This is going to get me in trouble, but I’m going to say it… Because it’s true. University is mostly about life experience, and not the piece of parchment and the scenes from Harry Potter at the end. Having finished university myself, and with a good few years to reflect on its value, I’ve come to realise that most of it was
not about the institution, the accolades, or even the wonderful subject I studied. The value of my degree was the playing in-between.
For most people who are serious about making a mark on the world (and, more profoundly, on themselves), your twenties are a time where you really knuckle down and put some hard-core hours into your career. This will be tough! Very likely you would have studied hard through your GCSEs and A-Levels too. A decade of this intense work will leave the most brilliant parts of you sanded down to a lifeless stub. You will have become just
another Prozac mainlining rat in the grey, meandering rat race…Unless you get some real living in beforehand.
University is your oasis of self-exploration in the inevitable desert of proving your self worth. The treasure of university is the open space where you and some very dear friends can really play with life. My advice to you
is to use the space to find out what your dedefinition of fun is, and then set about doing it. Go get drunk, sleep in all morning, go on road trips, host house parties, wake up in strange bedrooms, try hobbies that you know
will never make you money but are just so fun to do anyway. It is the highs and lows of these adventures which will mature your character in to something wild, creative and self-knowing…
…Further down the line, these skills will make you.
The other week I was sitting on my sofa interviewing a prospective tutor for my agency ‘Tutor Desk’ and I asked her, ‘So… Tell me how uni was for you?’ Her response was something out of a management textbook: she spent long hours in the library; took on lots of extra curricular clubs; went on some work experience programme, whose dreary details have already dribbled away from my mind.
I wish she could have told me about a toga party where everyone had to drink hand-standing on beer kegs. It may sound a little ironic, but someone who played a lot at university would make a far more magnetic tutor. Indeed, they would make a more magnetic anything.
So what is the best way to play? Here is a short list of some of the best university innovations I discovered. I warmly submit them to you:
• Do an international exchange – it will change your life.
• Say ‘Yes’ to pretty much everything that comes your way (don’t be
too prudish either)!
• Try lots of new hobbies and clubs.
• Study as far away from home as you can.
• Take socialisation very seriously (very slightly more seriously than
• Get an unimportant, uninspiring job for no more than 10 hours a
So what is university? On the surface, it is a place to study and get qualified. But in its heart it is a long stag/hen do for the marriage of serious life to come. It is a garden of experiments that chisels you into an adult. It is a place where you will make friendships, which after graduation has scattered them to the wind, you will spend the power and prestige of your later adult life trying to pull back together.
University is a treasure. Cherish it.
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