The 10 greatest perils of being a university student
(…and some good things too)
From the moment we start school, we are told that everything we are learning will help us achieve our goals in life. Those goals could be anything, a dream job, a luxurious life, a rich husband, anything! However for most of us that goal of passing thirteen years of primary and high school is more education, specifically university. The magical place that is supposed to lead us towards our well paid, very fancy, ‘I will tell everyone I know what I do for a living’ career. What they don’t tell you, is that it will be a great up hill, tiresome, stressful struggle, filled with emotion; and possibly tears.
It isn’t all bad though, there are many upsides to being a university student and I don’t just mean the student concession on public transport. Which is why I am going to tell you the 10 greatest perils of being a University student, but also why it is completely worth every second… for most people at least.
*On a side note: Throughout this piece, you will notice photos of real students from LaTrobe University who I have asked to write their opinion on the best and worst thing about university.*
1: TIME MANAGEMENT
If you’re the type of person that tells someone “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” but you’re actually still in bed scrolling through Instagram, then uni probably isn’t the place for you. When people tell you “It’s a lie when lecturers say an assessment can’t be done the night before.. it totally can” they are lying to you, unless you’re all for ‘D’s get degrees’ or you’re a genius.
Knowing when all of your assignments are due, how long you’re going to need to study for each, the fact that your class started 10 minutes ago and you’re still stuck on the tram are all really hard things to deal with as a uni student. It’s something you might have to deal with over and over again, no matter how hard you try or how early you leave. Time-management is one of those things that you are told over and over again you need to master but it is also one of those things that some people never quite get the hang of which can be daunting, especially when you’re that person showing up late to every single lecture.
2. BYE BYE MONEY
I never thought the term ‘poor uni student’ was a real thing until I started University after working a full time job for two years. This one doesn’t apply to everyone, but I feel that a majority of students would agree with this statement.
From experience, living out of home while attending uni and working what little shifts I can due to a sporadic time table is hard, really hard. This was just my experience, I even decided to bite the bullet and move back home to save some money but many students don’t have that luxury. (Can confirm it’s still really hard to save while living at home.)
Other students I know have been worse. One was unable to work at all during the semester while completing his law degree, for wanting to stay at the top of his class. Another friend had it worse than that being an international student who had to pay fees upfront while trying to study and waitressing almost every night for an income. According to topuniversities.com the average international student will pay approximately $42,093 per year “this breaks it down to AU$24,081 for fees and AU$18,012 for living costs. However, tuition fees at Australian Universities will vary considerably depending on where and what you study and the level you will be studying at.”
In perspective however, four years of struggling isn’t so bad in the larger scheme of things as the purpose of attending university is to make all of your money back in your chosen career.
3: MAKING FRIENDS
Here’s to all you awkward people out there that finally start talking to someone in your class.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my opinion it can be so nerve racking talking to someone in a tute for the first time. You walk into a classroom, see everyone sitting there, you want to pick a good seat next to someone you think you’ll potentially get along with, you’re nervous, they’re nervous, its one big room of nerves. Even for someone like me who can talk to anyone and everyone, as an adult, making friends can be a very difficult task and making friends that become more than just your uni friends can be harder. Friends at Uni are great to have, they can guide you, help you with assignments and can morally support you through the hard times but it’s the initial conversation that can be the make or break of a friendship. Let’s use how I met my best friend for example: We were sitting in class in the corner having a group discussion, someone pointed out that I was wearing ugg boots (it was a freezing day) to which I replied “She’s wearing ugg boots too!” and pointed directly at my now best friend, who went bright red in the face and looked like a Deer in headlights. This just proves that while yes, the initial conversation can be scary and awkward, the outcome can be amazing.
4: GROUP PROJECTS
“When I die, I want all the group members I’ve done projects with to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time…” (Unknown)
Group projects are possibly the most dreaded part of university and there are many reasons why. Firstly, back on time-management: How do lecturers expect a group of five or more adults, all with other classes, assignments, lives, hopes and dreams, to come together all at the same time? Don’t even get me started on when you have to meet multiple times to complete a task! (I actually don’t know how people survived before Facebook inboxes.)
Secondly, there are generally the same typical characters in the group: The one who stays silent and doesn’t contribute or the one who stays silent and secretly contributes somehow but you’re not even sure where the work came from. The one who pretends they know what they’re doing but has no clue, but doesn’t want you to know that. There’s the one who doesn’t contribute at all but asks if you can put their name on it ( a friend of mine had a group member offer to pay them to put his name on their work) and finally the one who carries the entire group and basically does all the work, who may receive some assistance, but probably not.
It isn’t all bad though, personally I have been in some fantastic groups where we have all worked collaboratively and received high marks which has been very rewarding, some have not been so lucky.
The number one thing I don’t understand about university is why we can’t just pick a universal referencing style that everyone can use? It amazes me that each subject type or course has a different specific for referencing, but why!? The worst part, is that some styles are so similar that you may place a comma one space too far over or a bracket around the date when there shouldn’t be any and you lose marks. Yes, you can lose a mark for not putting the date in brackets in your reference list, crazy, I know. It’s not that it is a hard concept to grasp, there are even online websites that do your referencing for you, but that isn’t my issue, my issue is it not being universal for all subjects when in reality it could be. Can’t they spare us this one thing and make life that little bit easier? Of course not, it’s university.
The whole point of being at University is to further yourself into a successful career, however we are constantly hearing that many of the jobs that exist now won’t exist in 20 years. So why bother studying now, if there won’t be any work for you later on? Will we have to go back to uni and become mature age students who don’t know how to use the futuristic programs and can’t grasp the concept of technology? I sure hope not, one round of uni is enough for me.
There is also the fact that many students don’t actually get a job straight out of university. The Sydney morning herald estimates that “30% of university students will be out of work months after graduating” which can be a really daunting figure because you’ve worked so hard for something so uncertain. I suppose the only thing to do here is to study a degree that robots won’t be able to take over in the future.
7: UNDER PRESSURE
In the words of Katy Perry “Do you ever feel so paper thin, like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?” In all seriousness, pressure is one of those things that no matter how organised you are or how on top of all your work you are, you can still feel like the whole world is on your shoulders. This is the beauty of being in uni, the pressure you undertake in order to succeed. (..And you thought year 12 was hard, HA!) In all seriousness though, there is a constant battle inside your mind where one side says “it doesn’t matter if you don’t do the best, as long as you pass” and the other side that says “oh my god if you don’t pass you will fail your entire life and everything you have done is a waste!” It might not be that serious for all, but for some people it is. The thing is, as much as people tell you that it doesn’t matter as long as you tried your best, sometimes it is really hard to feel like you’re doing your best when you’re so caught up in everything and you don’t want to let anyone down.
In saying all of this, some people enjoy the pressure of university and don’t know what to do with themselves when they have free time. As much as I hate pressure, I occasionally enjoy the rush of completing a task a few days before and somehow managing to get a good mark, it’s contradictory, I know.
With all that pressure, stress is never too far away. I am someone who doesn’t handle stress well at all. I am figuratively a walking ball of emotion when I am feeling stressed. Sometimes everything can get really overwhelming having so many assignments due at once and struggling to even figure out where to start all while trying to find time for yourself to take a break from it all. The thing with stress is that when you do finally find time for everything, all that lingers in the back of your mind are deadlines. One major thing I have learnt about being stressed while trying to achieve your goals is that everything needs to be broken down and planned out, it may sound crazy but writing lists for everything you plan to do that day is a lifesaver. The University of Adelaide even suggests you use stress as a motivator, “ It assists students to work hard, be focused and return to study rather than doing other things.” They then go on to say “If students are too stressed, they cannot study effectively.” While I somewhat agree with these statements, it definitely makes you panic. I feel that it can also contribute to procrastination which in turn, makes you more stressed. University is basically a whole lot of catch 22 situations that you have to find your way through and figure out what works best for you .
10: WORK LIFE BALANCE
The most important aspect of anyone's life should be to achieve a work- life balance. It can be extremely difficult at times to study while wanting to hang out with friends and go on adventures but there needs to be some guidelines. This is the most important thing I have learnt in my short 23 years, you can’t have all work and no play, but you can’t have all play and no work either, at least while you’re trying to get that degree; when you’re rich and famous, you can play all you like. There needs to be a balance between everything that you do, it may be hard sometimes when you’re spending 13 hours a day in the library only to go home and sleep then do it all again the next day, but we need to remind ourselves that it is short lived and it is only a few years out of your life.
HOW IT ALL ENDS
Throughout anyone’s university career, there will be times where it will feel like some or all of these great perils are holding you back and making you feel like giving up. What we have to all keep in mind is that at the end of the day, there will always be time to relax and regroup. Once you’re finished your degree, you can achieve everything you have been working towards. All of those years of hard work will pay off, unless at the end of your degree you decide to study again, in that case, you’re crazy, but good luck to you!