There’s nothing worse than gazing back through the rose-tinted, 20/20 lens of hindsight and thinking “I wish I’d done that when I had the chance.” As a university student you have more time and opportunities than you are likely to have for rest of your working life. So here are six suggestions of ways you can spend your time effectively while learning a huge amount in the process.
If you think that coding should remain the preserve of computer science students and the aspiring Mark Zuckerbegs of the world, think again. Coding may be the single most in-demand skill among graduates, and that applies across industries and roles. Whether you aim to work in finance, marketing, design or journalism, there’s every chance some of your work will be online and so this will apply to you.
Learning to code isn’t just about building websites or writing programs, but more fundamentally understanding how websites operate and are structured. The best news is, it’s not as hard as you may think and you can learn in your own time.
With websites like Codecademy offering free, fun, introductory courses there’s no excuse not to get started. If you already know your ‘hex codes’ from your ‘h-refs’ and are interested in something more advanced, take a look at General Assembly or Udemy who run online courses that you can take in your own time. Also (one for the ladies) definitely take a look at CodeFirst: Girls who are teaching coding to girls for free across the UK’s top universities.
When I first started university, blogs were the kind of thing you wrote while on your Gap-Yah in Tanzanaah daaahling, or else to publish your mum’s lasagne recipe along with a photograph of your commendable, if not impressive, attempt at recreating it. Today, however, blogs are big business which attract a huge following on social media with professional bloggers earning a comfortable living through promotions and advertising alone. So, you never know, you might not need that grad scheme after all!
“But I’m not a vegan, fruitarian, gluten intolerant chef-in-the-making, or an impossibly stylish yogi on Bondi Beach!” I hear you chant. Fear not, all is not lost. Find something that you genuinely care about and just start writing.
If you need inspiration, take Leeds student and fashion-travel blogger Em Sheldon who has 81.9k followers on Instagram, or Cambridge student (recently imported from across the pond) Caroline Calloway who has a cool 812k followers on her Instagram blog about life at Cambridge. Yes, that’s it, it’s just about her life at Cambridge. No zucchini-spaghetti or Sun Salutations in sight, but at least one book deal on the horizon.
Even if you aren’t too interested in blogging for the money, starting a blog is a great way to pursue an interest in something outside of your degree (or even related to it!) without the pressure of having to study it academically.
University is perhaps the only time in your life when you get away with doing things just because you can.
Whether it’s starting a wine-tasting society, going for long walks in the park or learning how to cross-stich, give yourself one thing that you do just because you want to, and not because it’s good for your CV, will make you money or will secure you a first. Do it, and do it a lot. Finding a hobby you really enjoy is a great talking point in interviews and has high anecdotal value around the dinner table.
Studying something you care about is a privilege. Yes, I know you’ve heard it before, but seriously… It’s easy to spend your degree seeing academic work as a burden and a chore, but it’s amazing how many students make comments along the lines of ‘it’s weird that now I’m doing my finals I remember how much I loved my subject all along’. Sometimes it’s good to take a second, whether you’re mid essay crisis or trying to decide whether or not to skive off your 9 am lecture, and remember that you’re studying something really interesting, at a level which few other people have the opportunity to, surrounded by teachers who are actual experts in their field. That’s pretty cool.
There is no network like a university – you are surrounded by the bright people who in 15 or 20 years’ time will be leaders in their industry and policy makers and shakers. Go to networking events, attend society meetings, explore hobbies and you will find yourself creating a network of interesting and engaging friends who will probably go on to do a variety of interesting things.
Step one is actually just having a go at writing your CV and getting a sense of how you come across. There are some brilliant templates available online if you’d like some inspiration on how to stand out.
Step two is being proactive and creating opportunities for yourself that will make your CV stand out. While summer internships and work experience are fantastic and should not be overlooked, what you do while at university will also contribute to how employers view you once you leave. Of course, working as an online tutor at MyTutor is a fantastic way to signal to employers that you are confident in your subject, a good communicator and entrepreneurial enough to monetise your spare time.
So there it is, 6 kernels of wisdom to chew on and consider to help you make the most of your time at university.