BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN
Being a student can (and often is) be one of the most challenging periods in an individual’s life. Not only do many students move away from their families to take on their studies, putting them in an entirely new environment, but they are faced with challenges and pressures that many of them do not see coming. There is a lot happening at university or college, all the time. Students must find balance; being at university or college is undoubtedly about one’s academic performance, but it is also about finding your inner balance. For some students, it is relieving stress by playing sport. For others, it is about joining on-campus clubs or joining sororities or fraternities. While the academic aspect of higher education is obviously of vital importance, how you treat yourself, handle the challenges (including how to get yourself through them), and how you prepare yourself for life after university or college graduation are also equally as important. So much advice is given to high education students on how to do well in exams and how to study to get the best results, and all that is well and good, but what is also incredibly important is learning to read between the lines – especially if they are your own.
In committing to becoming a student at a university or college, you are essentially committing to preparing for the rises and falls of the experience. No higher education experience is smooth sailing the entire way. To say so, or believe so, would be foolish. Be prepared for this. You will have days where studying feels like the hardest thing in the world. You will have days where you just want to throw in the towel. Don’t. it is these moments that can be used to push you even further, and you are solely responsible for recognising the opportunity to push higher, and for embracing that opportunity. It is with the immense pressures of university that your own well being comes into play. A startling number of students annually find themselves struggling within themselves as the school year rolls on.
Every university or college student’s higher education experience is different, and there is always a different set of aligning circumstances and aspects of that student’s life that renders their university or college experience entirely unique. Unfortunately, negative experiences or feelings can cause some students to acclimate to a dark place in their own minds. Often, students feel the challenges and pressures of university long before they have reached a place where they feel they can speak to someone about it. Going to university is a massive decision, and it is one that often results in new students moving away from their families, friends, and home in general – their usual support systems – and moving on campus.
Being in a new environment is tough enough at times, but attempting to navigate that new environment without anyone you know close by is a big deal. Take the time to learn about the official support systems on campus – these are trusted, trained sources of support and they are there to help you. They are also confidential in most cases. Additionally, go out of your way to join study groups, go to parties, and mix with your peers. They will become your friends and, in turn, will form the structure of a support system that is in alignment with your current experiences – this is invaluable. With a support system in place that makes you feel heard, valued, and safe, you will naturally come to embrace the support and lean into it. It will take time, and practice, but this can literally mean the difference between returning to the light and succumbing to the dark. There is nothing wrong with needing – or asking for – help.
Fine-tune your talents and skills at university – everyone has a different passion, from ballet to horse racing. But do it with balance. The best people in their fields are the ones who know how to be professional and where to be human. While it is undeniably important to hone your skills as a student to become a better professional down the track, you must also realise that the skills future employers will look for are not always the ones that you studied hard to build. In addition to building and strengthening your academic skills, it pays to also work on your personal skills – networking, for one, is one of the most important life skills you can attain going forward. Life at university is overwhelming and it will likely feel at times as if the only thing you have time to do is study.
While life as a student is definitely in part about academic success, it is important to recognise that these are the years that you should be actively building your network. Life at university is about hard work, but life after university is about who you know in the industry. Therefore, it makes total sense that building that network before graduation is a smarter move than waiting until after graduation. By the time you graduate, it is said that half your classmates will already be ahead. The reason why is very simple: they made full use of their time as a student, and they did so while connecting and learning from others in the industry you all are now a part of. Be part of the percentage that get ahead – not those who lag. It is difficult to catch up when you don’t even know how to catch up.
University is going to be a challenge, but it is also without a doubt one of the most rewarding, valuable things you can do for yourself. While it is important to recognise that university is not the natural path for every individual, it is certain a colourful one that, more often than not, leaves graduates with a sense of accomplishment, a drive to succeed, and a thirst to excel, pushing themselves to not only achieve their dreams, but to build a future beyond them. University is just the beginning – your future is where it all falls into place. Be sure you are not only prepared, but around for it. Reading between the lines is often the best way for you to gain a more rounded understanding of the situation at hand, as well as where you stand on all aspects. University or college is not just about graduating with a degree – it is also about graduating with a stronger perception and understanding of who you are and where you want to be. Ultimately, the gaps between the lines are more important than what the lines themselves say.
Annabel Monaghan is a writer with a passion for education and edtech. She writes education and career articles for The College Puzzle with the aim of providing useful information for students and young professionals. If you have any questions, please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.