By Jude Uchella:
Trust me when I say I know how it feels to finally get admitted to study at a higher institution. The joy is unquantifiable especially when you had to wait for years before getting accepted. Even if you get in immediately after secondary school, the sense of achievement is indeed great.
When you remember how much effort you put into study in preparation for the JAMB and POST UTME exams or whatever exam you took, the tutorial centres you had to attend, the academic seminars, and for some, the prayer and deliverance meetings, etc, you need not be reminded to be joyful. It would come naturally to you.
Having established your emotional status now (as an undergraduate), it is very apt to begin to complete the wordings of the title of this article with WHAT NEXT? Unfortunately, this is where so many students fail. Some are only concerned about getting into the university, some others are in to flaunt whatever material possessions they have (which many a time is given to them by parents), some others are not even sure why they are in school – they have no goal, and no thoughts about the future – which is very pathetic.
Time to learn
Now that you are a student it is time to learn. After all, that’s why you went through all the stress to get in (except that was not your motive). It is time to learn the ropes, the intricacies of whatever course you are studying. For this to be achieved it means you’ll have to be attentive in class, take assignments/projects seriously, practise what is taught and make the library your second hostel.
Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds especially in the face of distractions here and there – in form of friends, unnecessary activities, and even laziness. You must begin now to discipline yourself to achieve your first priority in school, to learn. Trust me, it doesn’t matter what degree you come out with, it is what you know, what you can do, what you picked up over your years of study that determines a whole lot.
It is also time to gain experience. Experience makes you a master. So in addition to focusing on your lectures and books and research, make time to gain experience from other sources. The university is meant to make you an all-around educated person, and it has the resources to do so; seize it. There are writing clubs, internship opportunities, public speaking openings, press invitations, political positions, departmental and faculty posts, and even freelance opportunities for you to put your knowledge to productive use.
But remember that the most important thing is that you study to show yourself qualified (and getting a good degree in the process). However, the experiential aspect of being an undergraduate culminates in what people refer to as ‘allowing the university pass through you’. When it passes through you, you cannot remain the same. Amen? Personally, being inclined to writing, I joined a writers club called The Weavers at UNILAG. And the experience was wonderful.
The future begins now
Another thing on your agenda should be to begin to foresee and plan your future. Make it plain: the goals and strategies to achieving them. Don’t get soaked into the university system that you forget life continues after it. Begin to plan because like you a whole lot of people out there are studying Law, or Computer Science, or Business Admin, Mass Communication, etc, and after graduation the frenzy for employment begins.
In view of that, seek additional professional qualifications as an undergraduate. This will boost your suitability for job placements. Also begin to network with people in your field, especially those beyond your level (students and workers). These relationships do pay a lot. Start today.
You see, dear undergraduate, getting into the university is a whole new world on its own – one that introduces you to a bigger world. It is not a time to take things for granted, it is a time to strive for perfection through hard work and smart work; it is not a time to flex and philander from one attractive sex to the other, it is a time to make your studies and other relevant concerns your only distractions. So what would it be? Make the right choice now that you are an undergraduate.
I trust you will.