Sunday, March 30, 2014

10 Tips from a University Student Veteran

You could say I am some-what of a University Veteran. I have been a student for longer than I'd like to say *cough* 5-ish years; and with the long hard yards of being a low-income student up my sleeve, I would like to tell you my best university survival tips that I personally live by.

1. Research EXACTLY what you want to study
Whether you are transitioning straight out of high school, or a man in his mid 40s wanting to gain those extra set of skills; you need to do an extensive amount of research. What exactly do you want to do? What exactly do you enjoy? You really need to find that passion. If you can't umbrella that passion and don't mind doing the extra mileage of studying? Research whether it's suited for what you had in mind and in your future career prospects. I thought Information Technology would be a good career path; however I got bored of it and ended up entering a Business degree as well. Get into the nitty-gritty side of the research and look at the exact subjects in the course outline and even talk to a guidance officer. Don't be scared to ask... because remember, you're going to be stuck studying that subject for the next 3-5 years of your life!

2. Make some friends the SMART way
Make friends at University; friends you feel will stick out the studying to the end. Friends that don't mind ditching late night parties for some late night study sessions amongst rows of dusty textbooks in an overly quiet library. Friends are going to be like your new family. They will help and share valuable information with you = a must. Friends are a huge aspect of university life and can be a constant motivator to keep you coming to your 9AM lectures. On that note; try not to enrol for early lectures/classes - because if you're like me and love to sleep, you'll never make it.

3. Ask QUESTIONS like there's no tomorrow
Try break out of that shy comfort zone. Don't be scared to ask questions if you're struggling through the content. Whether it being your lecturer, tutor or a guidance officer; ask those questions to gain those answers you need to know. They get paid to help you and realistically, have heard every question out of the book. To them - there is no such thing as a 'stupid question’; they've seriously heard it all. If you're struggling badly, it's not the end of the world. There is help out there for you; you just need to initiate it.

4. Food is FIRST
Being a student can be very hard financially and the effort of having to buy lunch every time you visit campus grounds can be sore for your pocket. If money is hard to come by; when it comes round to cooking dinner; cook a little extra and have it in a container for tomorrows lunch. You can then take it with you to university and heat it up in the microwaves provided instead of pinch penny-ing your pocket every day for a $10 meal you cannot afford. It can be very expensive! And you'd rather spend your money on more valuable things like... alcohol (if you're of age). Oh yeah, and don’t skimp out on that meal. Even though you know you'll just be sitting around studying all day, keep your energy levels up because your brain is constantly draining those valuable levels to keep you focused. You don’t want to end up hangry (hungry + angry) like me!

5. Every CENT COUNTS even for buying TEXTBOOKS

Especially in my first year, the amount of times I've bought a textbook I didn't even really use. From my personal experience, I advise you to attend you're first lecture - listen to what the lecturer has to say about purchasing 'that' textbook and decide if buying the textbook is worth it. There are multiple times where buying the previous version (older version) of the textbook is a reasonable option to consider. I have bought older versions of the textbook I needed - simply to save money on several occasions and have been fine with the content learnt; if needed, the university library always has a copy of the most recent textbook to read. Also, if you can grab a copy of a second-hand textbook, TAKE IT! You usually safe half the cost by buying older textbooks which is a BIG deal when being a financially poor student. 

Have some sort of diary. Not like a 'dear diary...' diary but an organisational diary - whether it be a paperback diary or a diary app downloaded on your phone! In your diary, make sure to write ALL the due dates for assignments and exams that you'll have for the semester. It's important to organise yourself around mid-semester and end of semester because that's when the big assessments will hit you with no mercy!

7. Preparation notes is KEY
I am not in any way suggesting to leave studying or assignment writing to the last minute; but if for some unfortunate reason your life has led you to this unpleasant moment, preparation notes provided for the assessment piece is killer! Go through the practice/preparation notes the lecturer/tutor has provided for you. They have not merely provided it to you to waste your time. They have provided it for you to help you pass! The amount of times the actual questions on the practice exam notes have appeared in the REAL exam is some-what scary. In one proper exam I recall, the last 6 questions were exactly the same to the practice exam questions and to my luck, I had memorised those answered therefore gaining those valuable marks needed to pass.

8. If you have time, gain some WORK EXPERIENCE
I cannot stress this enough. This is something they should enforce more seriously to students who want to find a job fast after graduating. In today's society, the amount of jobs I've seen on job seeking websites that actually require prior 2+ years of experience as well as some sort of qualification on paper is a joke. Not only are students now required to gain a comfortable job by gaining a degree, they now also need to do some work experience as well. But if that's what the job market wants, then that's what you need to provide them. Find some work experience or do an internship in your targeted field because without a doubt, it will help you gain a job a little easier against competing graduates who haven't.

9. Find your MOTIVATION
This is probably the biggest killer that will sometimes want to drown you. At some point of your university life, whether it be after your first year or during your final year, the lack of motivation will bring you down. When you lack motivation, ask yourself why you started it in the first place. Ask yourself why it's so important to finish and why it's so important for your future. Imagine yourself standing up on that graduating stage receiving that paper with your name on it. How proud it will make your friends and family and ultimately, yourself. But if it is more than just finding motivation, don't lose hope. If it gets too tough, or simply doesn't interest you anymore, you can always take a leave of absence or study part-time and achieve those other things that you have more motivation for and come back to studying when you're back in that studying mindset. I personally did this myself and decided to study Film at a different institute. You don't always have to stick to the one path; find the path that is right for you.

10. NEVER leave assignments to the LAST MINUTE
Never ever EVER leave assignments to the last minute. Don't ever do it. It's never worth it and you'll hate yourself for doing it. When you procrastinate to the max like me, set yourself small tasks and stick to them, for example. I have a research assignment and I need to find 10 journal articles to relate to the topic. Break the 10 into 5, and give yourself 30 minutes to find 5 articles. Then have a 30 minute break, and then give yourself another 30 minutes to find the next 5 articles. Setting smaller goals is more achievable and less daunting to start. No matter how small the tasks are, reward yourself with a break. Rewards are a good thing.

Good luck and happy studying!


Ah... those days. I was a 5ish year student myself before getting offered a job as staff at the university where I worked all those years. I definitely agree with the gathering of work experience one. It's hard to hire a student for a job even with a degree if they lack actual job experience. Hang in there. :)

Good old IT. So boring, frustrating and filled with things the rest of the company doesn't care to understand... But then when you finally get something working right it's like magic...

Good tips there and like Chalgyr I'd echo the experience part. As someone on the hiring side, those resumes without experience tend to be the first to go if they even get to me. So many new grads look the same on paper and it's also frustrating that most of them are looking for top-dollar salaries fresh out of the gate. It's definitely a tough balance to reach with degree vs experience.

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