5 Tips for Getting Through a Lengthy Uni Degree
Let’s face it, getting through uni is a challenge. It’s like climbing a really big mountain with fairly treacherous terrain all the way up (exam hurdles, group projects, and full carparks). This is even tougher when your mountain is higher than the standard three-year mountain.
Whether it’s a double degree, masters, you’ve failed a few units, or you’re studying part time, you’re in it for the long haul. You’ll meet people that may start after you and finish before you. You’ll have friends that are out earning money while you’re still eating 2-minute noodle stir-fry. You may even be doubting your own intelligence for getting yourself into such a position. Well done for sticking with it this far.
Over my five-and-a-half-year engineering/IT double degree I felt this pain. Luckily, I picked up a few things along the way that helped me finally get over the line. I felt it would be wrong not to share them so here they are.
1. Enjoy the Journey
Many people I’ve heard give advice say this in their closing statement but I’ve put this first because it’s without a doubt the most important point.
Getting to the top of the mountain may be your goal but achieving it won’t make you happy. You have to enjoy the trek up there because guess what, at the top of this mountain there is another mountain, starting a job.
Work out what you really like about your course, go out of your way to hang out with the people in it and just go out and do fun things. By doing this, you end up nerding out over the stuff no one else gets or cares about (check out the law students - they do this well). As a result, you’ll be more passionate and happy to be where you are.
2. Help Others
I wish I had learnt this earlier. Climb the mountain together! If you think uni is a competition, you have an out-of-date mindset. By helping others, you end up surrounded by people who all achieve more, and you’ll climb more easily. It’s only those that go at it alone that get left behind.
This doesn’t mean you have to study with people all the time nor does it mean being that annoying person that replies to every single discussion post online. It means when you happen to find you’re better at something than others, help them with it.
This can be as simple as sharing how you went about an assignment, what videos you watched, what articles you read and what problems you saw.
By doing this, you’ll benefit in two key ways. Firstly, if you missed something or did something wrong, chances are someone else will pick it up (feedback is always good). Secondly, if you help others without reward, slowly a more open culture will emerge, and guess what, next time you have a challenge, someone will already be there to help you up.
3. Learn How to Learn
This is one of those things you need to figure out ASAP if you haven’t already. Back in high school, I thought reading a textbook was the only way to learn. I would read half a page and would already be daydreaming — nothing was going in. After my first year, I realized this was crazy and I never bought another textbook again. As a result, I studied less, it was way more enjoyable, and my grades went from a credit average to high distinction.
Everyone is different though, so you just need to figure out what combination of learning styles work best for you. To do this, you can test a different learning style on each of your assignments and see if your marks go up or down.
Some example alternatives to textbooks include watching YouTube tutorial videos, working through examples yourself, talking to others about it, making your own notes or trying to teach it to others. Don’t always choose the easiest option either, choose the most engaging ones and the ones which give you the best results.
4. Set Goals
Everyone has goals in the back of their mind, but that’s not really good enough when you’re trying to get through a hideously long course. In fact, because we don’t set proper goals it can often just increase our anxiety when we don’t achieve them. To set goals properly you need to write them down and look at them every day. When you set goals well, prioritizing everything going on in your life becomes easy.
There’s heaps of resources online about this sort of stuff. Essentially, to set good goals you need to be specific, make them big and compelling, write them down, review them every day and align them with your values. And a personal tip, don’t tell people about them as you’re then less likely to actually achieve them.
An example might be ‘I want to make 5 new friends that are into beer pong as much as I am by the end of the year’ (highly recommended for point 1). You then just break it down, and create a plan on how to achieve it. ‘I will attend at least 1 party every month and introduce myself to everyone that plays beer pong’.
5. Join the Committee of a Social Society/Group
Being social and making friends can make or break your uni experience. If you’re like me and not super outgoing this can be difficult though. Double degrees are also doubly as hard because everyone else progresses at a different rate to you.
Joining the committee of one of the many societies can be a great way to easily make new friends while also doing some really awesome stuff and helping the community. Societies usually hold an annual general meeting towards the end of each year, simply keep an ear out for when it’s happening, grab a form and apply!
Don’t limit yourself to just the society that represents what you study either. I studied engineering and IT but joined the Commerce Society as an IT manager. I ended up building a brand new website, helping at social events and with charity collections.
The people I met there are now some of my best friends and I’ve opened a whole new world of opportunity that I wouldn’t have had on the Engineering society.
Lastly, it also looks great on your resume and you’ll definitely learn a thing or two.
I really hope these tips help you in your journey. If you think they might help others too, please share it around.