10 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make in University

This 10 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make in University blog series is for any of you students who are still in school, or about to attend university or college, so that you can make the best out of your academic careers.

Thank you again to the dozens of people who anonymously shared their biggest regrets in hindsight and what they thought were the biggest mistakes that people make in university. Here is a quick recap of all 10 articles with snippets of advice—I highly recommend that you read the full articles for detailed tips and examples!

1. Prioritizing GPA Over Experience(s)

In this day and age, a 4.0 GPA means very little if you don’t have people skills or relevant experiences. In my first year of university, many of my older peers told me how they wished they had joined more clubs and activities earlier on instead of waiting until their final years of university. Although academic achievement can still be important in many aspects, try not to be blindsided by your grades because they do not follow you into the corporate world (read the full article here).

2. Ignoring Internships or Practical Work Experiences

Internships are a critical part of your self-discovery and ambition. Many of my peers initially chose concentrations that they found interesting, but eventually realized that they hated the work after their summer or co-op internships. Fortunately, this led them to switch majors or concentrations into areas that they enjoyed a lot more. Many internships are also paid, so it is incentivizing to make money as a student. Even if unpaid, the experience itself is valuable in helping you determine what you want to pursue full-time in the future. You will also get a chance to meet potential mentors who can help guide you in your career path—this is invaluable (read the full article here).

3. Skipping Classes

It is so easy to skip classes in university because professors don’t usually do attendance. However, it is a waste of your money and opportunity. When you skip class, you are missing out on the inconspicuous tips that professors share, either purposefully or naturally. There were so many times that I picked up on tidbits of information that helped me in my assignments and exams. Even if your professor shares their slides, if you skip class, you will miss out on helpful hints, context, and details that are typically reserved for those who are present. By skipping class, you are also missing out on the opportunity to absorb the content, filter through what’s important, and write it down to remember for your exams and assignments (read the full article here).

4. Missing Out On Meeting New People

It is easy to make excuses for skipping out on socials and favouring your textbooks over strangers. However, university is the best time for you to build both your personal and professional network. A personal network is important because, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need a support system to get through university. It is also a lot easier to meet new people while you’re in university since you have new classes every semester and lots of social activities going on. On the other hand, building a professional network is equally important for your career and professional development. Primarily, surrounding yourself with ambitious peers will push you to work harder and strive towards greater goals. Furthermore, networking can help you find internships and jobs, especially if your grades are not the highest (read the full article here).

5. Spending Money Instead of Investing It

In hindsight, I lacked financial education for several reasons. Neither my parents or friends seemed to know much about this stuff and we never really learned about it in school. I didn’t realize how important personal finance was until the last half of my university career when I started thinking about how I was going to pay off my student loans. The first thing I wish I did was to learn more about personal finance, which would have motivated me to start saving and investing earlier. The second thing I wish I did was to start paying off my student loans when I started my internship. Instead, I went out more and spent even more money, which was reckless. The third thing I wish I did was to start investing earlier on. Rather than spending the “extra money” on useless things, I could have put it into an investment vehicle that would have generated returns that I could then use to pay off my student loans (read the full article here).

6. Graduating Without Going Abroad

Over the years, I have spoken to dozens of students, managers, and executives who either recalled fond memories of going abroad or voiced their regrets about missing the opportunity to do so. International experience leads to pivotal moments that define you for the rest of your life. For some of you, it is a chance to step outside of your comfort zone and embrace ambiguity in a foreign environment. For others, it is a way to take a step back and reflect by looking at things from a different perspective. International experience can also be critical to your personal and professional development. For those who lack work experience, international experience can differentiate you from other candidates in the talent pool. You will gain important skills like self awareness and independence, adaptability, and communication (to name a few that are essential for the workplace). As demonstrated by all 6 C-Suite executives from my Leadership Series, these skills and experiences abroad can be critical to your future career success (read the full article here).

7. Failing to Take Advantage of Resources

Upon making it into university, we all become so focused on “getting good grades” so that we can “get a job” once we graduate. Many times, we carry this burden upon ourselves and fail to look outside of our bubbles and realize that there are many support systems and resources available to us. In hindsight, I could have put in a lot more effort into getting scholarships and grants to fund my academic and extracurricular experiences, instead of paying for them with my student loans or out of pocket (read the full article here).

8. Rushing to Graduate

Many of us enter university thinking that we’ll finish in 4 years because it is the “standard time to graduate and get a job”. Although challenging, it is definitely not impossible! I’ve known a handful of people who graduated within 4 years while doing extracurriculars and summer internships, and landed full-time jobs afterwards. However, this would mean taking a full course-load every semester and following through on the degree and concentration that originally chosen. I am not discouraging you from graduating within 4 years, but it is okay to take longer. Don’t force yourself to graduate if it means compromising your grades, mental health, social life, and opportunities to study abroad, pursue extracurriculars, or internships. The university experience is one of the most defining time periods in our lives, so we shouldn’t rush the process (read the full article here).

9. Forgetting to Study Smarter

Throughout our academic careers, we have always relied on a grading system to measure our intelligence and ability to succeed in the world. It is important to remember that your GPA should not be prioritized over experience. However, until our academic institutions implement a different system, let’s look into how you can be a more effective student that can study smarter, not harder, so that you can make the time to explore all of the other wonderful parts of the university experience (e.g. studying abroad, internships, networking). You should also make the most out of your tuition by taking the time to really learn and understand the concepts (read the full article here).

10. Neglecting Self Care & Wellbeing

Surviving university is a lot of pressure, especially when your life, career, and future are (supposedly) at stake. For some of us, the light of big dreams and possibilities dims as we realize that university is nothing like high school. Our life jackets are ripped from our bodies, and we are thrown into a sea of uncertainty and competition, where we either sink or learn to swim with the sharks. Even those who succeeded in their academics may have had to sacrifice other aspects of their lives, like mental and physical health. Remember to find a balance between your wellbeing and your academics (read the full article here).

You’ve Got This!

There you have it, a complete guide to thriving in university or college from dozens of people who have been through the experience themselves. Remember to avoid these mistakes and to implement the tips and best practices that I’ve shared. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just learn from them. I am wishing you all the best in your post-secondary endeavours!