tells you the clinical significance of everything. It is so easy to get bogged down first year in the minutia, and if you can get your brain thinking clinically from day 1, you’ll be in good shape. It is also an investment for the rest of your career, you will use it in several future classes, studying for boards, and your career in practice. I would give you mine but I refuse to ever give it up 😉

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

Try these to remember why you want to be here:

Viral Vet- this is an iPhone app where veterinary professionals can post cool cases. It’s basically Instagram for people in the profession.

Neuropetvet website- neuro is one of the most challenging parts of vet school (in my opinion), this website has a huge variety of cases, videos, articles and teaching tools. Its free for vet students! Take advantage!

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

“If you are too chronically sleep deprived, exhaustion will begin to color your whole world negatively and challenge your motivation—try to insure enough personal time as well as sleep to keep yourself going about your studies with enjoyment and purpose. Just trying to push ahead and study without taking breaks can create a lot of inefficiency.”

JABSOM Class of 2006

“Try to catch a movie here and there, and use that fun time as a reward if you finish a certain amount of work. Spend time with family and take some personal time for yourself to just relax, sleep, and ‘de-stress.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“I think the more people [to whom you become responsible], the better. Your tutorial and study group members in the first 2 years hold you accountable—this is motivation for really learning concepts well so you can teach them… The sense of value in such accountability will shine through when you take care of patients later. You learn something…because you care about what it means to someone else…”

JABSOM Class of 2007


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Well-being Handbook Copyright © 2019 by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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