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Going away to University is a pretty exciting time. For many young studies, going away to study marks the threshold of independence — a time when they are leaving the safe domain of the family home, in order to brave it out there in the open world, live on their own terms, feed themselves, meet new people, and all the rest.
Of course, independence is only part of the equation. If you’re attending a University, the hope has always got to be that you’re actually learning something worthwhile, and are significantly deepening your understanding of your field of choice. Then, of course, there are all of the experiences that you have at University that teach you non-academic lessons — maybe involving a few parties here and there.
And, of course, it’s pretty likely that if you felt like shelling out the money to study at a University in the first place, you’re hoping that the overall experience will significantly and positively enhance your future professional prospects and help to win you a degree of success in terms of your overall life ambitions.
That’s the hope, but it’s not always the reality. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your University experience fulfils this lofty goal.
Identify a degree that seems meaningful to you, and ideally one that also seems useful
By all means, you hopefully will have already given the matter of your degree a good deal of thought, before actually signing up for a program and committing to make the necessary payments.
All the same, it’s worth considering, and reconsidering, quite carefully exactly what sort of degree seems really meaningful to you? It’s also an excellent bonus if your degree is immediately and self-evidently going to be useful for your future career of choice.
Certain degrees such as an MBA, whether an online MBA or one which involves in-person classes, will, of course, be targeted towards established professionals who already know exactly what it is they want out of their career, and who have the focus, means, and experience to set their sights accordingly.
Many other degree programs, however, will be tangentially useful, or will benefit you in the form of transferable skills, a degree of respectability, or as a signifier of your intellectual capacities and work ethic.
Perhaps the most significant metric you should keep in mind when choosing your degree is “meaning”. That is, choose a subject that you find meaningful and worth the work, because, for one thing, that significantly increases the odds that you will be driven to work diligently on the subject, will enjoy the experience, and will be making progress on a track that you find emotionally fulfilling.
Develop a clear vision of where you want to be in the near future, and orient yourself accordingly
Many students famously have absolutely no idea of what it is they want to do once they graduate, or, to put it more condescendingly, of “what they want to be when they grow up.”
Of course, it’s very likely that you will not have your future clearly mapped out as a late teenager — and even if you do have it mapped out at that age, your map should probably be altered a lot over the coming years, as your knowledge and insight expands.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a clear vision of where you want to be in the near future, when embarking on your studies. In fact, failing to have that kind of clear idea is a surefire way of sabotaging yourself in dramatic and cataclysmic fashion.
You simply need a goal to commit yourself to, and orient yourself towards. It will help you stay on track, it will give you clarity of purpose on a daily basis, and it will save you from wasting time and floating around, confused. The trick is that your first goal doesn’t have to be your final goal. Set yourself a target, an ambition, and work diligently towards it. Later, as needed, you can revise your goal. But you can’t afford to wander blindly through your studies and expect to get the most out of them.
What are you striving for? What are you working towards?
Focus on identifying and implementing positive habits during your studies
What you learn at University is one major element of the degree to which your degree will benefit you in the future, obviously. But the habits that you develop during your student years are arguably just as important for your overall success down the line.
Authors Charles Duhigg and James Clear have both written extensive works on the importance of habit, and both underline the fact that it’s the incremental progress that you make each day that assures you enduring success down the line; not singular mammoth bursts of effort.
Duhigg, in particular, refers to the concept of “keystone habits”, by which he means habits which have a disproportionately positive effect on your life as a whole, and on your other habits, too.
Identifying and developing positive keystone habits in your life as a student will, in many ways, give you “a headstart on life.” If, while all your peers are sleeping in until mid-afternoon every other day, you can keep a consistent early-morning wake-up time, you’re already on track to be well ahead of the pack.
Get used to following a certain self-imposed structure and routine, don’t be too chaotic
As alluded to in the previous point on habits; University students tend to be pretty chaotic people, caught in a pretty chaotic environment. Parties rage day and night, meals arrive at irregular intervals, social obligations dictate much of the structure of any given day, and assignments are often burned through in record time at the last possible moment.
The thing is, once you accustom yourself to a chaotic lifestyle, it can be very difficult to regain a meaningful degree of order in your life, once you graduate.
And, suffice to say, professional success depends, to a large degree, on your ability to be diligent, disciplined, and conscientious.
Get used to following a certain self-imposed structure and routine in your student years, and you’ll be in good stead to carve out a potent professional niche for yourself once you graduate.