My first year in university was a struggle. Having too much freedom, and not enough responsibility, was a recipe for trouble. I failed out of university. I was too afraid to tell my parent so I started working for McDonald's while pretending I was still in school. But I was lucky to have a mentor, an older student at my school, who said to me: "You can choose to become somebody or you can become a con man. It's up to you."
That conversation changed everything for me. I went back to school and earned my bachelor of arts. Years later, I earned my PhD in sports psychology. Looking back at my university years, having a mentor saved my career and future.
As a student, the steps you take today will shape your future for years to come. Here are some tips to help you navigate your way around university.
1. It is OK to be uncertain
The average college freshman changes their major seven times. It's okay if you don't know what to be. But work on finding out what you want. Childhood was the time for well-rounded approaches, but as a young adult, you'll need to narrow your focus in order to achieve excellence. Getting by will not attract the right connections and opportunities you'll need to enter the job market.
Don't be afraid if you have made the wrong first choice. The only bad decision is making no decision at all. Each wrong choice brings you closer to the right one.
2. Be the captain of your ship and master of your fate
Take charge of your time. Develop a realistic, sustainable and balanced weekly timetable to stay on top of assignments, deliverables and events. Create a one-sheet, semester-at-a-glance calendar of deadlines, tests and projects so that no important dates take you by surprise.
3. Sharpen the saw
A healthy lifestyle and academic success go hand in hand. Keep your mental health in check. Sleep, eat, exercise, laugh and socialize. Having a healthy and happy brain better prepares you for learning. Reward yourself for your work hard. Do something each week that feeds your soul and helps you rejuvenate.
4. Fail quickly
Failure is part of success, not the opposite of success. Don't be afraid to fail. It's part of the journey. Once you do fail, don't hide. Instead, get advice, minimize the impact of your setbacks and get back on your horse before your identity is altered.
5. Find a mentor
I don't know where I would be today if I didn't have a mentor who was there for me when I flunked out of school in my first year in university. Seek a mentor who can provide guidance when you face challenges. Your mentor could be a professor, advisor, friend or another student. Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. Cut out negative people from your circle of influence, who bring you down.
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