33 Books, Movies, and Speeches That Will Inspire College Students

33 Books, Movies, and Speeches That Will Inspire College Students

Are you in college and looking for a source of inspiration? As much as college life offers you freedom, you still need to get a better understanding of the world and yourself. You have already faced the challenge of charting a career path by choosing a major.

For some, you probably aren’t sure about your selection. Or maybe you want to get the correct perspective of the real world, something that you may touch on in your Harvard OCS resume. If you are unsure about your decisions or don’t doubt yourself, but need reassurance, we will outline resources that will inspire and guide you, as a college student.

Books to Read

1. The Willpower Instinct- Kelly McGonigal

With freedom comes responsibility. You can choose to spend your years in college, hopping from one party to another. Or you could decide that the money that goes to your tuition and upkeep will go to good use.

Kelly explores the critical ideas of self-control to help you educate yourself about willpower. Learn how you can take charge of your life and improve your life. Maybe you want to lose weight, get a particular score at the end of the program, or only just get to the graduation day.

2. Of Mice and Men — John Steinbeck

In college, you are going to meet different people, and so is real life. From appearance, personality to cultures. You have to learn how to interact with others who are “different” from you.

This book will help you realize that every human being wants to be understood and has dreams. If you have never put much thought into people with disabilities; it will change that as your eyes open to the harsh reality of our nature.

3. Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

What better way to start your semester than to read about what you may face in college? You are done with your Harvard resume, secured a position, and now it’s time to start living the college life. Read about the struggle of subjects who meet in college for the first time.

When you have to choose between love and friendship; you may need the answers to this, probably. That’s when you find love but still, want to hold on to your best friend. Is there an amicable solution to this?

4. Mastery – Robert Greene

By now, you have probably realized, that you don’t reason the way you did when you were just a high school graduate. There’s so much more to learn and much more to do. If you have found a path that interests you, how do you move from a novice to an expert?

It is an in-depth guide that takes you through the different stages of expertise. It will complement the lessons in your class, as you learn about the journey of some of the most significant experts in history.

5. Getting to Yes with Yourself- William Ury

Many of us struggle with finding harmony with ourselves. In college, you are a few years from the world regarding you as an adult. And this reality may be overwhelming to some. For you to change things around you, it has to begin with yourself.

You still have time to rediscover yourself before graduation. Get new ideas and ask yourself essential questions, as you figure out, who you indeed are.

6. The Giver — Lois Lowry

It is a tale about a Utopian society through the eyes of Jonas. He comes to realize that the culture isn’t ideal. His neighbors live in an illusion of perfection and are controlled by others. It was possible because they had to sacrifice their individuality.

You will come to question the beliefs that you have held for years or have been passed on to you. To find happiness in life, you will have to choose to do what feels right for you. For you are the one living your life, and no one else.

7. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Raskolnikov, a student, is trying to understand who he is and find his place in life. It is the story of many college students. Everything isn’t just black and white as you once thought. Raskolnikov kills a pawnbroker and tries to justify the act.

If you are the curious and inquisitive type, this book will cause you to rethink about your place in this society and also your views about moral laws.

8. The 4-Hour Workweek -Tim Ferriss

If you haven’t realized this by now, you should know that; gone are the days when there were “safe jobs.” If you are focused on going the untraditional route, this book will be inspirational. As it helps you break down the walls of entrepreneurship that were once intimidating.

Learn how you can build a lifestyle business, travel the world and work for yourself. As we are living in the information age, you need to start rethinking work and considering what was once, “unconventional.”

9. Eat That Frog!- Brian Tracy

Procrastination is one of the things some of us are still battling with, even after college. When you just can’t get your Harvard vus, done despite having all the time to attend to it, you will need this. Get practical advice that will help you plan your schedule, work efficiently, and determine your priorities.

10. Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

As the bouts of loneliness strike, now and then, you need material that reaches to your core and speaks to your situation. Don’t think that no one understands you, as you travel with Holden Caulfield, around New York, through this moody prose. Something you can relate to, as a student.

11. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

We all need some humor, once in a while, and this book delivers it. It will remind you the importance of traits we have long forgotten. Of sacrifice, understanding, forgiveness, etc. A tale of a man who falls in love with a young nymphet.

12. The Defining Decade- Dr. Meg Jay

A fantastic book for people like you, who are in their 20s. It will cause you to rethink your lifestyle choice. You will realize that you need to lean towards investing in you; rather than, optimizing for your freedom. I would recommend it, especially to those who have reached a stage in life where they feel like they don’t know what they are doing.

13. Hunger- Roxane Gay

We live in a world where one’s image is everything, starting with your appearance. If you are feeling conscious about the way you look, because of the standards of beauty propagated as ideal, this is the book for you.

Add to Your To-Watch List

14. The Paper Chase (1973)

Are you finding it challenging to keep your motivation to study alive? If you aren’t, you will face it, sometime. Learn how to “set the mode” when studies don’t come easy, through the first year experience of James T. Hart, at Harvard.

15. The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)

Life has its highs and lows, and so is life as a college student. This movie will motivate you to keep going, no matter what obstacles come your way. And since the fact is better than fiction, it is based on a real-life story.

16. The Spanish Apartment (2002)

Are you studying in a foreign country, wondering why you didn’t choose a local university? It is a story of a group of students in Barcelona, who are struggling with emotional, practical and language difficulties.

17. Good Will Hunting (1997)

You have a hidden potential, which you need to unlock. This movie could be more appealing to finance and accounting students. It will inspire you to discover your hidden talents and the doors that they may open for you.

18. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

At a time when nerds were ostracized, they still did beat the jocks. You don’t have to hide your nerdy-self. And it isn’t just for the nerds. It speaks to those who get dissed, and made fun of, because of who they are.

19. Dead Poets Society (1989)

An unconventional professor urges his students to face their studies and life with the spirit of independence. On the other hand, an awkward and shy student tries to live to the expectations that his parents have set. It will inspire you to challenge the confines of the society and find your voice.

20. 3 Idiots (2009)

Why not have a good laugh and still learn? It is a story of three students who learn valuable life lessons that the classroom and books, doesn’t offer. It will encourage you to discover the reason why you are learning and help you in achieving what you would like to be. It will teach you the reality of life.

21. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Five students who come from different backgrounds find themselves in detention. They open up to each other and a friendship blooms. A college has a diverse set of students and chances are high that you will build friendships in the most unexpected ways.

22. Rudy (1993)

You may not have the ideal background or have the abilities like everyone else, but you can still achieve your dreams. Daniel Ruettiger chooses to follow his dream of playing football. He does this, despite his poor background, low grades, mediocre athletic abilities, and his small size.

23. The Theory of Everything (2014)

It is a tale about the troubled life of the late Stephen Hawking. His battle with ALS, brilliant academic career, and his love for family. It is based on the biography that his ex-wife, Jane Wilde Hawking, wrote.

What you need to listen to while in College?

24. J.K. Rowling: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” (2008)

Failure is part of living, and it is something you should think about, every day. It is your opportunity to learn and use it as a stepping stone towards greatness.

25. Randy Pausch’s: The Last Lecture (2007)

In 2007, Pausch gets diagnosed with terminal cancer. In his speech, he advises us not to give up on our dreams. He encourages people to follow the desires of their heart, to achieve self-fulfillment.

26. Dan Pink: “The Puzzle of Motivation” (2009)

He stresses the importance of intrinsic motivation, which he emphases as the driving force to success. Pinks defines the three elements that make up intrinsic motivation, i.e., autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

27. Andrew Solomon: Love, No Matter What (2013)

Love shapes who we are and also affects the way we identify ourselves. It emphasizes the importance of embracing identity.

28. Jim Valvano: ESPY Speech (1993)

He encourages us to view life with a positive outlook. Be enthusiastic every day. Laugh, spend some time in thought and don’t forget to get your emotions, flowing. Despite the problems you face, keep your dreams alive, and work towards making them a reality.

29. Matt Cutts: Try Something New for 30 Days (2011)

When you are having trouble making changes to your habits, that will improve your life; listen to this. Matt encourages us to use the next 30 days to add a new habit to our lifestyle. The days will still pass, why not try something new?

30. Frank Oz/Yoda: Speech from The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Though I slept through most of the earlier Star Wars, you can still find gems of advice in it. Yoda encourages Luke to do what he should and not try it. When Luke doubts himself, Yoda informs him that it is the reason why he fails, and much more.

31. Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating (2014)

Don’t get bogged down by your current successes. Embrace failure so that you can move forward, as it unburdens you of your success.

32. Denzel Washington: “Fall Forward” (2011)

Don’t let failure keep you from reaching your dreams.

33. Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address (2005)

Chart your path to success. The setbacks that come your way are opportunities. Follow your dreams and overcome the obstacles along the way.


Whatever medium you prefer, there are numerous sources of inspiration for college students. Read, watch or listen and apply the valuable lessons to your life. Don’t forget to share with those who may need the knowledge, too.

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