“Life is about more than getting good grades.”
How many of us have told ourselves this, only to fall into a deep pit of depression when our grades came back less than stellar?
Having grown up in Singapore’s education system, we all know the importance of getting good grades. Having faced streaming exercises from young and then having competed for placement into “good schools”, and then into university, how could we not?
Studying hard and getting good grades is the point of school… Right?
Not really. Grades are important of course. Grades do open certain doors and in certain courses (e.g law, medicine), grades are, in fact, everything.
But for the rest of us, grades are not the end all be all and now, as I’m graduating from university and finally exiting the education system for good, I’m beginning to appreciate this fact.
University is a total experience, and if you put your time and energy solely into securing a good grade, and let everything else fall by the side, you miss out on so much of it. Now and then, stop hitting the books and go do these things instead.
1. Expand your social network
Don’t just stick with the friends you knew prior to university, or with people who are just like you. Interact with people who are different. Not only will they expand your world and your thinking, you never know when these relationships might come in handy!
I cannot emphasize further how university is all about “making connections”. I once heard from a career coach that 70% of jobs hiring are not listed on the Internet. Wouldn’t it be nice to one day hear from a friend “Hey, I recommended you to my manager”. Your friendship network can give you a leg up on your job search by taking it beyond the Internet.
2. Learn from the experts
Instead of keeping silent and under the radar in tutorials, and keeping your questions to yourself, talk to your professors! Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge, talking to them also helps sharpen your thinking.
3. Develop practical skills
When you’re an undergrad, it’s kinda like that Britney song goes: you’re not a child, not yet an adult. You’re somewhere right smack in between. In this state of in-between, make a conscious effort to pick up practical skills like presentation skills, leadership skills, confrontational skills, any kind of skill that up until now, you might’ve been lacking.
University provides plenty of opportunities for you to practice “adulting” and you’d be wise to use them! The cliche “it’s not the end but the journey that counts” works well here. Once you’re out of school, you’ll realize that learning to give presentations confidently, do thorough research, and practicing the art of thinking critically are far more useful in real life than to answer questions perfectly right.
4. Take those extra-curriculars
In university, you learn that the busier you are, involved in societies, volunteering, organizing events, etc., the better you get at managing your time. I was section leader in a music club, publicist in a sports club, and ambassador of my course. Juggling all these commitments helped me learn to prioritize my time and the thought of losing sleep rushing assignments was enough to keep me from procrastinating.
Plus, taking part in other activities also helped enrich my university life. There are so many activities taking place on campus every week from concerts to yoga classes to stargazing sessions… Sign up for these things. Not only do they cost you close to nothing (and sometimes, nothing), they create opportunities for you to expand your interests and meet like-minded people while doing so!
5. Think about your future
Don’t get tunnel vision trying to score an A for every module you’re taking. If you haven’t a clue what you’d like to do once you’re out of school, every now and then, take a break from it all and consider what you’d like to do in the future. What are you good at? What are your interests? What are your passions?
If you feel lost, embrace that feeling. It’s all part of the journey. Just start thinking about who you are, where you want to go, and what options you can consider. It’s better to think about these things while you’re still in school than try and figure it out after you’re out. After all, whether or not you’d like to admit it, what you have in school is time.
University isn’t just about getting a 5.0 CAP, it’s about so much more. It’s about meeting new people, picking up new skills, trying new things, having new experiences, learning more about yourself, and about having fun. (Yes, having fun.)
There are plenty of practical things to be gained from university and of course, some not as practical but just as important ones as well. If you’re a newly minted undergrad, good luck to you and I hope you experience every bit of the university journey!