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

Thank you to the dozens of people from around the world who have anonymously shared their biggest regrets in hindsight and what they thought were the biggest mistakes that people make in university. Originally, I wanted to share all 10 at once, but I received so many great responses that I wanted to do a deeper dive on each of the Top 10 mistakes. Check out University Mistake #9 if you haven’t read it yet!

I regret not taking care of my health and indulging in everything that my parents kept from me… I wish I made more time to meet new friends, participate in extracurriculars, and improve my mental health.

ANONYMOUS

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. Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic with this final University Mistakes blog post 😅 but I have seen people either thrive or barely survive the experience.

One thing I wish they taught us more of in school was self-care and mindfulness. Even those who succeeded in their academics may have had to sacrifice other aspects of their lives, like mental and physical health. Hence, this blog post is meant to help you find a balance between your wellbeing and your academics.

I should have procrastinated less and looked after myself more.

anonymous

What Can You Do?

Adopt a Growth Mindset. To thrive in life and in university, learn how to roll with the punches and adapt to change. When you get to university, no one will be there to hold your hand anymore, so you need to learn how to raise your own hand and ask for help. As soon as you can, experiment with different methods to figure out which study habits work best for you and then leverage these throughout the rest of your studies. Acknowledge that there will be moments of failure, but that you will learn and grow from these experiences (cue Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger).

Check in with yourself often. It’s easy for us to get lost in the grind of getting good grades and the anxiety of our class schedules. However mindfulness is a life skill that you will carry with you way beyond your uni days. When it comes to your mental health, leverage university resources, learn how to manage your time effectively to reduce stress during busy times, and observe yourself. Take note of your stress levels, take breaks throughout the day, and find the time to self-reflect (P.S. there are many apps like Headspace that you can use).

Stay active and get enough sleep. When it comes to your physical health, make the time to exercise and sleep! The Freshman 15 definitely happens, and it can come from stress-eating or an unhealthy diet because we’re always grabbing fast food on campus (because it’s cheap and it’s right within arms reach). As a student, you’re likely to have a free gym membership, so take advantage of it because physical activity can actually improve your concentration, memory, and creativity. If you need more structure and accountability, try joining sports clubs, signing up for intramural sports, or fitness classes. At the end of every day, aim for 8 hours of sleep… especially the nights before exams, case competitions, and big events!

Diversify yourself and become well rounded. Instead of keeping your head down in the textbooks, look around and try new experiences. University is the perfect time to be curious, meet new people, and learn more about yourself. Be smart about what “new things” you are trying, and make sure you’re exploring with good company (build a strong and healthy support network to keep you from making bad decisions). Remember that it is okay to change paths to pursue your interests, and not the interests or expectations of your parents or other people that heavily influence you… this is your life, so take ownership of it!

What Did I Do?

My sleeping habits were definitely one of the best practices that I had back in university. I made sure that I got 8 hours of sleep every night, no matter how busy I was with school, work, and extracurriculars. Even when I felt unprepared or like I was falling behind, I wouldn’t dare pull an all-nighter because I knew it would tank my performance the next day. Fun Fact: I observed my exam schedule and scores and found that I usually performed better when my exams were in the afternoon/evening (and this was most likely because I got to sleep in since I am not a morning person).

However, I could have definitely done better when it came to my physical health. As someone who was so focused on work, school, and extracurriculars, my fitness was put on the back burner. Beyond marching around campus in between classes and catching up with friends, my gym schedule was inconsistent and even non-existent at certain times. If I could have a do-over, I would’ve found a gym buddy to keep me accountable every week!

Although I tried to adopt a growth mindset throughout the tough times, I definitely lacked mindfulness. I was always focused on the finish line, and rarely spent any time reflecting on my present. Despite many moments of pride in my accomplishments, they were short lived because I quickly refocused my attention on what I had to do next. My advice in hindsight would be to reflect more and realize that it is okay to take a breath every once in a while. As they say, life is a marathon not a race.

The least you need to know

  1. Adopt a growth mindset and diversify your interests and experiences
  2. Practice mindfulness by checking in with yourself and reflecting on your progress (and don’t be too hard on yourself)
  3. Make time to nurture your mental and physical health

Stay tuned for the Top 10 University Mistakes recap and please take care of yourselves!