university students
Kitty Harris
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
8 min read

5 steps to utilising your free time while at university

Adam, a graduate from the University of West England in BA Filmmaking and Creative Media, shares his advice for making the most out of your time while you are still at university. Find Adam on LinkedIn here.


3 years of education, 2 years of free time. If you’ve hit that pinnacle 3rd year in your university journey you’ll relate to the feeling of not appreciating the oodles of free time you had during your inceptive years. Gone are the days where you could binge watch Game of Thrones over a weekend, while building your collection of Lambrini bottles. While you’re sat in the library at 3am creating more of a relationship with the printer than your friends, you’ll think back to the carefree days of 1st and 2nd year wishing you had spent every moment wisely.


The reality is, companies look for experience more than they look at grades. Elon Musk himself has weighed in on his thoughts about experience vs degrees in a recent interview video.


This is what this article is about, breaking down the boundaries of what is deemed to be important in university and bringing in the bigger picture of what actually is important in the real world and hopefully getting you to that realisation sooner than later, so you can act on it now.


1. Don’t be the standard student


What’s the ideal situation? Many of us, in our minds, especially if you’re one of those top performing academic students, who’s crushing the grades, is to think that a company will snap us up as we finish our third year and whisk us away to our new professional life. Often it doesn’t happen like that and the experience you’ve gained through working on projects and essays on your course doesn’t attribute to real world experience. Your first class honours may be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, but you’ve still got to prove to a company that you have real world experience.


What’s a situation that happens to so many leaving university students? Imagine the situation. You finish uni, you apply for a few jobs in your industry and after 2 months you get no replies. You start lowering your expectations and go for lower jobs, still in your industry, but you get nothing from that either. You are then left to take a retail based job, move back in with your parents, because you aren’t earning enough to live on your own. You’re then working so much that you don’t have the time or the energy to focus on your dream job or attaining the skills to get there and slowly move into being comfortable in your retail job and stay like that for the next year.


To be honest, it sucks, but it’s a blackhole that many university students each year are being sucked into, because their university didn’t provide them with the tools to succeed as a graduate.


2. Attend talks from professionals in your industry


This goes back to the point about university lectures and how not all of them are going to be relevant to you. The first step is to know what is relevant so that you can pick and choose the right lectures for you, but then to also fill your free time with outside lectures that are relevant. Whether this be at university with guest speakers coming in, or by attending events near you, it’s useful because the speakers have real world experience in your industry, they have managed to make a living doing something that you are interested in and by picking out the key points from every speaker you listen to, you are slowly building a picture of how you could slot into the industry.


Attending events could also lead to the establishment of potential connections with either peers attending the same event, or the speakers themselves. Networking is an incredibly important part of being an independent worker, as who you know is just as important as what you know. Additionally, we would recommend TedTalks on YouTube, there are so many useful insights to be explored, maybe you could even attend a local TedTalk near you.


3. Hobbies


Why do we have hobbies? they entertain us and we pass the time with them. As you are going to find out or already know, an hour spent on an assignment feels like 2 hours, whereas an hour spent on a hobby goes in the blink of an eye. So, setting aside some time to play that guitar, to draw and paint or anything else under the sun could potentially lead to a career if combined with the right business mindset and commitment. Becoming an authority in a subject is fantastic for blog writing as well and it means you can pour your passion into other faucets of your life.


4. Self-learning


Let’s say you’re on a media course and you’re average at Photoshop, but can’t really apply it to a professional position. Here lies an opportunity, because not only will learning about your own trade increase the likely hood that you could use it on your CV and when applying for positions list it as a skill, but if it’s a part of your course, it’ll help with getting higher grades. You’ll have a higher understand of the process and how you can apply yourself to go from A-B, so when having to elaborate on points you can be more precise - accuracy / detail accounts for a lot in the marking process.


5. Travel


You have so much free time, you’re probably sick of hearing this, but I promise you, you do and when it’s gone, you’ll really miss it. When I was in university, there were a lot of people who lived their lives inside their houses, playing games, going to university, going to the shops and then coming home. Repetition breeds boredom and by working within a habit like this, you miss out on the opportunity to expose yourself to new experiences. Air travel is a hell of a lot cheaper than train travel right now and you can actually grab a flight to Spain for under £20 if you want to. There is no excuse to not explore the world a little more. We’ve talked about self-improvement, travelling and learning about other cultures is incredibly important in terms of your own development. It also gets you thinking about the possibility of working outside of your own country, so if you invest your time into travel, it can open a door to new ways of thinking, new potential interests for you to explore, new people to learn from and a new-found confidence to explore more job opportunities abroad.


*Tip* Erasmus is a student exchange programme that allows students in their second year to study abroad for around four months. If you take nothing else away from it, it will certainly give you the breathing space you need to plan, explore new interests and decide on where you want to take your professional life.


The Equilibrium


The main point to take away from this article is that university and preparing for work life has three points at its core.


1. Balance

Setting time aside for your social life, work life, academic life and self improvement. Being conscious of the choices you make and how they effect the equilibrium of the other sections of your university life.


2. Experience

Using your free time at university to pursue new endeavours, build upon current skills and volunteer for work positions within your industry to get your foot in the door and build a personal portfolio for your work life.


3. Audience

The most valuable thing you can build with your time at university. Having an audience gives you so many paths to explore in terms of how you can craft your work and how you can create revenue streams. It’s then up to you, creatively, how you work with your audience and what content you provide them. If employers see that you have an audience, it’s basically a sign that the content you are putting out there has a real-world impact and ultimately that’s what an employer is looking for, that you have the ability to succeed with their company in a working environment.


In essence, use the free time you have at university wisely, be structured in your approach to learning and try to be as balanced as possible in everything you do and you’ll set yourself up for an easier transition into work life as a graduate.

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