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My Top Ten Tips for University Students

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I am often asked to name my top ten tips for first-year students. You can probably guess that I am not a fan of post-modern "happy-clappy". And when the metal meets the meat, it will be your hard-earned skills that will matter, not the euphoria of being all kumbaya. Here's my top ten:

1. Read the unit outline. Twice. Then read it before you start every assignment. Then read it before you submit every assignment. Then read it once more for fun.

2. This is university. The standard is high, always, and you must lift yourself to the standard. The only way to lower the standard is to devalue your degree. Of course, you are here to prepare yourself for professional life, and it is nigh impossible to do so without a degree of some quality. Therefore, it is sound logic to lift your own standards.

3. If you have never read a journal article, you have never read an essay. If you have never read an essay, how can you expect to write one?

4. “The first draft of anything is shit” (attributed to Papa Hemingway).

5. Every unit is different. Every discipline is different. There is no such thing as “standardised” in the real world. If you expect your university education to be standardised, you are planning for a fake world. Learn the differences, however subtle, because otherwise you are not receiving the education you have signed up to receive.

6. A university degree provides you with formal proof that you can navigate your way through bureaucracy. When, and I say when, the system screws you over, and before you whinge and moan and blame everybody else as if the world owes you a living, take charge of your own life, and remember that the ability to navigate your way through bureaucracy is one of the single most important skills you will gain here and this will distinguish you in the workplace from non-graduates.

7. The way you write an email to your lecturers is how you will communicate in your professional life. If you do not get a response from your lecturer when you used twitter-speak, expect to get the same response from your bosses or your clients.

8. Before you ask: “Do we need to include references?” The answer is yes, always. Nobody ever lost marks for including references.

9. Respect your fellow students. They are paying for this, too. If you want to waste your money, do it in silence or far enough away from non-like-minded students that nobody else cares that you don’t.

10. Learn to receive feedback. The lecturers who offend you the most with their feedback will probably be those who taught you the most. If you want lollipops and rainbows, then do not listen to feedback. If you want to learn, then learn to receive feedback.