15 things I have ACTUALLY learned at university

Slowly facing graduation, it is part of the process to reflect on the phase of higher education, which will end after six intense years. “What was this all about?”, “What have I actually really learned?” or “Did I actually change?” are frequent questions popping up in my head and with a silent sense of sentimentality and content, it is quite clear that many lessons have been learned along the way of higher education – or how I like to call it: prolonged puberty.

Studying social sciences, it is not surprising that many of these lessons do not refer to the actual academic subject as such, nevertheless I will pick up some of them. Beyond the skills of coping without your parents, learning to live with others or testing from  how much sleep you can deprive yourself, mostly thoughts about common sense come to my mind. So here is my collection of wisdom and things I have actually learned at university.

Success and career

  1. “Fake it until you make it” – it works!
    I am not a big fan of this fact, but I have to admit I have observed many cases, including myself, when conviction and the ability to appear confident have been more important than the actual knowledge. Confidence is a key to success – even if you don’t know the background information of the complex presentation you have to hold about sociological concepts of the 1930s, people won’t dare to doubt your words if you appear to be secure with a solid self-esteem. Caution: Never confuse confidence with arrogance!
  2. Get your vocabulary straight!
    Referring to the point mentioned above: people are impressed by a proper command of sophisticated vocabulary! Use correct terminology to annoy your fellow classmates and be recognized as a little smartass by the professor. This might cost you some points on the cool-kid-scale, but you will be taken seriously – plus, you can make up for the lost points by the following.
  3. Be social!
    Gather with people, exchange ideas, listen, observe, and explain! While many people refer to socializing as networking, it is one of the most useful things one can do during the studies. Grab a beer with your mates, join a club, get engaged into university politics – meeting new people with similar ideas won’t ever be as easy as in university. This is not only the chance to learn different perspectives and broaden your horizon, but as well to be remembered by your peers… and perhaps get the little hint or missing piece of information you needed to start a project or improve your CV – a smile opens many doors. Plus: the best ideas and the greatest fun is mostly born from a pleasant atmosphere.
  4. Don’t be intimidated by other people’s success, appearance or experience!
    You will meet many interesting people during your studies. Some have done several fancy internships, travelled the world, studied at well-respected universities, others simply have a drive to permanently create and work or have impressive connections through their personal background. Either way – don’t be too impressed by these biographies, especially when somebody brags about their own success. As I said, there are many of these people, most things aren’t as special as they initially appear. Better: let people inspire you and learn from them!
  5. Learn to aggregate the most important information!
    In social sciences, there is a lot of stuff to read. Much of it is useless, sometimes only the core essence is needed. Learn to filter the important information and put it into perspective. If you are able to refer to concepts and their intellectual fathers and connect them with your own ideas, you have gained much more than knowing you professor’s slides by heart. This helps as well at work: nowadays we face an overflow of information – if you want to be efficient, leave out the “decoration” and focus on what is really important.