Studying for a degree takes a longgg-ass time. Over that period you’ll experience times where you’re super motivated and focused and inspired. But, you’ll also experience those low points. Where you’re in a bit of studying rut and you’re not sure how to get out.

In this blog post I’m going to share with you four of my favourite TED talks for university students - ranging from 6 minutes to 21 minutes. You'll discover some inspiring stories, new strategies and new perspectives on your studying problems.


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TED is a non-profit organisation which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED talks are presentations on almost any topic with the aim to spread ideas and spark great conversation. TED talks for university students can be consumed in a few ways. You can watch them as videos on the TED website. Or on various podcasts such as TED Talks Daily or the TED Radio Hour by NPR. They’ve even started releasing some books that dive deeper into TED talk topics.

Four inspiring TED talks for university students

1. Kids can teach themselves by Sugata Mitra (21 minutes)

In 2007, educational researcher Sugata Mitra delivered a TED talk about the ‘hole-in-the-wall experiments’. Sugata’s project installed powerful computers in the walls of very remote Indian villages and left them there with no explanation. His TED talk describes what happens when children find these computers and how they teach themselves how to use it, despite never seeing a computer before and despite not knowing a single word of English.

Sugata gives lots of recommendation for educational technology but I love this talk for the story behind it. How many times do we get stuck on a study problem and not know how to move on? How many times do we take this confusion and attach meaning to it that we’re not good enough or clever enough?

This TED talk will make you believe you can learn and be more, that if you set my mind to learning something, you can succeed.

2. Grit: the power of passion and perseverance by Angela Duckworth (6 minutes)

In 2013, psychologist and former teacher Angela Duckworth delivered a TED talk about how IQ isn’t the most important predictor of academic success. As a maths teacher she noticed that some of her smartest kids weren’t doing that well and that some of her strongest performers didn’t have high IQs. She left teaching to train to become a psychologist and began studying what makes successful students, teachers and people in general successful.

I love this TED talk because it mirrors my own experience with education and the experience of many of my clients. Angela found that the most important characteristic for academic success was grit which she defines as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Watch this short TED talk to learn more about how you can develop your grittiness and make natural talent irrelevant.

3. Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by Tim Urban (14 minutes)

In 2016, writer Tim Urban delivered a hilarious but painful TED talk around procrastination. He walks through the what and why of procrastination with very funny cartoons.

I have definitely been a master procrastinator in my studying and I still am sometimes in my business. Tim’s definition of procrastination really sums it up, “the act of ruining your life for no apparent reason.” That’s what procrastination feels like. You know you need to study, you want the success and results on the other end of the studying, but you can’t make yourself do the studying. Watch this TED talk so you can laugh as your cry a little about what actually happens inside the mind of a master procrastinator. 

4. How education helped me rewrite my life - Ashweetha Shetty (11 minutes)

In 2018, rural social worker Ashweetha Shetty delivered an incredible TED talk about how education transformed her life. She overcame limiting beliefs and cultural expectations to secure a full scholarship to a fellowship programme in Delhi, 1,600 miles away from her small, rural village.

This is a great TED talk to prompt us to reflect on the power of education. For me, getting a second chance at education when I enrolled with the Open University helped me break-free from the identity I had that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough for higher education. Give this super inspirational TED talk a watch. 

I hope you now feel inspired and motivated to study, or that you now feel more positive about your studying journey. Keep looking out for the stories and ideas that inspire you in your studies.


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

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