Getting Your Degree And Making Your Mark

Setting off to start at university is one of those ‘life-defining’ events. It’s a chance to reinvent yourself should you wish, to gain a new sense of uninterrupted independence and to make new and potentially life-long friends. So, amongst the full timetable of social activity and with no parents to cook, clean and wash your socks; how is one supposed to continue to excel academically, whilst simultaneously participating in all that student-life has to offer?

I remember a teacher in my sixth form talking of the prospect of getting a ‘first class degree’ from university, and how much prestige such a qualification warrants. It would undoubtedly guarantee our way into any high-flying career after university. This promise came with a caveat; the pursuit of a first class degree must be accompanied with a sole dedication to the cause – in other words, you must study, and study only.

My message is as follows; your degree will serve as an ever-long proof of your academic abilities. It is evidence of your desire to learn, and that you can still learn, that you can twist and stretch your mind. It will NOT, however, serve to show your ability as a person, nor as an employee! With approximately 20,000 graduate jobs on offer from the ‘top 100’ graduate companies, and around 532,300 people entering tertiary education every year; it’s simply not enough to offer the market only your degree transcript (even if it is full of squeaky clean grades).

So, attend the fresher’s fayre with an open mind. Attend as many ‘taster session’ opportunities as you can whilst studies are only just ramping up. Sports, societies, volunteering, paid-work – all of these things are the evidence of your abilities outside academic that your future employees really want to see!

Loyalties are tied at this point and it is difficult to work out at this stage how much time you can realistically devote to ‘extra-curricular’ without sacrificing your degree. My advice? Treat your studies like a job: work 9-5 on your degree (or hours that are equivalent) and fit in the extras around your study time. Make a timetable of your week activities, schedule in as much as you can, including social meetings so you can accurately predict time to study EFFICIENTLY. Overall, though, learn to PRIORITISE! For example, exam periods and deadlines might mean taking a step back from your extra curricular.

Your degree DOES come first, that is the primary reason you are there. Work hard and play hard to show that you have the skills that set you apart from the average UK graduate.

Additional resources:

How to Decide What Degree to Study
University Degree Choices
A Pep Talk to My Younger Self

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