The Student Column: 10 top tips on how to get the most out of university

Daniel Foley graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in English with Study in North America and went on to complete the GDL and LPC. He completed vacation schemes with Taylor Wessing, Nabarro and White & Case in 2015, and began his training contract with Taylor Wessing in September 2017. He offers a few wise words on how to approach university life.

1) Try something new

When you arrive at university, you’ll be inundated with opportunities to get involved in societies, events and trips. It can be tempting to continue with something you did at school or to join a society you know you’ll enjoy, but why not go beyond this and also do something new? Sometimes a random society or an impromptu university trip can offer you much more than you’d initially expect.

2) Consider opportunities abroad

Some courses offer the chance to study abroad, but even if your degree doesn’t offer this, why not consider doing an overseas study programme or an internship during holidays? This can be a life-changing experience, involving independent travel, meeting new people and gaining cultural intelligence. Ultimately, opportunities abroad can set you apart from other graduates who have studied the same subject as you.

3) Remain forward-thinking

Applying to universities required you to think months ahead as you plan your future. You should aim to continue this outlook throughout your degree, whether it means attending career events early on, considering a year abroad or planning extensive travel plans far in advance. Many graduate schemes, internships and overseas opportunities begin their recruitment cycles early (and some look for previous experience), so it can be easy to miss the boat if you get caught up in studying and university life.

4) Join more than just career-oriented societies

Clubs such as law societies and student newspapers offer fantastic vocational experience, but be way of over-emphasising the importance of joining a career-related society for the sake of your CV. Get involved in societies you genuinely enjoy! Less ‘serious’ societies, such as fan clubs and food societies, carry equal merit if you’re involved in organising events and working in a team, and it also shows your personality. Societies like the ‘Chocolate Society’ or the ‘Game of Thrones Society’ are sometimes more likely to catch an employer’s eye than one that is common to all applications.

5) Stay motivated

Sometimes the stress of university can raise self-doubt, caused by an intense workload, grades, comparisons with other classmates or an unclear career plan. It’s important to stay motivated despite these pressures. Remember that it’s better to be challenged than to not be challenged at all!

6) Get off campus

Regardless of how beautiful your campus may be, try allowing yourself time to visit the surrounding area! Many graduates regret not exploring beyond the ‘campus bubble’. Visiting nearby towns or scenic areas can be a great way to avoid university stress and explore places you may not have the chance to visit again.

7) Study your interests

Regardless of whichever subject you study, some students find that their grades were improved at some point in their degree because they studied something that uniquely interested them. This may just mean choosing your modules wisely, or suggesting a personal essay title to your professor. For students doing a dissertation; tailor your research to something you’ll genuinely enjoy studying independently for several months.

8) Make use of funding support

Keep an eye open for any scholarships, bursaries or grants your university (or an external provider) offers students to help them succeed. These are often provided by the university’s career department to support you with things like funding an internship or simply buying train tickets for an interview. There are also scholarships available to students wishing to study abroad. Looking out for these opportunities can help you achieve your goals by making finances less of a problem.

9) Stay in touch with the people you meet

Expanding your network by maintaining contact with other students, academics and visiting professionals can be helpful in the future. It’s often said that the friends you make at university are your friends for life, whether you end up living together, travelling together, or doing business together later in life!

10) Enjoy yourself

Above all, university offers you the freedom to be yourself, to meet interesting people and to get involved in things uniquely suited to you. So don’t waste this opportunity!