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10 Must Watch TED Talks for Students- Get Inspired!

Updated: December 12, 2023 | Published: August 15, 2019

Updated: December 12, 2023

Published: August 15, 2019


TED Talks are a huge trend these days for discovering new ideas, new ways of doing business and a host of other exciting and thought-provoking topics in fields such as education, self-help, business, technology and more. If you are a student, you are sure to benefit from these online videos, but with thousands of available talks in hundreds of languages, it can be hard to choose where to start. Here we’ve rounded up the 10 best TED Talks for students.

Top 10 Must Watch TED Talks for Students

1. Inside The Mind Of A Master Procrastinator: Tim Urban

Tim Urban is blogger and author of written content on his website, Wait but Why? He is one of the internet’s most popular writers and has over one million unique page views on his website. He uses cute, crude drawings and relatable figures to explain his points.

In this funny TED Talk, Urban explains why procrastinators are drawn to procrastination. Procrastination is an inevitable part of being a student because there will always be at least one assignment or project that you just aren’t crazy about, or a time in your student life when there seems to be too much going on and you just can’t muster up the motivation to get started. If you feel like you are a constant procrastinator, it can lead to a build up of anxiety in your life, making it hard to give your all to your studies.

Here are some simple time management tips you can use, for online studies and on campus:

  • Define and prioritize tasks
  • Break up big tasks
  • Create a reward system
  • Set a schedule
  • Eliminate distractions

2. How To Stay Calm When You Know You’ll Be Stressed: Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin allows us all to be mini neuroscientists. As a neuroscience researcher himself, Levitin takes his findings and allows non-scientists to understand more about the brain by using layman’s terms and easy-to-understand anecdotes and analogies.

In this TED Talk, he discusses how to be proactive in avoiding catastrophes, which tend to happen when we are stressed. The main take-away from this TED Talk is to know that as humans, we must expect failure at times. And the rates of failure will be higher when we are stressed. Levitin suggests that we should put systems in place in order to minimize the chances of failure during times of stress. As a student, times of stress are common and can include finals or midterms, registration periods, fall start, or when you have an upcoming project or presentation.

University of the People has created a complete guide for you to combat student stress, a guide on how to cope with exam stress, plus a list of 5 tips to reduce college stress.

3. Dare To Disagree: Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Hefferman is the former CEO of five businesses and is a leader in women’s entrepreneurship.

Her TED Talk explains the importance in standing up for something you believe in, or something you believe to be right. Disagreeing is not always a bad thing, and usually there is a reason why you feel you disagree with others. As students, this could come about with professors or TAs, your student body government, faculty, or in group projects. Bringing up a disagreement is integral to the success of a group as it brings to light issues that must be addressed and will make the group stronger.

4. How Do You Define Yourself?: Lizzie Velásquez

Lizzie Velasquez is a well-known motivational speaker and author who speaks and writes about identity, beauty standards, and bullying. Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Lizzie was the subject of much bullying in her youth, and has some unique perspectives on how to define yourself.

University is a time for you to explore who you are as a person and to find what defines “you.” Create your own goals and make yourself uniquely you, according to who you want to be now and who you want to become. Don’t listen to others’ negative comments, in fact, use those negativities to push yourself even further to become exactly who you define yourself as.

5. Everyday Leadership: Drew Dudley

Drew Dudley is a leadership speaker and author who uses his wit and humor to keep audiences engaged while he explains his idea of what it means to be a leader.

In this funny TED Talk for students, Dudley urges listeners to redefine what it means to be a leader. Leadership is often seen as being someone who will change the world; it is something of prestige that is earned. But it does not have to be — every day of our lives brings opportunities to be leaders and change others’ lives for the better.

Dudley’s anecdote involves a way he helped a peer on her first day of college, and he didn’t even know it. College students come into contact with scores of people daily, usually other students, but also teachers, shop workers and more, and have numerous chances to have a positive impact in people’s lives. Not only should you keep your eyes open for ways to be a leaders in someone’s day, but take time to celebrate yourself and others’ as leaders in your life.

6. How to Speak So That People Want to Listen: Julian Treasure

Julian Treasure is a sound and communication expert and has given a total of five TED Talks on related subjects.

In this helpful TED Talk, he explains aspects of voice and how to use each to your advantage when speaking. He also explains what not to do so that people will listen. The most important part of speech, according to Treasure, is to speak with HAIL, which stands for honesty, authenticity, integrity and love.

When you are a student, you will have many presentations. They might be in front of your class, at your job, or in a student organization, and it might be one-on-one or you speaking to many. No matter the speaking scenario, you will want to be prepared so that people will really listen to you, and this TED Talk explains exactly how to do so.

Treasure also emphasizes the importance of being an active, engaged and motivated listener. This is something students should undoubtedly work on, due to the high number of lectures students watch or attend. Active listening will help you to absorb more of the information being offered, and help out with memory and studying the material later.

7. The Power of Introverts: Susan Cain

Susan Cain calls herself a ‘quiet revolutionary,’ and is a champion for introverts in all industries around the world. Cain advocates for the benefits of being an introvert in this TED Talk, and argues that introverts are just as valuable to the world as extroverts, despite being commonly viewed as lesser thans.

Introverts make up a third of the population, according to Cain, which means that even if you aren’t an introvert, many of your classmates or future coworkers will be. It is important as students to know where and how you will be most inspired, creative and productive. If you are an introvert, don’t force yourself to be an extrovert. Understand your strengths and you will be more successful if you’ve set up the right environment for yourself to achieve. If you are an introverted student, you may want to set up a quiet study area or study time, ask a professor to work individually, or tell groupmates you will take over a part of the group project on your own.

8. The Key to Success? Grit: Angela Lee Duckworth

Angela Lee Duckworth is an academic, psychologist and author and has written a book on the power of success and what she calls “grit.” According to Duckworth, grit is the key indicator to know if someone will be successful. She says that “grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Success is not all about how much money, beauty or brains you have. Success is not even about how hard you try, but it is about how much you persevere with long-term goals in mind. Students must have grit to succeed, and the best way to get more grit, is to have a growth mindset, which is to say to understand that you are always learning, even as an adult, and that you can learn from your failures.

9. How to Build Your Creative Confidence: David Kelley

David Kelley is a designer, engineer, professor and entrepreneur. He founded a design firm and has received several honors for his contributions to design and design education.

Oftentimes people don’t believe they are creative because of something someone once told them. And they continue their lives being fearful of making creations or creative comments out of fear of being judged for not creating the ‘right’ thing.

Why should you want to increase your creativity as a student? First of all, creativity can help you in many ways outside of art: in problem solving, emotional intelligence, and more. Also, if you are more creative, or have more confidence in your ability to create, naturally you will be more likely to have ideas flow when brainstorming for school projects or on group committees. You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. You just need confidence.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

10. Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career: Larry Smith

Larry Smith is a professor of economics, who coaches his students on finding a career that they can truly love. In this loveable and funny TED Talk for students, Smith goes through the several ways and failures that you will have on your way to a great career.

Students should watch this TED Talk because Smith outlines what it means to have a great career and just how you can achieve your definition of greatness. In finding a great career, you need to try in order to succeed, and sometimes that means failing. Students should stop making excuses and start trying, even if there’s a risk of failure.

Bonus Video: Getting a High Quality, Online, Low-Cost Degree with UoPeople

Degrees are typically known to be extremely expensive which result in many potential students give up on their dream to get a higher education.

Shai Reshef, founder of the very first nonprofit, high quality, tuition-free, US accredited, and fully online University, talks about a new solution for qualified students worldwide to gain a higher education regardless of their geographic, social and financial class.

The UoPeople model is a low-cost alternative to the high price of most traditional institutions. It allows students the flexibility to learn whenever is convenient for them as it is 100% online.

Hear more about this initiative in Reshef’s TED talk to learn more!