10 things I wish someone had told me before I started uni

10 things I wish someone had told me before I started uni

By Associate Lecturer Zein Saleh, from School of Civil, Mining, and Environmental Engineering 

1. The “follow your passion” myth

According to a study published by Engineers Australia in 2019, around 40% of engineering graduates are employed in occupations not related to engineering. You do not need to be absolutely passionate about what you study to succeed in it.

Careers are becoming more about “what you can do for others” than “what’s in it for me”. The transferable skills you’ll earn in engineering will allow you to work in any field. Remember, doing what’s valuable and has an impact is what matters the most.

2. Rate these 4 things in their order of importance (study, work, mental health, and physical health)

You may have used many different combinations to rate these and all are correct. But, let me tell what ratings people who have finished uni agree on: 1. mental health, 2. mental health 3. mental health, 4. study, work, and physical health.

There is nothing more important than your mental health at uni. You have to absolutely prioritize yourself and practise self-care. There will be times when everything becomes too overwhelming and you just want to quit. Looking after yourself and practising self-care regularly helps you avoid a burnout.

Associate Lecturer Zein Saleh (left) shares his advice with EIS students Eliott Van Der Weiden, Madeline McCarthy, Jack Noli and Stephanie Luo.

3. Habits are everything

The best people who succeed at what they do will always emphasize on the importance of building habits. Michael Jordan never missed a practice. Arnold Schwarzenegger felt so guilty one day skipping the gym and going to the beach that he left the beach to go back and get a workout done.

Great people develop great habits. When it comes to studying, building habits and routines is essential. If your habit is reviewing the lecture content immediately after the lecture, so be it. If it is leaving everything until the weekend, so be it. But know what works best for you and stick to it. Doesn’t matter what the external influences are, build those habits and “be like Mike”.

4. “I’m so smart, I don’t even need to study and can still get HD’s”

Sorry, but no you’re not! Smart people are extremely hard working, conscientious, and organized. If you relied on your brains without hard work to get you through high-school, I can guarantee that it will not be enough to get you through uni. Hard work is essential in earning your degree.

5. Marks are not a real reflection of your success in life

Being a HD student does not mean that you’re going to be more successful than someone who only ever gets a P.

Getting high marks is very important as it gives you a competitive edge over the rest of your cohort. However, you need to stay focused on building a balanced outlook throughout your uni life. On the flip side, the “P’s get degrees” saying isn’t inaccurate. P’s will get you a degree, but when you’re competing with the best, your P’s won’t be enough.

6. “Don’t ever book a class before 10 a.m.”

Especially those Friday 8:30 a.m. ones. God, I hate them!! But I’ll share with you a secret for success: always always go to those early Friday classes.

Dragging yourself out of bed to do something you’re not motivated to do is what forms that “Mamba mentality” (may Kobe R.I.P.). Yea I know, going to an early Friday class isn’t “cool”, but not all medicine tastes good.

Remember, body muscles grow when you do exercises that you’re not used to doing (it’s called body-shock). Similarly, brain muscles grow when you go to early classes.

7. “If I’m only applying 5% of what I studied at uni when I work, then what’s the point of going to uni?”

The purpose of going to uni is not to learn WHAT to apply at work, but HOW to apply it. You know that saying “Don’t give me a fish, but teach me how to fish”? It is the same case here. By going to uni, you are learning how to fish. Your brain is getting trained to methodologically think and analyse. Every class matters!

8. Enjoy your uni life. It’s only going to happen once!

And by enjoying it, I don’t mean party 4 times a week. There is a time for that. But uni will be the only period in your life when you will have no one chasing you to turn in assignments. That means lots of free time.

Do the stuff you like during your uni studies! Pick up new hobbies, volunteer, work in different fields, explore, etc.. However, remember that no one will be chasing you so that means you have to be responsible and make sure you’re on top of things. Uni is like taking your final high school examinations twice a year, don’t forget that.

9. Find out what you’re good at, and do it!

Before you say “I’m not good at anything”, that’s not true. Every single person is good at something. You may have not discovered it yet or may have not acknowledged its existence yet. But you are unique!

Sometimes electives help you discover who you are, sometimes studying abroad and exchange opportunities do, sometimes it’s about trying different majors or degrees, etc.

Whatever it is, do it until you find what you’re really good at, and keep doing it!

10. Working out for more than an hour at the gym is ineffective

Science suggests that the best training method is a focused one-hour workout, 5 times a week. 10 mins of warmup, 40 mins of training, and 10 mins of stretching. Any longer, results in muscle fatigue and negative effects.

The brain is a muscle. Therefore, following similar strategies is essential. Start your studies by identifying the targets and goals of the study session (warmup). Continue to your workout and have a focused and intense session (studying). Finish up with a good stretch so that your brain muscles won’t get sore and you’ll be able to recover before your next session (stretching).