The friends you make in your undergraduate years arguably hold the key to success/failure for your future. Needless to say, it is imperative to find friends who hold the key to success for your future. I always heard from others that the friends you make in university will "be your friends forever." I can attest to this statement, which is why in university, I made a significant effort to surround myself with individuals that were like-minded, ambitious, career-focused and just good human beings. Undoubtedly, it is because of the support from these few friends (quality of friends > quantity of friends) that I am able to become who I am today and who I strive to become in the future. I do not want to sound like your parents (who are almost always right on the matter of choosing the right group of friends), but I want to leave you with some food for thought: "if you tell me who your friends are, I can tell who you are." How true.
2. Marks alone mean nothing.
Ah, the biggest misconception in university/college: "my A+'s and A-'s will most definitely get me a job when I graduate." Although there is a degree of truth associated with this statement, I know for a fact that marks alone will not land you your dream job. In fact, I know numerous students who graduated 1-2 years ago that are still inflating the unemployment rate, even though they maintained an "A" average in university. On the contrary, I know of countless "B and C" average students who are working for industry-leading companies in all fields of business and other areas of concentration. What am I getting at? Aim to be a "C" average student... no! Aim to be well-rounded. Balance high marks with strong extra-curricular activities and leadership positions on campus. Unlike learning the material to do well on midterms/exams, soft-skills cannot be learned overnight. Soft skills are developed over months of hands-on experience, which is why it is crucial to get involved as early as possible on campus (I discuss this further below). Let's put it in simpler terms: to start a car, you not only need a key, but you also need to insert the key in the ignition and you need turn it. Similarly, your marks are the key that you need to insert into the ignition and your extra-curricular activities and involvement on campus will help you turn the key to get the car started.
3. Clubs, clubs and clubs!
Most university students love "clubbing," but unfortunately from a career perspective, the clubs I am referring to here will not guarantee them a job post-graduation. Students underestimate the importance of joining clubs on campus, whether it is an accounting, finance, engineering, law, or medicine-related club. Involvement in clubs not only enhance your soft-skills, but it also enriches your resume as you can include transferable skills that employers look for in a fresh graduate. But keep in mind, if you are a student majoring in a specific area (ie- accounting), don't just limit to yourself to clubs relating to that area of specialization. Diversify your portfolio. As an accounting major myself, I not only joined the DeGroote Accounting Association, but also joined various other clubs on campus (especially those that focused on giving back to the community) to ensure employers saw me as a well-rounded individual both in academics and community involvement.
4. Live and learn by making mistakes.
Making mistakes in university are prone to less consequences as opposed to making mistakes once employed (depending on the magnitude of the mistake and the tolerance of the employer). Do not be afraid of trying new things in your undergraduate years. No, I am not referring to activities that will get you into trouble but rather activities that may generally be outside your comfort zone, such as speaking in public and/or taking the leadership role in group projects. By making mistakes and learning from these experiences prior to graduating, this will ensure that you are a more confident and well-rounded young professional once graduated. These learning experiences may also be key discussion points in an interview setting!
5. Most important years of your life.
In my opinion, the four years you spend at university will either make or break your long-term ambitions, regardless if they are career-related or not. Looking back at the four years I spent at McMaster and the DeGroote School of Business, I can comfortably say that those were the best years of my life not only because I had a great time with great people, but also because I was blessed to learn the lessons I noted above early in my undergraduate years. My advice for all undergraduate students is to work hard and play hard. There needs to be an equal balance of both in order to ensure your four years are well-spent at university!