7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

Jess loved her days at university, but there are a few things she’d change if she had her time again. Get ready to coast into uni life thanks to Jess’ helpful reflections on her own experiences.

When I look back on my own years at uni, I can safely say it was the best time of my life.

However, while I made some great decisions and had a lot of fun, I also made a few mistakes and learned a lot along the way. Let’s just say that if I could go back in time, I would have a few words of advice for my younger self. Here they are.

1. Get involved with clubs and societies 

Sure, studying is important, but universities have much more to offer than pure academics. In my opinion, clubs and societies are some of the best things about university. They’re great for meeting people, learning, and being involved looks good on your resume! Just don’t fall into the trap of signing up for every single club⁠—those $10 membership fees really add up quickly, and let’s face it, you won’t have time to go to all those meetings and events.

Instead, choose a couple of things and commit. I chose the Debating Society, the Journalism and Communications Society, and the Women’s Collective. These were perfect for me as they fed my passions, introduced me to new people and were relevant for my future career, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same! There might be a sport you love, a cause you’re passionate about, or just something that sounds fun. Have a think about what you’re interested in, what fits with your schedule and goals, and go from there.

2. Show up to class 

Thanks to online summaries and lecture recordings, it’s easy to get through a lot of courses without always showing up. In my experience though, you often get more out of lectures by attending in person, plus you might make a good impression on your lecturer. 

After spending my first year frequently sleeping in and skipping classes I made a concerted effort to lift my game (and my grades!) during the rest of my time at uni.

For me, showing up to class was not only academically beneficial, it also enabled me to develop friendly and professional relationships with my lecturers, some who I’m still connected with today and who I have often sought advice from.

I know people who have landed internships or even jobs thanks to a recommendation from a lecturer, so by constantly skipping class you could actually be robbing yourself of some awesome opportunities.

3. Make time for fun

While studying is important, life is about balance and you need to have fun. The years at uni really will fly by, and once you graduate, you’ll eventually settle into a full-time job and *shudder* adult responsibility.

As grim as this might sound, you won’t have the same time or opportunities to socialise and meet new people as much as you do now, so make the most of it! 

4. You don’t have to rush through your degree

Degrees are designed to take a certain amount of time, but depending on your circumstances, this might not be doable for you. You might get offered full-time work one semester, you might fall ill, you might have family commitments, or you might need to take time out for your mental health. 

Throughout my own degree there were several times that I overloaded myself for different reasons, but rather than taking a lighter study load I stretched myself far too thin, was constantly exhausted and didn’t have enough time for anything.

Looking back, I don’t know why I placed such unnecessary pressure on myself or why I was in such a hurry to finish my degree. In fact, it would’ve been great to have a little extra time at uni.

If you need to reduce your study load and delay graduation by a semester, a year, or even more, that’s okay! Taking longer to complete your degree is not the end of the world, and there’s a good chance it could improve both your stress levels and your grade point average (GPA).

5. In fact, stop rushing so much in general

In your final year, you might start feeling the pressure to get started building your career ASAP. That’s important, sure, but it’s also important to give yourself time to breathe. Personally, I accepted the first graduate job I was offered and rushed into full-time work basically the very second I finished exams.

I was so busy looking ahead to the next step that I didn’t have time to fully enjoy the place I was in, and that’s time I will never get back. I learned from it, sure, but this is definitely not the approach I would recommend. 

6. Don’t be afraid to change your mind

If you begin your degree and start doubting whether it’s right for you, don’t ignore that feeling. Think about why you chose this degree, and why you’re doubting it.

If it’s because of the workload, maybe consider tutoring or reducing your course load so you can concentrate more on each subject. If it’s because you really want to be doing something else, changing your major or your entire degree is always an option. Either way, your campus will have somebody like an academic advisor that you can speak to about options. If you’re having doubts, I recommend seeking advice sooner rather than later.

7. Make the most of every opportunity

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer above all else it’s that you should make the most of every opportunity. During my time at uni, I was fortunate enough to take part in an exchange semester in the United States, a lot of great internships, several leadership roles and even a two-week course in India. I am immeasurably lucky to have had all of these opportunities, and they have formed some of the best memories of my life. 

When you get the chance to do something that excites and challenges you, take the leap and DO IT, even if it scares you. Especially then.