6 Common Mistakes University Students Make

6 Common Mistakes

6 Common Mistakes University Students Make

By: Pamela Shyng | OLC Writer
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Being an SFU Alumnus, I can look back on my university years and easily pick out the mistakes I made. These are things I wish somebody warned me about, but instead I wasted time, money and energy on unnecessary things because of common mistakes that many university students make.

1. Not seeing your advisor early on

Something I frequently did each and every semester was waiting too long to see my advisor.  Right before it’s time to sign up for classes, many students realize they want input from their advisors of which courses to take. The sign-up sheet is almost always completely filled weeks before course selection begins, so remember to add your name to that sign-up sheet way before you plan on registering for classes!  If you sign up for the wrong classes, you may end up taking unnecessary classes that add nothing towards your graduation credits.  But be sure to do your own research as well, and don’t rely on your advisor to plan out your entire education. 

2. Stressing out too much

During university, you can’t help but feel stressed out by all the pressure of doing well. But something university students forget is that it’s not the end of the world if you get a bad grade. There’s nothing wrong with getting a C+ once in a while. If you’re not planning on doing your graduate studies or heading to law school and you just want your Bachelor’s degree, your grades really don’t matter all that much. This doesn’t mean that you should just aim for a pass, but letting yourself have too many mental breakdowns really isn’t necessary.

I can’t count the number of nights I was so stressed over numerous papers and exams that I lost hours of sleep (and some of my sanity). Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize that once you have your degree, very few employers will be looking at your actual grades, and more so of your personality, attitude and work experience.  Many employers will actually tell you during your interview that having a personality that fits well within their organization is more important to them than what you got in Communications 110. So relax once in a while, let yourself have a social life, and don’t spend your entire semester locked in your room frantically trying to get straight A’s while losing your mind.

3. Lack of planning

SFU requirements for graduation can be a confusing thing. There’s Q, B-Sci, B-Hum, B-Soc and W class requirements that can be difficult to coordinate with all the 100, 200, 300 and 400 level classes you need for your major.  If you’re minoring or doing a double major, this process of knowing exactly what to take can be all the more confusing. On top of this, if you are transferring from a local college, you need to figure out what your course transfers are, and if they are transferable at all! Phew! This is a lot of information for a freaked out first year to process.

The best thing you can do after figuring out what you want to major in is to download the graduation checklist of that department. Having the checklist right in front of you as you choose your classes helps you plan out the next few years better.  Once again, seeing your advisor is very helpful, as they can point out classes which are better to take. My Communications advisor helped me find a course which counted as both a Q and B-Sci requirement; therefore I only had to take the one class instead of two separate ones that fulfilled one Q and one B-Sci requirement. I essentially killed two birds with one stone, with proper planning and help from advisors. The last thing you want to do is sign up for the wrong courses, realize it when it’s too late to withdraw, and then register for other classes, which may already be full.

4. Not getting involved

By “getting involved”, I don’t mean you should join every club that relates to you.  If clubs aren’t your thing, you can get involved in a way that excites you, whether it be events on campus at the pub or volunteering. There are many free seminars that SFU students are able to attend, the SFU Pocket Farmer’s Market to explore, and job fairs that can only help you. Many people coast through their years at SFU almost ignoring everything around them; they go to class and leave as quickly as they arrived.  This can lead to feeling quite disconnected from the university. Not being connected in any way makes it feel like you’re not experiencing your post-secondary education the way you might have imagined, but you need to take the initiative to get the best experience possible.

5. Not job junting while still in university

Attending university full-time is a job in itself, not to mention most students also have part-time jobs, and perhaps volunteer work too. This can be more than a handful, but it should be noted that if you plan on finding a career-oriented job after graduation, you better start looking while you’re still in university. Most newly grads suffer from overconfidence; they may believe that they’ll have no trouble finding their first dream job, and think that they’ll actually have trouble choosing between the many job offers they dream of getting! This simply isn’t the reality - it is crucial to begin hunting for that first job while you’re still in university. The truth is, it takes many post-grads up to six months to find that job. SFU’s Simplicity website constantly updates career postings, and don’t ignore emails from your departmental advisors, they do continuously send job postings out to undergrads.  

6. Not volunteering

Volunteering is something everyone should do at some point because it is beneficial for both parties. Firstly, volunteer for an organization that appeals to you, don’t just volunteer for the first thing you see posted on the Simplicity job posting siteif it doesn’t hold your interest, as you will likely lack the commitment to it. Volunteering is a great way to see if you want to get involved in certain career fields later on when you are finished your schooling. You can get a feel of the organization or area of work, and see what it’s like to help in that line of work.

I volunteered for many non-profit organizations because I believe in the positive and constructive goals and values they hold; it also was a way for me to see if I wanted to pursue a career with a non-profit organization. It is also a great way to add experience to your resume, and many employers who coordinate the volunteers will be happy to write you a reference letter once your commitment is up. Volunteering is usually quite flexible and can be as short as a day-long event, or as lengthy as years of commitment. So, not only can volunteering help you explore and find your career path and add concrete experiences to your resume, you can also help out the organization you care about and give back to your community.

Most mistakes university students make involve some sort of lack of organization, preparation, or just feelings of being overwhelmed, unmotivated or stressed out.  The trick is to think ahead, slow down and relax!  Your university experience can be so much more pleasant if you take the time to plan for the future, de-stress once in a while and remember to have fun!

Interested in volunteering? Check out SFU Volunteer Services and get started!

Posted on September 03, 2012