Many students enter a university and expect to receive all the benefits just by attending classes and participating in activities. However, getting involved with the day-to-day organisation can add extra experience and knowledge to make a CV stand out from the rest, and also play a huge role in the overall development of the individual.
Based on my personal experience and approach as a full-time MBA candidate at Bath School of Management, I have put together a few tips and tricks to make the most of your time at university.
1. Set out your agenda and priorities early on
It is important to set out your goals soon after you arrive at university. Preparing a list of what is most important to you and what you are trying to get out of your degree is crucial. This could be the complete opposite of the student sitting next to you.
For instance, I was very clear that networking was integral during my year at the University of Bath and I made progress on this front during induction week.
2. Capitalise on each other’s strength
Obviously, we can’t all be good at everything. You will meet lots of other students from a variety of different backgrounds, each with a unique experience. It is beneficial to recognise who brings what to the table and then capitalise on each other’s strengths during group work and projects.
Be honest about what you can offer and then collaboratively make a difference, instead of trying to compete with each other.
3. Remember that learning is not just restricted to the classroom
I cannot emphasise enough that learning does not just happen from books. The professors and academics can only teach you concepts within the class setting. However, real learning comes through getting involved in pressurised situations when you have to think on your feet, or through joining societies or talking to your fellow students. I realised the scope of this after participating in competitions.
4. Voice your opinion and give feedback
Universities are more agile than ever today. Do not be afraid to share what is not working and the good practices that may be working well.
I discussed all this with my director of studies and operations head and sometimes I approached the associate dean of the programme with regard to a specific workshop or site visit I wanted them to incorporate. This was received very well and in turn helped me and my peers.
5. Take on leadership roles in a safe and risk-free environment
Leadership roles can help you grow exponentially both personally and professionally. You get the opportunity to build on a range of skills including strategic thinking, resilience, flexibility and risk-taking, among many others.
These skills will prove to be invaluable when you join the workplace. Being an academic representative and an active leader of several clubs on campus shaped me into who I am today, so I would recommend you take advantage of such roles.
6. Understand that your network is actually your net worth
The connections you build during your course expand your future opportunities. Whether you realise it or not, you are networking every day. Everywhere you go, from the corridor of your lecture hall to a social setting at the local pub can be an opportunity.
Ensure that you meet as many people as possible and most importantly follow up with them. This may require you to step out of your comfort zone but that is exactly where opportunities are created.
7. Finding a mentor is easier than you think
Most likely you will be assigned a tutor when you first start university, who is usually a good first port of call for advice and ideas. However, you may find a professor from another department or even an external speaker more relatable or useful with regards to your goals.
I understand that asking someone you do not know to be your mentor can be intimidating but it is actually easier than you think. I found my mentors at Bath by simply reaching out to them and creating a bond that will hopefully last for decades to come.
8. Find that one thing that calms and rejuvenates you
Your time at university can be stressful and full of anxiety every single day. It is not possible to get through your academic work without balancing it out with other things. Look for the things that fill you with positivity and fulfilment at the end of the day. For me this was 20 minutes of meditation every morning, fundraising for Cancer Research UK regularly, and helping out abandoned puppies at a local cats and dogs home on the weekends.