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 #7 if you haven’t read it yet!

My biggest regret was trying to rush my degree and taking full course loads at the expense of better grades. I wish I made more time to meet new friends, participate in extracurriculars, and improve my mental health.

ANONYMOUS

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.

This blog post is not meant to discourage you from graduating within 4 years, but to tell you that 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!

Students feel rushed to finish on a timeline when they really should be taking the time to explore different options and careers paths, even if it may take a little longer.

anonymous

What Can You Do?

Develop self awareness as early as you can. Self awareness will help you determine which classes and projects give you the energy and resilience to push through the hard times. Take the time to reflect on your experiences and reach out to your professors, peers, and mentors to determine whether your chosen career path may be a good fit for your interests and passions. Recognize where your strengths and areas of improvement are, and find ways to work on them so that you can become a stronger and more resilient candidate for whichever career paths you may choose in the future. Focus on transferrable skills like teamwork, communication, project management, etc…

Have a growth mindset and be open to exploring new paths that you might have never thought of. Although you may have originally wanted to study law or sciences, do not be afraid to switch your because it will delay your graduation. It is better to make these pivots while you’re still in university rather than when you’re 10 years into a career that makes you absolutely miserable. It may be tough to convince your parents to accept these types of decisions (especially if they are paying for your tuition), but you can create a business case to convince them why it is a good idea.

Be patient, but proactive. Take advantage of university resources to help you succeed in your classes and become aware of different opportunities available. Go for those year long internships, even if it may delay your graduation. You will gain a lot of perspective through practical experience; I have known many people who switched paths after completing their internships. Take the time to nurture your network and find peers and mentors who can share their perspectives with you.

What Did I Do?

It is much easier to say in hindsight, but it was hard to put into practice while I was in university. I was one of those stubborn students who was dead set on graduating within 4 years so that I could just get on with my life and find a full-time job. Originally, I felt like I would be falling behind if I took any longer to graduate, so I never considered doing any co-ops or internships. Although I always wanted to study abroad, I was only willing to do this if it fit my self-imposed graduation schedule.

In my first year, I focused on getting a high GPA in my full course-load and doing well in my extracurriculars. I thought that this would be enough, but I quickly realized that I was in a very competitive landscape and that it would be hard to stand out among likeminded and ambitious peers. After talking to higher year students, I learned about the importance of gaining practical experience through internships. Although I was hesitant, I decided to apply for the co-op program to beef up my resume. This was one of my best decisions because it led me to gain unique experiences and land a job at Microsoft.

Working corporate part-time while taking on leadership positions in my extracurriculars meant that I had to lighten my course loads. Although I took 5.5 years to graduate, I increased my GPA from 3.65 to 3.82, gained 3 years of corporate work experience, excelled in 4 leadership positions, and went on 2 international exchanges to Japan and Singapore. For a while, I was hesitant to go abroad for my final semester, but my mentors, managers, and leaders convinced me that the experience would be worth it and that university was the perfect time to do it… they were totally right!

The least you need to know

  1. Make the most out of your university experience instead of rushing to graduate (you will learn so much more about yourself and enjoy the journey a lot more).
  2. Don’t be afraid to switch your degree, major, or concentration (better now than later). Be self aware about your likes vs dislikes, and pursue a career path that you are more passionate about.
  3. Be open to change and new perspectives. Ask your peers and mentors for their thoughts and advice based on their own experiences.

Stay tuned for University Mistake #9 and remember to subscribe for my top 3 career resources each month!