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5 Ways to Get Ahead in Uni

You flip through your calendar and realise that uni is just around the corner again. Days evaporate before your very eyes. At first you might bat your eyes and just live in the moment, but as Orientation Week creeps closer, a nervous anticipation brews inside you. At last, you accept the impending doom, but it’s alright because you know that this is the year that you will conquer your grades and have a perfect work-life balance.

If uni were a person

It’s the mantra to get you through the first few weeks before the dreaded mid-semester GPA blight. If it helps, hold onto the thought that it will be all over soon at the rate time ticks.

Quick fixes to get ahead in uni don't last or don't work. Let's explore how you can be more disciplined, organised, and successful with tips that are sure to last your uni life (and beyond).

1. Prime yourself 

Research shows that our behaviours can be influenced by unconscious cues. In one study, office workers in a university would pay for tea or coffee by putting money in an ‘honesty box’. Without notice, a picture of flowers was placed above the box. The next week, a photo of human eyes replaced it, and this pattern alternated weekly. It was found that the workers contributed three times as much when there were eyes watching than the flowers. The symbolic cue of being watched reflected in their behaviour without them even knowing that this was influencing their decisions.                  

This corn looks really good right now, care for a bite?

What does this mean for you? You can build habits by designing your environment with subtle hints to stay on task, like creating a list of essential tasks before you start to work. Keep a bottle of water on your table so you remember to stay hydrated.

2. Future-oriented events

Often throughout semester, your university and other organisations will host career-centric events such as information days, workshops, competitions, and networking. These are usually free and can equip you with a wealth of knowledge in a particular industry, and to seek advice from people who have insight into how you could find opportunities or to add perspective into what you might see yourself doing in the future. A good way of staying in the loop is subscribing to relevant e-mails or like them on Facebook to get the latest updates. Make sure to pencil them in your calendar, which brings us to the next point...

3. Map your schedules

Whether you have a concert to attend to or your best friends’ birthday during the semester, highlight these dates in a calendar or diary. It’s a good idea to number the weeks according like that of your semester, including vacation weeks so that you can map out when you need to spend time to focus on the other things in life. When assessment deadlines are given, mark these as well so you can give yourself time to work on it without delaying it too late. Remember to stay on task, spending all your time planning and no time taking action is the first step to counter-production (the next step is other forms of procrastination).

Remember to stay on task, spending all your time planning and no time taking action is the first step to counter-production (then come the other forms of procrastination).

4. Find a community of like-minded people

Sometimes the best ideas start from a conversation. Creating a network allows you to have a community of support and you may find many life-long connections along the way. You may be lucky and find that your first tutorial buddy is your long lost bestie, and a little less lucky if your entire grade from high-school migrated to the same uni as you. After all, uni is a time to make new friends and explore new ideas and perspectives.

When you find cool, relatable people at uni

Explore clubs and societies which pique your interest, organisations like AIESEC which you might align with, or check out social and professional events on and off campus.

5. Opportunities to develop yourself

Long-term goals aren’t impossible if you keep your eyes on the prize and are willing to work for it. Going to uni doesn’t just mean attending classes, but it’s the time of your life where you have a chance to figure out what you want to do, become more independent, and try new things.There is no better time than now to take calculated risks and seize opportunities to improve yourself. Don’t be disheartened if nothing works at first, you will gradually build an arsenal of experiences, where failures are worth just as much as successes. A good place to start looking is on university media, forums, and keeping your eyes peeled for flyers around campus.

To see how AIESEC can provide this experience for you, this video explores how joining been a defining opportunity for some members. There’s endless possibilities to suit a vast range of interests and passions. AIESEC representatives are always more than happy to chat to you about them and where you dare to take them.

What the future holds both fascinates and daunts us. The fact that you’ve taken time to read this article should tell you that you’re truly dedicated to aspiring for something better. It’s never too early to prepare and try new things to get ahead of the game. It is also never too late to redirect and change what you’re doing. In the great words of Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Getting ahead doesn’t mean using all your boosts at the beginning of the race, but it’s about consistency. Build strong habits, prioritise what’s important, and take opportunities which can propel you further.

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AIESEC in Australia is currently recruiting. Find out more details at: aiesecaustralia.org/movement

Daniel Chong

When he's not cracking dad jokes, Daniel is usually digging around for interesting and useful bits of knowledge. He's currently in his honours year doing medical research at the University of Sydney. His favourite medicine is strolling through a museum or gallery or just staying snug at home with a good TV series.