Everyone enters university with academic purpose. Perhaps you are one of the lucky students who has a vision, a career path, that you know is right for you. Maybe you are one of the many who needs to test the waters, take a few classes and really figure out who you are, and what you want to do with your life.

No matter what your class schedule looks like, sometimes we ask ourselves: Yes, our area of study will be an immense help after graduation, but is that what we really need to be successful? There are certain skills that we should aim to develop as they will prove to be useful in whatever path we choose to pursue.


When I was a student, I had no clue which career path to go down, or which major to choose. I therefore ended up choosing Communication Studies, as it seemed a broad subject -  one that could help me figure out what I really wanted to do, and give me the tools to do so. I was right. While I was lucky enough to a find a major, there are other ways to develop your communication abilities at university, from the student newspaper, to a debate club. Being a solid communicator is all about being able to express your ideas clearly to other people, and help them see your point of view. It is a skill that will help you to succeed in all areas of life.

Time Management

Time management; Big yawn, right? Well, learning how to organise your time will be a seriously useful skill in the real world. At university you learn how to be on time for class, to juggle free time with study, and set yourself a schedule that works. Applying this skill to your life post-graduation will help make your life significantly less stressful, and more successful. If you have a job interview and you are late, for instance, you risk losing your shot at that job. Being on time is a sign of respect for a lot of people. It demonstrates that you value other people’s time just as much as your own. Make a good impression by practicing good time management, and also you save yourself from unnecessary stress.

Be Open-Minded

A broad skill, yes, but being open minded may be one of the most important life skills you can have. If you automatically close your mind to something, you may be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Use your time at university to explore, try some part-time work here and there, step out of the box, experience things, meet new people. Join cultural organisations or clubs, try learning another language, try foods from different countries. Learn to see the world from another person’s point of view.  When you graduate, you don’t know what experiences lay ahead (who you’ll end up working or interacting with) so try to be accepting of people, to suggestions, to advice and embrace all the opportunities that come your way -  you will be surprised at how far it gets you.

Interpersonal Skills

Hand in hand with efficient communication, interpersonal skills are a real asset when it comes to most situations. While you may be good at communicating your thoughts and ideas, getting along with other people really is a separate entity. The capacity to get along with others, to be receptive to them and their ideas, is a valued ability. It will come in handy when you need to work in groups or teams, for university assignments and after that, professional projects. Being able to value different opinions without growing defensive or confrontational, will only help you in the long run, personally and professionally.

Taking Initiative

We all have different personalities. Some of us are born leaders, others are more comfortable following diligently. But being able to take initiative in some cases can really help you in life. Being a self-starter will provide you with the motivation to get things done. Especially in the working world, you can really demonstrate your potential by taking the reins, and voicing your ideas. Project confidence in yourself, and believe in what you have to offer. This confidence will shine through in all areas of your life. Nobody’s perfect, we all make mistakes, but it’s far better to stumble than to wonder what would have happened if you’d just tried!

Be Creative

Life is not a straight line, so why try to balance it? It is okay to venture off the beaten path once in awhile and show creative potential. Being creative is a life skill that can really be fun and extremely useful. University lecturers routinely encourage students to take more intellectual, and creative risks on their assignments, and employers are always on the lookout for more forward-thinking individuals. Daring to think outside the box will help you to stand out, and create unique learning experiences. So don’t shy away from showing your personality: Be confident, and step out of that comfort zone from time to time. Your untapped creativity might get you noticed at just the right time.

Problem Solving

Sounds like a math class, right? Well, there are different kinds of problem solving that will help you navigate through many different obstacles life can throw at you. Having the ability to face a problem, and the patience to discuss potential solutions is a very valuable skill; Throughout everyday life, and professionally. Problems can be stressful, cause unnecessary worry, and often lead you down a negative path. Being able to rationally sort through problems with poise is a major asset. Save yourself the extra dose of stress - there’s enough of that in the world, as is.  

Self Reflective

At the end of the day, we are human. We can’t promise we will always communicate well, always be on time, get along with others, or be instant creative geniuses. The most important skill you can possess, is the ability to evaluate and be honest with yourself. Just being able to recognize where you excel and where you may fall short, is not something everyone is able to do. Having the ability to reflect on your own successes and failures will provide you with the tools for your next step. Taking accountability for yourself will allow you to improve, to learn, and be open. People will be receptive to your honesty and your willingness to improve. Check in with yourself from time to time, and you will be the best you, you can be!

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About the Author: Merette Kennedy is an American writer and avid book lover. As a former international student, she completed her Masters Degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Limerick in Ireland. She is currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, and is in the process of completing her first fiction-based novel.