Preparing For Graduation: Beyond Year 12
In less than a month’s time, our Year 12 students will be graduating from high school and ready to embark onto the next phase of their life.
As you can imagine, life as a young adult in the real world is drastically different from school. After 18 years of living under the rules of your parents and having your life dictated by a school schedule, it is liberating to be able to choose what you want to do.
With greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Specifically, the responsibility to make choices best for yourself. The reality is, most family dynamics and virtually all schools teach you to be obedient, but not how to think for yourself. If you aren’t used to making daily life decisions, life after school can quickly become overwhelming.
By this, I mean you will be unable to balance work or study with general life, such as social life and hobbies. Some young adults focus all their attention on work and study without exploring other aspects of life. This can negatively impact the things you have done best in your schooling life, whether that be academia, sport, or work.
Others reach a point where they live day by day without a schedule, because there is simply too much going on to plan. Without goal-setting, you will likely reach a plateau in life where it feels like days of repetition, and before you realize, another year has passed.
Either way, being unequipped for adult life has led 86% of millennials to experiencing a quarter-life crisis, due to pressures of relationships, finances, and jobs (The Guardian 2017).
Graduating students need to be prepared for adult life, as the transition to higher education or joining the workforce is the one of the most significant phases of life. It is a time when good or bad habits from early life can be broken down and changed – full of opportunity for those who look for them. At the same time, no one will offer or force you to do things beneficial to you.
You will need to start living life for yourself!
This is the second of a two-part blog (read Part 1) which is inspired by the personal experiences and observations of myself and a few other university students and graduates. Each of us have had struggles and success in different areas of young adult life, and below are the do’s and don’ts from our personal experiences!
- Get involved in Orientation Week
- Keep busy
- The importance of networking:
- Approach to Study
- So how do we break old habits and form new ones?
- Investment in Self & Miscellaneous
- Remember, you don’t have to get everything right the first time!
Get involved in Orientation Week
For those going to university, Orientation Week (commonly called O Week) marks the start of uni life, and it’s important to start strong by having full attendance!
Technically speaking, this week doesn’t include anything imperative to your academic study, but it does help introduce you to a wholesome university lifestyle.
Attending O Week will help you become familiar with the campus, its main buildings, food options, and optimal study spots. More importantly, this is when you will meet other people from your course and start to form new friendships.
Making friends in university can be a challenge for those who aren’t naturally the bubbliest extroverts. In a massive lecture theatre with hundreds of students, starting a conversation with a stranger is much less inviting than a small room of thirty.
During O Week, everyone is new and eager to meet new people, so talking to the people sitting around you is a lot less awkward. Also, you’ll be introduced to the various clubs at university, and joining them narrows down the thousands of strangers to a select few who share the same interests as you.
Apart from making friends, there are many other administrative matters a new university student can learn during this week, including organizing a student ID, becoming familiar with transport options, getting a student mentor, etc.
In general, O Week gets you excited and motivated for your study, and the key to successful university life is maintaining a healthy level of motivation!
“The busier you are, the more time you have.”
This quote from one of my seniors is particularly accurate for the procrastinators of this generation.
Keeping yourself busy by participating in sports, activities, and hobbies you enjoy improves your self-confidence, and broadens your horizon in life. It also provides a sense of achievement to increase motivation – a mechanism discussed in our blog about student motivation, by our wonderful Team Manager Rhianna Lovegrove.
What’s more, activity outside of the academic curriculum is an amazing way to build your social and professional network.
The importance of networking:
To the young and inexperienced, networking is considered a bit underhanded or unfair. The reality is, social connections are equivalent to personal judgements of a person’s character, work ethic, and integrity. Accomplishments on paper are well and good, but it can never replace personally witnessing someone’s positive attributes.
A survey conducted with LinkedIn in 2016 showed that a clear majority of jobs are filled via networking. Whether you like it or not, this is a fact – you must participate in networking if you want to improve employment aspects.
In some courses that may be considered “easier” or have more practical, self-directed learning, I have heard people say they essentially paid for the connections and networking, rather than for actual teaching.
That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s quite the opposite!
Networking significantly boosts your employability, and when it comes to improving your resume, the longer you wait, the less appealing it looks. It doesn’t matter how active you were in high school if you haven’t done much outside of study for the past two years. The earlier you participate in club activity, volunteering, and social gatherings, the easier it is for you to find an internship or entry-level job come graduation year.
Lastly, career prospects are not the sole reason to keeping your schedule busy. Your hobbies and talents are what define you, and you should certainly explore them as much as possible. Just because they are not popular or easily accessible doesn’t mean you should let them go to waste. Whether it be abstract art (which no one understands), chess (which is always stereotyped as ‘uncool’), or an unpopular sport hardly anyone plays, if you try hard enough, you will find others who share your passion.
Approach to Study
Depending on your university degree, contact hours spent on campus are often far fewer than in high school. Moreover, lectures are usually not compulsory, and no one will be pestering you about attendance apart from tutorials or workshops. You really are completely responsible for your education and learning.
That’s why, as mentioned before, keeping motivation levels up consistently is very important to prevent burnout. As Rhianna discussed in her blog, motivation rarely comes to those waiting. That’s why it’s more reliable to develop a system of good habits.
Habits are “routines of behaviour that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously”. Each time you perform a scheduled action, whether that’s once every day, week, or month, you make a tiny imprint on your brain. The more you perform this action, over the long term, these imprints form a permanent mark on your brain. Eventually, doing it again is effortless and instinctual.
Each action starts with a cue or trigger that the brain recognizes, causing you to perform the routine, followed by a reward.
People who have developed good habits for their study, exercise, hobbies, and so on will easily overcome the “motivation trap”. Instead of waiting for motivation before they work, they work by instinct, and the positive rewards and achievements of that work will generate the motivation to sustain their energy.
So how do we break old habits and form new ones?
1. Goal setting
The first step to forming new habits is to set goals. Most of us think of vague, idealistic end-goals such as “I’m going to achieve an A in my English exam”, which is a natural first step. More importantly, you must then set SMART goals to get you working towards that final goal.
Smart goals are step by step break-downs of how to achieve your end goal by making them specific and therefore measurable. It’s important to know your limits and set attainable goals so you don’t burn yourself out.
Relevancy means you are prioritizing the things that will most effectively bring you closer to your end goal.
Finally, your smart goals should be time-oriented, giving yourself a long-term limit on when you hope to see noticeable effects.
Here are some examples of some SMART goals:
- “I will spend one hour every Thursday at 7pm doing my Neurobook”
- “I will read a fiction book for 15 minutes on Mondays and Fridays before bed”
- “I will write a story, reflection, or analysis for one hour every Sunday at 9am”
These goals enable you to take incremental steps to achieving your final goal, rather than some vague, ambitious statement that you embarrassingly laugh off at the end of the year.
2. Buy a planner (or get one from Uni!)
The second step to forming productive habits is to actively use a planner. Smart goals outline the specific steps to achieving the end result, but planning lets you integrate these steps into daily life.
The point of a planner isn’t to stuff the time full with study, work, and self-improvement to the point of overwhelming exhaustion. It just means you are extremely conscious with your time.
For example, it was your sensible decision to study for two hours, then meet up with friends at a cafe, followed by an hour of exercise on a Saturday afternoon. Make sure that you are using the SMART acronym – especially achievable!
There is a plethora of different planners out there for you to try out. Any combination of the essential trio – monthly calendar with weekly reflection and daily planning – keeps yourself up-to-date and accountable with your own everyday schedule.
Often enough, universities will often hand out planners during O Week! So make sure you get there, and grab one before they’re all out!
3. Form a study group
Sometimes you stray away from your planned day, and that’s okay! One way you can minimise this is forming a study group.
In previous blogs we have discussed how effective group study can enhance learning. Not only do you cover each other’s weaknesses, a good group can keep members accountable if anyone slacks off. Finding and forming such a group is easier when you actively meet new people and make friends in your course.
4. Explore different study methods
You might notice the people in your study group learn differently from you. The start of university will also be when you find the study methods that best suit you.
Experiment with and integrate typing up perfect notes, physically writing and drawing notes, or verbally teaching someone else. Use various resources such as reading textbooks, watching YouTube videos, or browsing online databases.
The sooner you figure out what works best for you, the more effective you will be in your work and study.
5. Use the university resources
Lastly, an effective study method is making use of the resources for which you pay.
University staff are a lot less accessible than high school teachers, but they can immediately answer a question that might be hidden in a massive textbook. They have limited time to directly respond to the hundreds of students in each course, so do not be shy to send emails or arrange meetings outside of lecture time to clarify topics and details that are relevant. Librarians, especially, are super useful and help point you in the right direction!
In fact, university libraries are the wealthiest resource on the grounds and the internet alike. Make sure you make the most of all the articles, videos, books, and other sources available to you!
There are many reasons why people exercise, and just as many why others don’t. The one reason you should exercise, for those who hate it, is because it has a major impact on your ability to be productive.
In our childhood and adolescent years, we don’t feel unproductive because we are always full of energy. Later in life, we begin to feel the impact exercise, or lack thereof, has on our body.
Speaking from personal experience, I have never found enjoyment in most sports or physical activity, and thought it was okay, because “I’m a more academic and creative-focused kind of person”.
This mentality caught up to me during the first few years of university when I was constantly fatigued during the day.
I know some friends who were very active in high school, but stopped exercising because of differing dynamics in university sports clubs, time spent on other interests, and so on. Whatever the case, the lack of exercise quickly caught up to them, too.
The connection between exercise and productivity is simple science. Exercise enhances your body and brain’s endurance, which raises your daily energy levels. When you exercise, even if it’s light stretches or warm-ups, your body (and brain) metabolism and blood flow increases for the rest of the day.
When I thought about it this way, there was no excuse for me not to get started and try to make up for years of inactivity.
Did I mention I hate exercise?
Because I do.
I had to come up with a solution to this, and stop counting it as an excuse. Despite how I felt about exercise, my body needed it in order to be at peak working condition.
The key to making it work for me is to find and join something I enjoyed doing – and that is exactly what I would recommend for anyone.
When I tried the standard body weight exercises for half an hour, I felt so bored not even a Taylor Swift playlist could motivate me to do it consistently.
Instead, I do ice-skating regularly now, and plan to explore badminton groups and maybe even tennis. The beauty of actual sports rather than working out is that the social and competitive aspect makes it a lot more bearable!
Investment in Self & Miscellaneous
At the beginning of this blog article, I mentioned that an amazingly high percentage of young people experience a quarter-life crisis. If you understand the principle of investing in yourself, hopefully you’ll just get the standard mid-life crisis.
All jokes aside, what’s most beautiful about this stage of young adult life is that you should be free to pursue what you want to do in life. Investing in yourself means spending the time and money on learning and experiences for personal growth.
The things you do should set you up for your future career, but there should also be plenty of interests you explore simply because you enjoy it. We are humans, not lifeless cogs, only intended to maximize productivity in a great factory.
When it comes to money, having the self-control to save and spend wisely is good, but never do so at the cost of your self-growth. In other words, learn to start saving, but don’t hesitate to invest on your opportunities for learning, upskilling, general world experience, and even just fun experiences!
This is an attitude I’ve only recently realized, because I’ve been brought up to be very mindful of my spending. As a result, I have foregone some great opportunities or overlooked useful resources because of their costs.
If travelling is something you love, go for it! It is one of those things that broadens your perspective significantly, even if it can be very costly. There are also conferences you can attend for each field, which can be a fun socializing and learning experience as a university student.
It may be something as simple as not hesitating to spend money on tutoring, or additional online help for a subscription fee, if you are having trouble with a course.
Remember, you don’t have to get everything right the first time!
Making mistakes and failing is a natural part of life. What’s important is having the self-awareness to reflect on the things you did well and not so well. This also includes being humble enough to accept constructive criticism without taking it personally.
Failing at something is a learning opportunity if you have an attitude of self-improvement. This means never making excuses for yourself – if you really wanted it to happen, you would have found a way. I would encourage you to always look for that way! Never stop working hard, trying your best, and exploring life.
To end, I’d like to congratulate you all on your graduation! We at A-Team are so proud of the hard work you have done to get to this point. Good luck for the future, young adults!
Adler, L. (2017). New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking. LinkedIn. Retrieved 20 September 2017, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler
Gross, T. (2017). Habits: How They Form And How To Break Them. NPR.org. Retrieved 26 September 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2012/03/05/147192599/habits-how-they-form-and-how-to-break-them
Hill, A. (2017). The quarterlife crisis: young, insecure and depressed. the Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/may/05/quarterlife-crisis-young-insecure-depressed
Tate, C. (2017). 6 reasons why exercise can supercharge your productivity. The Next Web. Retrieved 24 September 2017, from https://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2015/07/12/6-reasons-why-exercise-can-supercharge-your-productivity/