7 Inspiring TED Talks for Students

7 Inspiring TED Talks for Students

Nowadays, the internet is woven into the fabric of our lives. While there are any number of reasons why we may connect to the world wide web, how often do we use this vast resource specifically for inspiration and education? It’s easy to hop on social media and seek out instant gratification, but what about nourishing your intellect and spirit? Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, and in this article we’ll focus on TED Talks designed with students in mind. If you’ve never heard of TED Talks, they are speeches under 18 minutes long defined as one of two things:

  • Something that’s new and surprising; an idea or invention that your audience has never heard about.

  • A great basic idea (that your audience has maybe already heard) with a compelling new argument behind it that challenges beliefs and perspectives.

These are great videos to check out at any time of day, perhaps first thing in the morning or when you have a 15-20 minute break. No matter when you watch, I highly recommend the following seven TED Talks that cover a variety of topics that students will find relevant and thought-provoking.


We begin with a TED Talk by Eva Ren, who delivered this talk when she was a high school senior. In a hyper-competitive society in which everyone is striving to achieve the best marks, Ren offers insight on why grades aren’t as indicative of success as is commonly thought. Whether you are stressing over your grades or have a perfect GPA, this talk should resonate and give you perspective on your unique role within the learning process. 


We tend to think that IQ and talent determine an individual’s success, but Angela Lee Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the science behind what it actually takes to reach success in this quick, yet effective TED Talk. Exploring a relatively unstudied phenomenon, Duckworth makes the case for shifting our perspectives of what it takes to be successful and how we can better prepare students for their own future success. At under six minutes, this talk may be one of the shortest, but it packs 


Building on the concept of grit, Arel Moodie delivers an intensely personal TED Talk that reveals his own struggles as a student, from elementary school through college. The peaks and valleys that characterize any meaningful journey are on full display as Moodie grapples with the realities of growing up in a tough New York neighborhood. Many of the elements in his story will be familiar to students, but he ultimately ties in the lessons learned into a broader message that should be received by all.


The previous two TED Talks both incorporate the primary theme of this talk: growth mindset. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, discusses the science behind motivation and reward to explain how all students are capable of improving their abilities. She mentions studies conducted on the brain to support her message while also rooting the science in real-life scenarios to show how students can be helped in practical ways. As one of the pioneering researchers in the field of motivation, Dweck ensures listeners that the power to improve lies within us all.


Procrastination. It has a tendency to get the best of us all. Easy to slip into and difficult to escape, procrastination can derail your greatest intentions. In this TED Talk, Harvard graduate Tim Urban shares an entertaining and insightful take on procrastination and how it can affect even the most well-meaning among us. He introduces a familiar (and hilarious) cast of characters to help frame why we procrastinate and what can be done to procrastinate less. There’s something here for everyone. 


Extroverts are all around us. We see them; we hear them; we easily recognize them. There seems to be an emphasis on extroversion in modern society, but what role does introversion have to offer? In this TED Talk, Susan Cain offers a poignant perspective on the power of the inner self. She traces how we have reached a point in today’s culture in which extroversion seems to have more value than introversion and offers historical and personal examples to show why we should strive for more balance between the two.


Our final TED Talk deals with the power of connection and how it relates to a type of leadership we all possess but may not acknowledge. Drew Dudley uses an entertaining extended anecdote to introduce the concept of Lollipop Moments, a straightforward and easily applicable technique that can be used to change the world. His story will evoke many laughs, but the overall message contains a dynamic approach to how we understand leadership and the effects it can have on the people around us.


Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."