What I wish I knew before starting University

To begin with, I would like to apologize for stepping back from the blog. Nonetheless, I am here and ready to share some insight as I finish up my Bachelor of Commerce! While some of this advice may be specific towards a Business degree, I still hope it can help guide you in your pursuit of a University degree. Looking back at the five years (yes, it should only take four years and no I am not bitter about the delayed graduation) of my undergraduate degree, there’s a few lessons that I wish others had told me before I began my journey.

Get involved on campus.

As a student club executive, I think others involved in student politics or clubs can relate to this one. Student apathy can be very discouraging to those that actively try to engage the student body. Here’s a general summary of what many undergraduates (including myself) experience.

First year – meet new people, make friends, go to parties, pass classes. Second year – do the same thing as first year, but do it better. Third year – worry about the future and begin planning (*note: plans and actions are not the same thing). Fourth year - examine your resume, panic… and attempt to gain leadership experience.

Now this is definitely not the experience for ALL students. I have met many mature and brilliant first and second years who have it all figured out. They have the head start, win the awards, and get the dream job. If you meet these individuals, befriend them. They will be very helpful to have in your network, somewhere down the line. But if you are among the many that have no particular interest in getting involved, here’s a few considerations that might change your mind.

It looks really, really, really good on a resume. It adds that extra ‘spice’ to your resume, beyond the retail work experience and post-secondary education. Also, in interviews you actually have an example for when they ask you how you manage your time and prioritize.

You have opportunities to advance into larger leadership roles. It’s a great place to learn what type of leader you are before you actually get to the workplace and mistakes become costly.

You will meet some really cool people. And if you don’t, you haven’t joined the right club/campus activity. There are numerous options, don’t be afraid to go to clubs week or orientation week and learn about what groups there are. I guarantee, there is something out there for you. And if not, start your own club – someone else is bound to be interested in the same thing.

You will lose some friends… but it will be OK.

Speaking of meeting new people, you may lose some old ones. This is one of those life stages where everyone is headed in different directions and people find it difficult to stay grounded. You will find out who is willing to make the effort to stay in touch, and it may be tragic, but that’s an important discovery to make. Just know that you will meet some amazing people who may even be in your wedding party someday.

Professors had a life before teaching and some have actually done some really cool things in their time.

I don’t really know what more to say about this point. But trust me, some of them have a wealth of knowledge, a diverse network and might be able to help you get your next job or start your own business. If they’re especially great, they won’t mind being your mentor for the future as well.

Your GPA doesn’t matter… that much. But it does.

What do I mean by that? Well I’ve flipped back and forth on my position regarding this issue. Does your GPA really matter in the grand scheme of things? If you’re like me and haven’t been anywhere near getting on Dean’s List or graduating with Honours you’ll be overjoyed to hear professionals say that GPAs don’t define an individual. It’s true. There are quite a handful of business professionals who I have talked with or had mock interviews that have reassured me that grades are not as significant as students believe. On the other hand, I have scrolled through various job postings (as a soon to be new graduate) where ‘prestigious’ larger companies require transcripts and overall minimum GPAs of 3.2 or what have you. Keep in mind 3.2 is a ballpark minimum, these companies generally prefer 3.5 or higher in addition to your work experience and extracurriculars. Had I known early on that those difficult Calculus or Statistic classes I flunked in my first year would come back to haunt me, I would most likely have tried a little, or a lot, harder. If you have always planned to pursue a graduate degree, you probably don’t need this speech as you have always understood the importance of a high standing GPA. But for those of you that do not plan on doing so, keep in mind that plans change and perhaps you might realize you love academia or have a secret calling to become a lawyer or veterinarian. A poor GPA closes many, many doors – in work and in continuing education.

Do a Co-op program or get ANY job experience related to your degree.

This one may be a bit more focused on Business majors, but I feel that it applies for all degrees. One of my biggest regrets was not joining the Co-op program at my school. This may not have mattered so much if I had gone out and obtained summer work experience related to my degree. But of course, I didn’t. I spent my summers working as a server, making great money from tips and neglecting my future. So it’s up to you – do you value short-term gains or long-term wins?

Being a full-time student is not permanent. Take advantage of all the perks while you still can.

The most obvious advantage are probably the health benefits, tax breaks, and great discounts. Let’s all take a moment to thank society for recognizing that students are generally broke and really, really appreciate the great deals you offer them on food, tickets and everything else.

Cherish your time.

Whether you were at school for a year before dropping out, or dragged your degree(s) out for eight years, the time really does fly. So enjoy yourself. University is not only about education, it’s about personal growth. You’ll meet a lot of different people, you’ll take a lot of different classes (like those weird elective classes nobody knew about), and you’ll learn a lot of things. You will either walk out of university feeling like you learned more than you ever thought possible, or, you’ll leave with the belief that nobody really knows what they’re talking about. Either way, it’s bound to impact your life, so pay attention because these will be “some of the best years of your life”.

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