Not all advice is equal. Even the best intentions don’t make for the best suggestions. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given at university? You may have heard some of the following before. Don’t get sucked in!
1. “1st Year Doesn’t Count.” When all you need to do is pass, you may think there’s no difference between getting 40% and 70% or higher. Just do what you need to get through and spend most of your time enjoying everything else.
Putting in the effort helps you to progress. Without it, you won’t be so prepared for the next year, when your marks do count. There is no easy way to catch up either, as a lot of the process is about technique and practice and abstract links. You can’t bring yourself up to speed with a bit of cramming and rote learning. Dismissing the importance of your first year is one of the most misguided and dangerous pieces of advice around.
2. “Sign Up For Everything.” No matter how tempting it is to do ALL THE THINGS, it won’t help your CV (or your schedule) by signing up to every society, every cause, and every extra-curricular activity you can. Commit to just a few things and throw all your enthusiastic weight and interest into them. Make it count. Aim to come out the other side with great stories to tell and a sense of achievement.
By challenging yourself to be awesome in a small number of areas, you’ll likely have better experiences and you’re sure to look better on paper. Nobody cares that you were in seventeen different clubs; they care that you did amazing things in one or two of them.
3. “Only Concentrate On The Study.” / “Push Toward A First.”
Some students don’t sign up for everything. In fact, they sign up for nothing. Their degree journey is all about the magical First Class Honours. Yes, getting the top mark is fantastic. I wouldn’t want you to aim lower for no reason. But neither should you ignore everything else around you in your pursuit of that grade. In short, do your sensible best, not your perfectionist best.
I recently spoke to a mother who was worried that her son had gone from an almost certain First to a much more likely 2:1. Apparently he was spending a lot of time building up a writing portfolio, which had been getting in the way of his study. But with his sights set on journalism and having managed to be published in various places, including one or two big names, the difference between a top mark and a good mark isn’t so important. The new achievements should more than make up for it.
4. Anything Too Specific – “Never do this…” / “Always do that…”
The diversity of university ensures that there are loads of things you can do and loads you’ll never manage to do, even in the three or so years you’re there. All those lists on the stuff you should NEVER do as a student, or the things you MUST do before you graduate, are just a way to get you clicking on a link. Next time someone says you HAVE to do it, by all means go ahead, but only after you’ve considered it for yourself and you’re happy to do it on your own terms and for your own reasons.
5. “Don’t Panic…Degrees Are Getting Easier.”
The ‘Don’t Panic’ bit is fine, but the reason not to panic doesn’t sit right. I’ve even seen online conversations that say you’d have to be an idiot not to get a 2:1 or better. That’s insulting to everyone; those who don’t manage the grade as well as those who do.
You may be tempted to try getting away with the smallest amount of work possible. The tactic doesn’t save time in the long run and does more harm than good. If you’ve not found enjoyment in your studies to the extent that you’re trying to minimise your workload like this, what do you really want from this?
So yes, try not to panic. But no, don’t expect your degree to be easy. If you do, the reality will likely emerge at precisely the wrong time.
Explore ways to make your effort effortless and your challenges enjoyable. You’ll be better placed to find an enjoyable flow in your work. Your degree will feel easier, but by no means will it be easy. The relaxed flow will, instead, be testament to your attitude.
This article was first posted on The University Blog