Three and a half years into an undergrad degree, I know the struggles of money, making time to socialise and stressing about where my career was heading all very well. I knew that there was the odd cheap movie ticket but that was about the extent of my knowledge.
I began to look for ways to hack the benefits of being a uni student and make the most of my time there, across all areas of saving money, career development and building a strong network.
I wish I knew more about these things in my first year.
So you don’t make the same mistakes, miss some amazing opportunities and save valuable time and money, I’ve compiled a list of the top four ways to make the most out of being a university or college student.
Find your tribe & network
With a whole campus filled with energetic, inspired people, you’re bound to cross paths with people you’ll just ‘click with’. If you’re a bit of an introvert like myself and cringe at the thought of awkward ice-breakers, getting out there can be a challenge.
Start small. Introduce yourself to the person sitting beside you in a tutorial - chances are you’ll have to talk to them anyway as the class begins and group discussion is encouraged - so why not bite the bullet and have a quick chat before the course-work takes over?
Another great benefit of being a uni kid is the direct contact you get with tutors and lecturers - who most of the time are working in the industry you’re striving towards breaking into.
The cliche saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is so real and a constant uphill battle if you are behind others while going for a job or even just finding out about an opportunity. Sometimes, yes, this problem is totally unavoidable but trust me when I say I wouldn’t be in the job I am in now without the networks I had made.
Introduce yourself to that lecturer next week and make yourself known in your tutorial - and then add all of those people on LinkedIn with a personalised request. Over the last few months I have been really concentrating on building my LinkedIn connections, and I’ve got almost 500 connections and I haven’t even graduated yet.
“Do you have a student discount?”
There is probably no other time in your life that you’ll have access to so many deals and discounts, until maybe you hit old age but that’s a while down the line. Pay student rates at the movies or museums and hit up sites like UNiDAYS for some sweet promo codes to use while shopping online. Also make use of your concession travel tickets to explore next places in your home city, because that discount is a sad one to give up.
If ever there are no student prices listed, don’t be afraid to ask! Often, discounted prices aren’t advertised front and centre and it only takes a quick conversation to see if they have some sort of deal. One quick question can potentially save you big dollars!
Choose your elective units wisely
In the semester before this one, I selected the elective units on the basis that they would be ‘easy’ and a fail-safe way to get credit points under my belt. A few weeks into the course, I realised that the topics I had chosen didn’t align with either my career aspirations or general interest and my marks were showing it. I had little interest in the content and no desire to learn it.
Remember in high school when your teachers told you to choose subjects that you will enjoy? Well, it is exactly the same at university. I know it can be tempting to just try and get units over and done with but pushing yourself to do something you enjoy and challenge your thinking is much more rewarding. Plus you’re paying top dollar for your education so you may as well learn something you’ll actually put into practice.
Don’t be afraid to take your time
I’m not very patient with myself and my progress across many areas of my life - career included. A three, four or even five year degree is a really long time and although it seems to fly by, there is plenty of time to test the waters and really find yourself.
For me, this took the form of internships. I did four. All of them were in completely different industries with the central theme of marketing and communications (what I am studying). What better way to figure out where you want to take your career than by testing it out for real? But don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t love what you do straight away - you’ve got time.
This is your time to really figure out who you are and where you want to end up - whether that be your career, opportunities to travel and follow your dreams. Your university degree is a tool to help you get there and it pays to really put in the time to strategically think about your plan of attack. This doesn’t have to be an overnight revelation but by having your aspirations front and centre and constantly checking in, you’ll find that slowly, things start to become more clear. There is great power in manifestation.