13 Things I wish I knew before I started university

I recently completed my final semester at university (and yep, I’m feeling the recent-graduate panic)! When reflecting upon my time at university, I began to think about all the things that I’d learned along the way—some of which may probably have been obvious to many people, but took me a while to learn nonetheless.

I think if I had known some of these things right from the start of university, my entire university experience would have been different. Don’t get me wrong, I personally enjoyed university a lot, and I did start to get more involved in things on campus beyond just going to classes in my final year, but I do wish I had done more. I feel like I missed out on so many amazing opportunities simply because I didn’t know where to look.

These are the main things that I wish I knew or did when I was still a student.

  1. Networking is mostly just making friends (or at the very least, at making acquaintances). It’s not only reserved for specific ‘networking’ events. Are you somewhere (like at an event) where you are meeting new people and making a good impression? Congratulations, you’re networking! So, getting involved on campus events and clubs/societies can help you to build and expand your network.
  2. Just be you. If you’re nervous about people judging you, chances are: they aren’t. And if they are, they really probably don’t matter much to your life anyway. You may see them in one or two classes or even just in passing around campus—either way, they aren’t going to really be a part of your life, so don’t let the fear of judgement stop you from living in the present. Besides, most people are just busy doing their own thing to spend time judging others.
  3. Getting the mark you earned: If you feel like you really deserve it, it is possible to contest a mark you got for an assignment if you know where to look. You might have to do some searching on your university’s website to find out who to contact to get your grade/assignment reviewed and remarked.
  4. Join student clubs. Or even just join one and attend a few meetings. If you don’t like it, then at least you tried. But you could end up meeting some good friends through a club, and you get to meet people from beyond your own course’s classes.
  5. Your final timetable isn’t set in stone. If there are other available timeslots, you can switch to a time which better suits you. If all other good timeslots are full, you can keep checking back within the first few weeks of classes and wait for a better timeslot to open up. When it does, simply change your tutorial time to that. However, this one comes with a bit of a disclaimer: not all timetabling systems are the same, so some may not have a timetable adjustment period.
  6. Seek out internships: Internships and other opportunities (like travel opportunities) are out there, but you actually have to actively search for them or ask people if there are any available opportunities. They won’t just fall into your lap because you’re a university/college student.
  7. Look out for free professional development opportunities. Free first-aid course? Free career help? Yes please. Many universities and colleges have free literacy/writing and numeracy workshops, as well as one-on-one proofreading and tutoring services.
  8. Weekly readings: It’s better to read the introduction and conclusion, and then skim the rest of a reading rather than not doing a reading at all. It’s also better to actively skim the main parts of a reading and understand what the reading is about, rather than dutifully reading every single word of a reading and retaining 0% of the information.
  9. Plan. Your. Assignments. Do whatever kind of planning works best for you. Dot points? Mind map? Storyboard? You do you. Just make sure you plan something, it makes all the difference.
  10. Go for it: A lot of the time doing new things is actually easier than it seems. You just think it’s going to be scary. Don’t procrastinate until it’s too late just because you’re afraid to go for it.
  11. Just do it: sometimes it can be tempting to just wait for inspiration or motivation to strike. But, honestly, sometimes you just have to sit down and get to it. Readings need to be done? Whip them out in front of you and start reading. Need to work on an assignment? Start that word doc, get the formatting done, figure out what you need to do to start and then do it. Often, starting is the hardest part. Once you just get yourself started, you have a foundation laid out to get the task done.
  12. What’s done is done: Once you’re done and have submitted an assignment, leave it alone. Don’t think about it until you get the mark and feedback back. It’s only going to stress you out more if you keep thinking about something that is already done. If there isn’t anything more you can do, then there is no benefit to continuing to dwell on and stress about it.
  13. Can’t do now? Stress later: Something stressing you out? Is there anything you can/will do about it in the present moment? No? Then postpone your stressing. Stop dwelling on it until you actually can/will do something about it. (Of course, this is easier said than done).

This is definitely not an exhaustive list. I suppose I just hope that some new university or college student will read this and it will encourage them to seek out more opportunities that are available to them.

Good luck to any new and current students, and an especial good luck to all us newly-grads!


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