Have you ever stood in line at the deli and wondered why you are not being served? Only to realise you should have got a numbered ticket 10 minutes ago.
This is the feeling I got during final year of studying my Arts/Law degree. It felt like I had missed out on five years worth of secret memos on how to be successful at Uni. What I’ve learned now is that smart people learn from their mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others.
So learn from my mistakes, here’s my ten tips for Uni success that I learned the hard way.
1. Get Into a Relationship
Relationships are the most important things to develop during your university life. When it comes to getting a job after graduation it’s all about who you know, not what you know – an adage I did not take seriously enough.
Old fashioned merit will not cut it in the job market… and I am not just talking about becoming besties with fellow students/future colleagues, socialising at toga parties or going to ‘wine and cheese night’ networking opportunities. Think of your years at Uni as speed dating for jobs. Get serious about making contacts with people in industries and areas you may be interested in getting a job after graduation. These connections will be your best chance at getting a job.
2. Start Now
I’ve been to many presentations where speakers will say that it is OK not to know what you want to do, or what you will eventually use your degree for. This is true to a certain extent, when it allows you to be flexible later about career changes. But do not be complacent. You might wait a long time for the career gods to send you a dream job epiphany!
Don’t delay looking for work experience, volunteer opportunities or getting a part time job in the industry related to your degree. At a very minimum, it will give you some experience and insight into your potential career path. While you probably won’t stay in this job forever, at least you have made some helpful contacts.
3. Follow Your Heart
Focusing on your strengths and passions are the key. Follow one or both of those when seeking a career and you cannot go wrong. Worst case scenario is, you either end up doing a job you are good at or are passionate about!
Think carefully about what aspects of your degree you enjoy or achieve the best marks in. Perhaps it is the socialising, the researching, presenting, the results? Ask close friends and family what they think your strengths are and consider their advice. This advice can be invaluable.
4. Fake It Till You Make It
Confidence and motivation (and coffee during an all-nighter!) are the most in demand things to learn at Uni… especially when you are trying to make a connection with someone whose resume is intimating as the Magna Carter (little joke for the law students)!
So take a deep breath and fake it. Practice makes perfect, the first fumbled attempt will be embarrassing but keep making those cold calls, expression of interests emails and asking for advice.
5. Make Friends with Your Lecturer
In primary school leaving an apple on the teacher’s desk, made you a nerd. Today regularly communicating with your lecturer will improve your marks. Dashing off after the lecture has finished – as tempting as it is – will not pay off in the long run. Introduce yourself to the lecturer after the first or second lecture, when they are not too swamped with fans!
Use their consultation hours regularly, especially when seeking advice for an upcoming assessment. By establishing a relationship with your lecturer, you will make a connection with them and ensure you are not just a number on the roll. They will offer insight into what will get you a High Distinction, let you know of tips and pet peeves of theirs to avoid, where to find the best research material and then hopefully be looking forward to marking your assignment. It’s a foolproof way to get good marks!
6. Stay Healthy – physically and mentally
When you are busy studying and living the student life, it’s easy to let your health slip to the bottom of your priorities. Do your best to stay mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. They are all linked together, so if one or many are suffering it will flow onto to the other aspects.
Junk food binges or late night Maccas runs are inevitable. But the two-minute-noodle/alcohol diet will catch up to you… as will the lack of sleep from the rave lifestyle! Your body needs to stay strong for the inevitable flu season, you do not have the time or energy to be sick.
You are what you eat, so if you want to be a fully functioning study machine, eat like one.
Exercise is integral to mental and physical health. Pick an exercise that you enjoy and can stick to. Whether that be casual walks, playing a competitive sport, yoga, running, Zumba or being a full out gym bunny… exercise should be a rewarding, enjoyable, sometimes challenging way for you to de-stress and revive yourself after a stressful day stuck with your head in a textbook.
Mental health is equally as important. As students, you are under an enormous amount of personal and academic pressure to perform. The balancing act between uni, social life and work commitments can become overwhelming at times, and it is OK to feel this way. Meltdowns, rants and self imposed hibernation, are completely normal. Let it all out. Talk to trusted friends and family about how you are feeling. Although they can be the least sympathetic, still flag issues with lecturers so they are aware of your issues. If you are feeling unhappy and overwhelmed more often than not, talk to a professional. It takes strength to put your hand up and ask for help.
And just between you and me, care packages from friends and family are a godsend for good mental health!
7. Always Question Everything
Be engaging in lectures and tutorials. Scrolling through your Facebook news feed and endless shoe shopping mid-lecture will not produce good notes or let you take in anything important.
We forget that Uni is a place to learn, and just because you got accepted does not mean you now know everything. It can be intimidating asking a question in front of a mass of competitive students. Be brave, stick your hand up. I can guarantee another person sitting behind you is too afraid to ask it.
8. The Library is Your Second Home
Have a set study space. I will be the first to admit that my weakness is binge-watching TV shows or getting stuck in an endless YouTube watching vortex. Eliminate distractions. Find a place where you can focus and get into a productive zone. Work towards a reward.
Ask yourself: who do you want to be when you grow up?
It is important to be inspired by someone. It is even better if you can network with them! Whether it be the girl three years above you or a successful person with your dream job. See what they have done, ask for advice and be inspired by their path.
10. Back yourself
Finally, be your own best friend.
You are an adult now… or at least pretending to be! Through trial and error, you will start to work out what works best for you. If any of the advice I or anyone else gives to you works, follow it. If not, before you disregard it, think about how you could do it differently. One thing that I have learned is that sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way for you to appreciate them.
Go forth and conquer!