TED Talks

Eight TED Talks College Students Should Really Watch

If you need a dose of inspiration or some solid advice, these are the videos for you.

September 23, 2019
8 mins read

To say that college can be difficult and overwhelming would be an understatement. We’ve all got way too much stress, whether it’s over homework, your social life, your future career or any one of a thousand different obstacles college students can face. But you’re not alone in this. In fact, some experts from TED Talks have found ways to deal with these sorts of quintessential college problems, and they have lots of advice for the wayward student.

For the Anxious and Stressed

If you’re having trouble managing your anxious and stressed brain and you feel like it’s all too much to handle, you should watch “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes” by Andy Puddicombe.

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Puddicome’s talk is especially relevant to the constantly and consistently busy college student. He asks a difficult question to answer: “When did you last take any time to do nothing?” I certainly can’t remember, and you all probably can’t either. And that’s not good for your brain. Your brain needs maintenance and care just like your car, your hair, your friends and everything else. So Puddicombe explains that all it takes is 10 minutes every day of doing absolutely nothing to take care of your brain and stop being so anxious and burnt out all the time. Really, 10 minutes is not a lot to ask for the organ we ask so much of.

Another TED talk for the perpetually under pressure is Sian Leah Beilock’s “Why we choke under pressure – and how to avoid it.” Any students in the middle of exams, varsity athletes at big games or seniors in job interviews will relate to Beilock’s stories of choking under pressure. The main reason why we, as flawed human beings, fail to perform at our best while stressed is that our worries cause us to pay too much attention to our actions — actions that are best left on autopilot.

She gives some excellent advice to deal with this: Practice under the same conditions that you have to perform in. For test-takers, practice those complicated math problems under a time constraint. Rehearse a big speech in front of others. Do what it takes to get used to the pressure so that you don’t choke when all eyes are on you. Keep this in mind when preparing for your next big stress-filled event, and you’ll nail it.

If practicing for pressure isn’t enough, try taking a look at this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, “How to make stress your friend.” McGonigal, a health psychologist, shares this fascinating study that found a correlation between believing that stress is harmful to your health and an increased risk of dying. It turns out that viewing your response to stress — faster heartbeats, sweating, rapid breathing — is your body preparing for a challenge and getting ready to work. This idea about stress being helpful actually makes you more confident and less anxious. So, test-takers, know that your stress can help you ace that exam — if you let it.

For the Directionless and Unsure

Being a college student means deciding what path you want to take and what career you want to choose. This decision, while it comes easily and naturally to some, can be confusing and time-consuming to others. If you feel that way, you should definitely watch Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling.” Wapnick talks about how we shouldn’t just commit ourselves to one career because that’s what you’re supposed to do. If you have multiple, fleeting yet intense interests, embrace that and explore your curiosity. It’ll make you happier and more fulfilled, and having a wide range of skills certainly won’t hurt you career-wise.

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Another important TED talk for the career-confused among us is “How to find work you love” by Scott Dinsmore. Around 80% of people don’t enjoy their work, and, for college students, now is the right time to try to become part of the 20% who do. The problem is that so many people are just doing the work they do because they’re supposed to and because someone told them to. In keeping with the message from Wapnick’s talk, Dinsmore says to ask yourself what matters to you and what impact you can make, and then do that. And by discovering what inspires you and what works for you, you can motivate others to do the same instead of monotonously living life as they’re supposed to.

There’s something else you need, though, if you want to take your ambition and make it a reality. Angela Lee Duckworth explains it perfectly in her talk “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance.” Your education, as it turns out, is not based solely on your IQ or your standardized test scores. Instead, the most important piece of the equation in getting where you want to go in life is hard work and perseverance. Those who have grit and are willing to work hard to achieve long-term goals are the ones who were successful in life, not those who are super smart or very socially adept. So, college students, don’t give up when it gets hard, because the end results will be worth it.

For the Passionate But Insecure

For a lot of college students, it’s hard to figure out how to actually make a difference and do something with all their passion and energy. Natalie Warne talks about this in “Being young and making an impact.” Warne talks about the “Anonymous Extraordinaries,” people who work not for recognition or fame, but because they believe in what they’re doing and want to make a difference in their own lives and others. And it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about having passion for what you’re doing. Warne tells an incredible story in her TED talk, but the point she really drives home is that caring about fame and popularity and what other people think about you is not what is going to change the world or fulfill you. It’s finding what you love and chasing after it.

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Keeping that in mind, the question is how to go about chasing those dreams? Julian Treasure helps answer this question in his TED talk “How to speak so that people want to listen.” Treasure gives a lot of helpful tips for speaking meaningfully, including his “seven deadly sins of speaking.” He warns against gossip, judging, negativity and complaining, to name a few. We all do this, and it makes it really hard for others to listen and to have a thoughtful conversation. There’s also a lot we have to do if we want to speak powerfully and actually make a difference. We have to be honest, we have to be authentic, we have to have integrity and be trustworthy, and we have to wish people well. If you’re wishing someone well, it’s impossible to judge them and gossip about them. He also shares a lot of valuable advice about how to say these things, not just what to say. So, watch this TED talk, public speakers and job interviewees, if you want to say meaningful words in an impactful way.

For Everyone

Honestly, whether you need a pep talk or just something interesting to watch, there are so many TED talks that can do that and more. These experts from around the world have definitely got ideas worth spreading, and not just for college students. So go take a look at these talks or the others on their website. It’s worth your time, I promise.

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