College Survival Kit

“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – Confucius

One of the consequences of the current economic situation is its effect on education. Developing the right skills has become crucial. And yet how we got about developing those skills is quite complex. There’s been a definite trend towards studying abroad and even online. Nevertheless, after five years at university, I think there are some principles we can all take to make our studies a success.

“No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar.” – Donald Foster

  • Make friends. One of the best things about varsity is the variety of people you get to interact with. This isn’t high school, where you’re forced to hang out with people who might not float your boat. Now you’re free to mix and mingle with whoever you want. Find people you relate to and whose company you enjoy. And don’t settle for anything less. Time with them will really provide the support and reassurance when the going gets tough.
  • “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught.” – Winston Churchill

  • Get involved. Another great thing about varsity is the broad range of activities on offer. Whatever you choose, from mountaineering to Tai Chi, will provide the perfect opportunity to meet other people and take your mind off the books. These activities also provide a great way to explore your passions (perhaps photography or film) and learn skills that will definitely come in handy down the line. Personally, I’d recommend any form of martial arts. I can’t think of a better way to sharpen both body and mind!
  • “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Sir Richard Steele

  • Work hard. As much as you’d prefer to deny it, the reason you’re enrolled is to learn. That means reading ahead of class, participating in lectures by asking questions (or staying afterwards to do so), and making sure you do all your assignments on time. Getting to know your lecturers and professors won’t hurt either. They’ll be far more inclined to help you out if they know you in advance. Plus, by showing a sincere interest in who they are and what they do, this is a great way to build up some contacts.
  • “You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.” – Galileo

  • Read broadly. In this day and age, simply focusing on your course material won’t be enough. The last thing you want is to be among the 40% of graduates who waste the gift of literacy by never reading another book for the rest of their lives! Make the library your best friend. Stretch your mind by learning about things unrelated to your field. In my studies, I found myself fascinated topics ranging from evolutionary economics to advances in neuroscience. I also set the goal to read the 100 greatest books of all time before I turn 30. The classics are timeless for a reason. Shouldn’t you discover why?
  • “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself.” – Henry David Thoreau

  • Get help. Life at varsity can be tough. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get help as soon as problems start to emerge. If you’re having doubts about your choice of study, someone in the careers centre can help. If you’re stressed out and exhausted from all the work, talk to a doctor. All these resources are meant to ensure you get the most of your studies. You don’t have to get by on your own so don’t even try!
  • “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” – Will Durant

  • Have fun. Naturally, I’ve saved the best for last. As much as some would prefer to work themselves to the bone, this isn’t smart. Don’t try to be a perfectionist or work to the point that you’re bursting into tears. I’ve seen some of the most resilient individuals break down and some of the most intimate relationships take strain. All this over work! Nothing is more important than your wellbeing. Work hard, play hard, and keep it in perspective. Varsity is meant to be the best time of your life so enjoy it! Any less just won’t do.
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