How I Get the Most Out of University
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Did I pay four thousand dollars a semester for my professor to read off his slides? I sure did and lectures are always a painful reminder of this fact. I am a current second-year student at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and due to COVID, Zoom university is now the norm. Despite the drastic changes to student life, my experience has been nothing short of fulfilling. Here are what I have done in the last two years to get the best out of university.
I'm not crying, you are. (Source)
To maximize the opportunities that a university education provides, it is essential to plan ahead. To do so, we have to be proactive. Taking the initiative requires us to recognize our responsibility in making things happen. Planning ahead with a goal in mind allows us to identify and capitalize on opportunities should they arise. Although we are unable to accurately predict outcomes, taking a proactive stance prevents precious opportunities from slipping through our fingers. Proactivity also encompasses the completion of strategic and carefully planned tasks to translate our goals into reality.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In my freshmen year, I failed to take advantage of the numerous resources NUS offered. I was unaware of them, and my ignorance can be attributed to a lack of proactivity. I failed to consider future goals and act in advance to accomplish them. Instead, I was reactive. I waited for opportunities to come to me, and in doing so, I short-changed myself.
Come sophomore year, I started career planning and began to evaluate my self-paradigm. Through introspection, I pinpointed my goals and outlined the tasks I had to complete leading up to their accomplishment. A well-defined goal allowed me to begin with the end in mind and I gained clarity on my next steps. It helped me understood what I should not do nor pursue and eliminated distractions in my way.
Narrowing down my areas of focus made it clear to me what I was looking for. I started to actively seek out opportunities within NUS and utilized the resources at my disposal. To further solidify my career plans, I joined industry talks, mentorship programs and spoke to career advisors. Meanwhile, my evaluation of my self-paradigm led to the understanding of my shortcomings. In possible areas of improvement, I made adjustments to my mindset and tapped on leadership opportunities within the school to accelerate my progress.
It takes self-discipline to remain proactive in light of the many situations that tempt us to fall back into our old ways. That is why goal setting is essential; they serve as a reminder of why I choose to be self-disciplined.
We dedicate our entire lives to understanding who we are, with our idea of self continuing to evolve as we do. An essential element of self is our interests. This includes passions, hobbies, and anything that draws our attention over a sustained period. It can be daunting to put ourselves out there to try new activities and risk flopping in front of others. However, I thought that living within my comfort zone because I fear messing up is a tragic excuse for inaction.
With a focus on sharing my university experiences and providing module reviews, I launched my site in May 2020. It was a shot in the dark as I had zero content-creation and UX and UI design experience. Doubts about my writing and website management capabilities surfaced while I was preparing for its launch. Even so, I went ahead and spent several hundred dollars to explore my interest in content creation.
My first few articles were module reviews, and they were horribly written. They were a disorganized mess and lacked insightful takeaways for readers (scroll to the end to read a sample article). Despite my embarrassing amateur writing, my interest and passion for my website grew ever stronger. Every weekly upload polished my writing capabilities and reached out to new audiences who found joy in my articles. Over time, I witnessed a growing readership and mailing list subscriptions which were extremely encouraging.
We have a limited amount of energy daily, and I choose to devote it to overcome the insecurities that hold me back. Diverting my attention away from the possibility of failure and embarrassment and onto more important aspects of the matter has helped to silence my self-doubt. I would be shortchanging myself when I deprive myself of the windows of opportunity to pursue my interests.
In university, different sources of stress further molded my character by forcing me to evaluate my behavior and attitude in managing these situations. It was crucial to understand my temperament, strengths and weakness, and tendencies so I can play them to my advantage.
Temperaments are our inborn preferences and throughout our lives, we may adopt new habits and behaviors that go against them. Identifying my temperament allows me to gravitate toward situations better suited for me and avoid situations where I cannot excel. Pinpointing my strengths empowers me to capitalize on them when I understood how they play into my life. Likewise, knowing my weaknesses enables me to work on them or try to make them a smaller part of my life. Recognizing my tendencies made me more aware of my inclinations or proneness to certain thoughts and actions. As my tendencies can influence decision-making, I attempt to remain objective in the evaluation of matters.
To study for my final exams in the past semester, I followed a strict study regimen. I was under tremendous stress to meet my daily objectives and stress overload affected my ability to concentrate. I had racing thoughts over the smallest matters, I was constantly on edge, and felt increasingly irritable with each passing day.
This episode led to my understanding that I was bad at stress management and how my tendencies perpetuated the problem. Although I was experiencing anxiety, I did not consider adjusting my study schedule to be more balanced. Meanwhile, my tendency to demand perfection led to unreasonable expectations of myself. With these in mind, I had a better understanding of how my actions and tendencies were self-sabotaging and adjustments I can make to better cope with similar situations.
The actions that I took to maximize my university experience were not one-time off gestures that were done on a whim or whenever I feel like it. It was consistent and continual effort on my part to see them through which yielded significant results. To keep myself going, I remind myself that it is the culmination of actions that I do each day that will affect my standing in a few years.
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