How to Play the University Game and Win! (Student Essay Series – Essay #2)

How to Play the University Game and Win!

“I stand on solid ground before this old bridge. One that if treaded carefully and strategically can be crossed well. Unless I do so, this bridge will be incredibly unstable and the challenges I face will overcome me before I can cross. Although, if I used what I learned and I believe I can do it then I will accomplish it; and once I do then perhaps I can make this passage easier for those who come after me.” Unknown

From the beginning of my first year of university to my finish line that I envisioned 25 years from now, I know that there will be many hurdles I will have to face and overcome. What have I learned this first year that has helped me, and will hopefully help you – the reader? This is what my essay is going to explore. I will show you where I began, where I hoped to be, and the skills that I learned and used along the way.

At the beginning of the semester, I strove to create a goal of achieving a GPA (grade point average) of 2.7. This was going to be my first year of university and I did not expect myself to get a GPA of 3.0 with my current lifestyle. This goal became important to me because I had the expectations of not just my parents but also those of my grandparents and friends. My grandparents had blessed me with paying my tuition for university and I think this is what created the most pressure as well as the most motivation for me. I could not let them down!

In addition to having high grades, I hoped to have a balanced lifestyle. I aimed to complete all my schoolwork for the week during the weekdays, while taking one day off from studying during the weekends. This way my stress level would not be too high and I would still be able to complete all my coursework and stay on top off all my classes. Another goal I wanted to achieve was to have better time management. I believed that if I was able to manage my time better I would not only have less anxiety but also have more free time for myself.

At the beginning of my semester I entered university with high school GPA of 2.0.This was very concerning to me because I had been told by many people that university was very difficult and if I was to survive I would have to increase my marks to at least a GPA of 3.0.I had never achieved this type of academic average before nor did I expect myself to do so. Therefore, I set myself a goal of 2.7 GPA.

My mindset coming into university was that I had to study and do homework for at least 5 hours each night, pull “all nighters” almost every , and bid farewell to my personal life. I also had the mindset that I did not belong in university because I was never any good at school and that it was going to be incredibly difficult. I also heard my friends brag about how they were taking engineering classes and were able to obtain 103% overall in their courses. I began to compare myself with them and felt extremely intimidated. All in all, I had come to university with a very negative mindset and very low self-confidence.

My pessimistic mindset caused me to procrastinate in completing most of my homework and assignments (which became second nature to me after the first few weeks of school). I also stopped pushing myself to do well because I didn’t think it was possible for me to do so. I had a lot on my plate with 5 courses and eventually had to drop one because I was incredibly overwhelmed by the other four.

As mentioned above, I had a great burden of having to live up to the expectations of my grandparents because they had paid for my tuition. This created so much panic in me. I began to feel ashamed whenever I did not do well in one of my courses. An example of this was in my Math-0132 class where I was sitting at a GPA of 1.0. I did not do well in this course because I was not permitted to use a calculator and I had trouble grasping the concepts. After writing a test in this class I felt like I had let everyone down. In my mind I was a failure and there was nothing anyone could say or do to change this belief I had about myself. As a result of this, I began to procrastinate whenever it came to studying Math.

From this situation, however, I learned something very important that will help me for the rest of my life. I had focused too much on what I people thought I “was” instead of focusing on what I “could” be. When I become aware of this thought and changed my mindset, my stress and anxiety decreased substantially. Although I did not do well in Math this term, this awareness about myself helped me overcome probably one of my biggest struggles. Now I really believe that I can do better in my classes next semester. Also, because I discovered that I was not too fond of Math, I became more intrigued by my other classes such Undergrad Studies, Christianity, and Psychology. I found that I paid greater attention to these classes. I am now happy to say that Psychology will be my major. Out of my struggle came a discovery that I am thankful for.

Another challenge I faced was the proverbial saying of “having too much on my plate.” I had work issues, church commitments, personal struggles, and initially five courses when I began university. With work, my manager had been giving me too many hours, which in turn affected my schoolwork. I was unable to study for exams nor complete my assignments well. However, I was able to overcome this challenge by letting my manager know that my schooling must come first. Eventually, we were able to come to a compromise that allowed me to have more time to spend on my studies.

My Undergrad Studies class with Mr. Nasser gave me many insights on how I should think differently when it comes to succeeding in university. I learned that stress was not always a bad thing. Instead having an optimum level of stress is a very effective tool to have. Having a low level of stress leads to laziness and lack of motivation. A very high level of stress leads to becoming overwhelmed and anxious, which affects performance negatively. I realized that it is all about having a balance of enough stress to make you want to complete the task but not enough to overwhelm you.

I also learned that your knowledge is the “tip of the iceberg” and your beliefs are the foundation. In fact, our beliefs play a huge impact on how well we do in any area of life. The notion of “the harder you work, the better you will do” is not necessarily true, as I learned in my Undergrad Studies class. If you put 100% effort into a task, you have a risk of burning out if you use the wrong strategies and don’t have the correct mindset. This is why so many students at university are exhausted, frazzled and experience serious mental health problems. I learned not to work hard just for the sake of it but work more efficiently if I want long term and rapid success.

In conclusion what would I recommend to you the reader?

  1. Set goals for yourself. Think about what you want to accomplish in the long run and don’t be afraid to have a dream you want to achieve. You must then stop at nothing to obtain it! This mindset will increase the value of your life in general.
  2. Don’t fear stress but instead learn to control it. This is the secret to enjoying high levels of motivation whenever you need to accomplish your goals.
  3. Have a lot of conviction and self-belief in yourself! Your beliefs are like the engine of a vehicle. The better your self-beliefs are the better your car will perform.
  4. Don’t just work hard for the sake of it. Adopt the correct mindset and strategies to be successful. This will help you manage your stress, enjoy a healthier lifestyle and allow you to have long-term success.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I have made quite a lot this past semester and I am only going to learn from them. Mistakes are meant to be learned from not to dwell on.
  6. Here is my biggest tip: Find friends who lift you up instead of bringing you down. The wrong friends can ruin your university experience.

“Even after all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are a part of the dues one pays for a full life.” -Unknown.

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