While I don’t have any major regrets, looking back on each of my four years in undergrad there are a few lessons I wish I’d known earlier that could have made a world of difference. Although some of this advice might seem obvious, I’m hoping you will find something useful regardless of your year of study.
FIRST YEAR: New challenges require new solutions
One of the harshest realities entering university from high school was just how much more demanding post-secondary could be. Like many first-year students, I assumed that past study strategies would deliver comparable results. Unfortunately, when I got back my first midterm marks, I realized just how wrong I was. Working harder isn’t the same thing as working smarter, and with new expectations, you have to adapt to new methods of problem-solving.
SECOND YEAR: Your friends are the best tutors
I’ve always been a solitary studier, spending hours tucked away at a desk on the first floor of the library. While sometimes you need peace and quiet to focus, I also recommend meeting up with friends or peers to review assignments, ask questions and get clarification. I owe passing MGM221 to my friends for helping prepare, read and understand financial statements.
They, in turn, strengthened their knowledge of the course modules as well. Informal (but structured) study sessions help everyone reach a level of understanding by breaking down difficult concepts into relatable chunks that would otherwise be difficult to understand alone.
THIRD YEAR: Start early. Give yourself time to be a beginner
While this clearly applies to coursework, it extends into other areas like career planning. The focus of my third year was to secure an internship at any major company, which I thought would be as straightforward as submitting a job application and interviewing for a position. I quickly learned that there is so much more to the hiring process than just a decently written resume or cover letter. A lot more goes into job hunting such as strong networking skills, organizing informational / recruiter coffee chats, curating a compelling LinkedIn profile and much more. In whatever you pursue, give yourself time to uncover unknown unknowns.
FOURTH YEAR: Enjoy the little things
In my final year with each passing week, I become increasingly more restless to finally graduate. Two-hour lectures stretched on for what felt like ages, and I relished any moment to not be on campus. In hindsight, I should have enjoyed the process more and saw value in the small things such as playing squash with friends on a random Tuesday afternoon, not having to pay for Mississauga transit or loading up on free food after Professional Skills Development Program (PSDP) events. Sure, earning your degree is the goal but you can choose to take pleasure in the small joys of being a student.
Everything seems to make more sense in hindsight, and while these were just four quick tidbits of advice, my undergrad years have taught me hundreds more. If you have any lessons you’ve learned during your undergrad career, feel free to share them in the comment section below.
Good luck with midterms and Happy Halloween!