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Advice To Future University Students

Advice is Best Served with Water

It is the magical Back to School season so many of my compatriots in the Personal Finance Blog world have taken it upon themselves to pass on sage advice to the future leaders of our world.  The advice given is excellent and I wish someone had told me some of this advice before I started off at University, but then again, I most likely wouldn’t have listened (after all, I was much smarter back then).

Aside from, “A fool and his parsnip are soon baked”, I really don’t have anything to add to the advice to future Post Secondary students. Still, I can give a piece of advice that my Father gave me the day before I left for school, which I used, and still use to this day (no it has nothing to do with money). I offer this slice-of-life story to those about to send their children off to school as a helpful parenting hint (feel free to either use it or ignore it).

Best Back-to-School Advice Ever

As I sat in my room packing up the last bits and pieces before I got ready to go to University (back in 1980), there was a knock on my door, it was my Father.

He sat down at the end of my bed and asked if I thought I had everything I needed for school, and I said I thought I had most of it, and that anything I forgot, I was sure I could figure out how to live without it for a short period.

My Father told me that he was the first person in his family to go to University, so he didn’t know what to expect, and he was, at the time, quite worried. However, an Uncle of his who had gone off to College (but hadn’t finished) did give him one piece of advice that he thought might be worth passing on to me.

At this point I was absolutely enthralled, this was the first time I had felt my Father was actually talking to me like an Adult, and now he was going to pass on to me advice that hopefully will make me as successful as he was in University. I sat quietly and asked him, what that advice was.

My Father looked at me and after a short pause told me the following amazing advice:

If you have gone out drinking, have at least two large glasses of water before you go to bed.

I sat there completely confused. My Father’s advice wasn’t how to apply yourself, or some great trick on how to succeed, how could this be?

I finally blurted out, “What about school?”.

His response again was quite succinct, but also quite good advice,

“Well, don’t be an idiot,  study hard that’s why you are going!”.

Fatherly Advice

Useful Advice

I must say that I did most definitely use my Father’s advice on re-hydrating before going to bed after going out drinking, and his comment about studying hard also resonated more than once, when I couldn’t motivate myself, so as advice I have received in my life, I believe this is one of the best I have received.

So what advice did you receive when you went to University or left home? Comments welcomed.

Feel Free to Comment

  1. Wow, some good advice in the comments and the post. I would advise my past self to relax a bit more. I did horribly in university and was miserable. It’s hard to say, but I may have been better off if I had quit early in my studies.

    I will advise my daughter to choose a major based on interest, not aptitude. I took engineering because I was good at math and science. I may have been better off taking a wider variety of classes to find a better fit for my interests. I was interested and excelled at computer programming, but never considered it as a major. That was likely a mistake.

    I think it’s important for a young university student to realize that life will work out all right regardless how well you do in university. Perhaps that knowledge would reduce depression or worse among students.

    We live in one of the best countries in the world, so most likely someone intelligent enough to qualify for university enrollment will have sufficient success as an adult, even if they do not ultimately get a degree.

  2. There’s also The Buffalo Theory as told by Cliff Clavin on Cheers:

    “Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

    “In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”

  3. I did a case study in University on Gatorade and how they should be marketing their product as a hangover cure (replace those electrolytes!), instead of just focusing on high performance athletes. Theres got to be more drinkers than serious athletes out there, right?

    Incidentally, the study was not well received by my professor or the company 🙂

  4. nancy (aka moneycoach)

    That’s awesome! Totally not what I was expecting. I agree with the commenter above about not obsessing over marks. No one’s ever asked. In retrospect though, I think I would have hung out more with some of the high achievers. It’s a way to start building a network and also pick up good habits and ways of engaging with the world. I don’t mean to sound like a mercenary. But I do think our peers at that time can help us see the world differently for better or worse.

    1. I did actually create an amazing network of folks by accident, by ending up the Treasurer of the Computer Science Club, yup, sometimes it’s just good to be in the right place at the right time (this was 1985)

  5. My family used to joke I was a professional student, but I’ve had a few shots at university and learned a lot through the years. Here’s the advice I would offer:

    1) Get involved in something. I know time is tight, but volunteering is a great way to get experience and meet people outside of your residence and program.

    2) Take advantage of your school’s fitness facilities. Try out yoga, pilates, aqua fit, aerobics, dance the gym, etc. while you can do it cheaply. Taking a class guarantees you an hour of “you time” each week, it helps fight first year weight gain and it’s great for blowing off steam.

    3) Go online and check out the transit maps for your city. Knowing where everything is and how to get to it can really open up your world beyond campus.

    and most importantly:

    4) Do your best, but don’t obsess over marks. Unless you’re going to graduate school or pursuing a professional degree, those numbers don’t mean a whole lot in the workforce. People look for experience and accomplishments, not your mark in certain classes. (At least in my field — we look at experience and portfolios. If you don’t know what’s required of entry-level employees in your field, find out!)

    Thanks for hearing me out! Hope your daughter enjoys her first year, bigcajunman!

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