My sibling took a test and got a low grade. While it's not certain whether she'll get into uni or not, she knows that she can take a second one. Problem is she is not putting enough effort preparing for it. When I brought it up she almost immediately raised her voice and seemed to get defensive going as far as to say "I don't care". While I'm not sure how serious she is about not caring, I hope she won't learn it the hard way. Most importantly, if she fails she possibly won't join her friends at the uni and will have to wait another year.

How can I motivate my sister to take the admission test seriously?

Background info: she is not doing much during the day, hanging out with friends and working a few hours in the weekend. I'm older and already graduated. I see myself in her lazy behavior/lack of motivation, but I've learnt a lot throughout the years and that's why I'm trying to help now.

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    One thing that will help answer this: why is this your issue? What about your sister's prospects require your intervention? That will help craft an answer that recognizes this. Otherwise, it kind of comes down to trying to motivate someone who's not motivated, which is really hard to do. Jul 22 '20 at 14:49
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    She picked the university program herself, so I know she has interest in it. I'm trying to make sure she has the right support (eg how to transition from high school to uni, find and apartment, how to live away from home). I want to make sure she does not feel alone in this challenge (as I did at times). She's stubborn she wouldn't ask help if she needed. That's why I'm trying to be proactive towards her. Of course I'm ready to give up if I was told that's counter productive.
    – user61801
    Jul 22 '20 at 15:16
  • You say you've tried to bring it up, but were shut down immediately... can you include more information on how you've tried to bring it up and motivate her so far? For example, does your usual approach include telling her she's not doing enough and should do more, or does it focus on encouraging her when she's doing the things you like to see her do?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jul 23 '20 at 10:15

The short answer is: you can't. Only your sister can motivate herself to take something seriously.

However, you can help her to motivate herself. The first step is to engage with her. You're not going to tell her things; you're not going to give advice. When I teach fatherhood classes, one thing we say is "don't give un-asked-for advice" which I think applies here. You want to listen to her and see what's important to her. This takes time because you're building up trust and establishing that you want to hear what she has to say and valuing both her and what she has to say.

After she grants you the right to help her, then you can talk about her plans. In the US, it's common to assume people want to go to college right after high school. However, that leaves a lot of people who aren't ready for college or have no idea why they're in college studying there, wasting both time and (Mom and Dad's) money. Maybe she wants to take a year off. Maybe she wants to study a skilled trade - of which there is a huge and growing shortage of practitioners. The point is: right now you only know she picked this program but you don't know why. Was it to please your parents? Was it because she wants to? Was it because "that's what she is supposed to do"?

In this stage, you stop "helicoptering". She's an adult now, and needs to make mistakes and learn from them. It's acceptable to talk with her and answer questions, but not acceptable to make decisions for her or tell her what to do. If she's used to just following advice and people telling her what to do, she won't learn to do things and decide for herself. You can tell her the mistakes you made, but you don't tell her how to avoid them. That's on her to decide that.

So, now we know why she selected this program and she trusts you. If we know that she picked this program because she's got a passion for it and that she needs to do better on this test, we can offer to help her study for it. Your pressure won't help here; she needs to come to that decision for herself. And you help that by showing true concern for her and having a trusting relationship with her, not by telling her what she needs to do and how to do it.

In the end, you can help her motivate herself. It's a long process built on showing her that you care about her and support her. It's nothing you'll accomplish in a couple weeks but in the end you'll have a stronger relationship with her and a better understanding of how she approaches life.

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