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Poll: What Do You Know Now That You Wish You'd Known Before You Started College/University?

I’m conducting this for my youngest sister and her friends. They start university, hopefully, in September.

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You’d Known Before You Started College/University?


  1. I wish I had known that a degree is no guarantee of a good life and learnt to cultivate my talents.

  2. I wish I knew the importance of extra-curricular activities and activity groups apart from just going to classes. Life is about working in teams and being a leader of thought and getting others to do things with you. You learn all that when you participate in group activities when you don’t have any formal authority. Of course balance that with the time you spend getting your good grades too.

    I also wish as an engineer I was told how much time I would spend writing reports and working with Microsoft Office. Right now I’m reaping the benefits of the minimal self-training I invested in when I was bored and the difference it makes to my competence and its perception at work is so much I wonder what would have been the case if I went the whole professional way.

    I wish I was taught the importance of public speaking. You can’t be a leader without speaking to people and convincing them of your ideas. In school we hardly gave presentations or had debates about anything except maybe movies and football. So I wish we had more of that and I didn’t have the chance to always run away when the opportunity came up to address a crowd.

    Oh yeah I wish I was more into sports and things in school. The health and fitness habit is a great one to learn while in school cos you form a healthy habit you will need in life. And you may get the chance to travel for competitions and make new friends and connections.

    I wish we had personal computers earlier. Like, just have a laptop! And use it for movies but also for your life and classwork in general. Everything is computerized now and we are looking like people who are just learning how to read, crawling Nigerians on the global stage of the information-driven world.

    I wish I had the time to go into more things but I’ll stop here for now

  3. I wish i knew to focus more on my studies in year one.
    I wish i knew not to fret too much about boys.
    And i wish i made more friends instead of confining myself to a ‘clique’.

  4. 'Demola says

    I certainly wish I made much more friends outside my comfort area than I did. Funny, it was one the reasons why my parents insisted we all attend Federal Universities in Nigeria. Sadly, I didn’t get it. 🙁

    Most importantly, I wish I spent even more time developing skills than I did. There is so much time to do so, especially, as there is usually not much pressure.

    Oh! And I really wish I stopped procrastinating on starting that Mandarin course when that Confucius Institute was launched in my uni.

  5. I’m going into my final year of Law in LAncaster University but these are the things I wish I had known earlier:
    1. No matter what ANYONE says, guys are a huge distraction. I can’t emphasise this enough. Try to be single for your entire uni life and I promise you’ll be much happier and satisfied for it.
    2. Join societies and be an active member. Don’t let self esteem or confidence issues deprive you of social interaction. Be involved in your university affairs. But try not to over load yourself with societies; you’ve got to chase that degree too!
    3. This is what I have always known but I think I’ll put it down as well: Too many friends= too much unwanted drama. You don’t need as many friends as you think. Pick a select few who positively influence you AND you can have fun with. Doing this made my life more peaceful in a lot of ways.
    4. Make use of your lecturers. Don’t be shy!! Ask them as many questions as you can think of. That’s their job and you’re paying for it! When you’ve got coursework, make sure to ask your lecturer for direction- this really helps.
    5. Judging others takes up your time and energy. Going out doesn’t make you a bad person and always staying indoors doesn’t make you a good person. Balance is the key.
    6. I re-emphasise the first point: Guys are a HUGE distraction. I wish I had known this! Oh how I wish I had known this! No matter how much you’re ‘feeling the boy’, please feel him from a distance! When its time to work, make sure he’s not occupying your mind. Your number one priority is that degree- never forget that. Once you’ve got it, you can chase or be chased by all the men in the world 🙂

    I hope this helps xx

  6. I wish that I had known that your dreams are most important. That if you start at it early, you’ll find fulfillment in your life just in time before you realize a degree will not give you everything you need.

    And at the end of the day, everything you think you are missing out on will come to you eventually or they just don’t matter in the long run.

    All I have for now.

  7. Muyiwa Talabi says

    Hmmmm, What do I wish I had know before Uni? Too many things. I doubt I’ll remember all of them now, but here goes….

    I wish I knew what I wanted to do. I was told and just had the opinion that since I was a super(math) man, engineering was my destiny. What kind of engineering? Well they said electrical was the hardest, so I chose it. I wish I knew about careers, professions and how they panned out for others, oh well… I am 40% sure I wouldn’t have done engineering looking back now.

    I wish I knew the essence of studying smart (not necessarily hard), this lesson was learned in my final year when I studied based on what was required and not trying to fit the whole syllabus in my head in 1 week or less. I would have finished with excellent grades if I knew this earlier and I would have used my brain capacity for better things.

    I wish I knew how to study. I learned the hard way. I was not a studying person till I got hit by a mini typhoon in my third year. Before then, I couldn’t be bothered. I felt I was a superman who could just find my way through everything, I mean I did it in WAEC, A levels, Diploma and even my second year and I had excellent grades, I didn’t know my pain was coming. It took me another 2 years to recover while learning how to study hard for hours, through the night and even during important football games if required!

    I wish I knew that I would use only very little of those things taught in class and more of those things not taught or mentioned in passing. I wish I knew that all those mathematical formula were just as useful as the ‘ay’ in ‘okay’. I wish I knew how important learning how to use simple things like Microsoft office suite, CAD, very little computer programming were and how easy some of them were to learn. I had to learn the hard way when in an internship after graduation my boss asked me if I could use AUTOCAD and I said I couldn’t and two IT students from Covenant giggled after some comments he made. I forced myself to learn in two days. These are simple things that could have been picked up in Uni at some point.

    I wish I participated more in different things. If it didn’t have to do with girls, parties or football, I wasn’t interested. This is probably why I missed out on the Zain Africa challenge competition thing.

    Morally, ******* WORK IN PROGRESS******** I wish I had known better. I wish I had known how sweet the things of the world were and how hard it would be to let go.

    From my MSc. I learned how to study before classes and exams and how much it can simplify your life. I had to do it because i had no choice, I was at the bottom of the food chain in a completely new environment and new line of study. I decided to try something new, and it worked perfectly, I pretty much just glanced some sheets of paper before exams, and I even became the go to guy at some point!

    I wish I knew I had to follow up my results and how things can magically change at the click of a mouse.

    I wish I had used my spare time better, so many things I could have done now that I look back but, oh well…

  8. Someone should have warned me not to be too trusting, especially with money. I should have known early on that the world is a jungle and that I had a duty to protect myself. Naivety is no excuse and you should regard everyone you meet as an opportunist, but give each person the benefit of doubt.

    I wish I’d learned that lending money is the easiest way to lose friends and probably, your life (see Alu 4). I wish I’d completely stayed away from off-campus until I was psychologically mature for the distraction that comes with a lot of freedom.

    I wish I had picked my friends, instead of letting them pick me. I wish I’d known the power of intuition early on. If I’d understood that everyone’s destiny was different, I’d have learned to follow the path that was cut out for me. Joining the bandwagon, allowing the blind lead the blind, can sometimes ruin the course of a person’s life. Should have never doubted my principles and policies.

    I wish I’d stayed in mathematics option. But who knew that career crises were real? I wish I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and how I should have gone about it.

    I wish someone had said quite bluntly, ‘premarital sex is over-rated’, in spite of all the lies and heresy being peddled.

    I wish I’d spent my spare time adding value to my life and developing my talents.

  9. Currently in my final year, history and International Relations. So much I wish I knew earlier…
    1. Boys are dream killers, there are very very few who wants something good for you. Do away with the emotional pain and drama, you are better off.
    2. Reading before exams…I.e reading before exam time table comes out. Sadly I didn’t learn this till my 3rd year, thus after every exam, I break down.
    3. God. Its very easy to stop going to church or being active, but God is the center, don’t let go.
    4.friends. Mix up with people who think like you, with dreams and ambition.
    5. Lastly, thou shall not forget thy aim, the degree, yes. Every other thing is secondary, church activities, socials, etc. Especially boys.
    One more thing, the phone, lappy (gadgets) you own them not the other way round. Time to study? Log out/switch off.

  10. Dolapo O. says

    For me the greatest thing I’ve learnt since leaving the university I didn’t know prior, was the existence of this great dis-connect between what is practiced and needed in industry compared with what is taught in school.
    There’s too much emphasis on cramming to pass, than actually learning things relevant to one’s profession.
    If possible I’ll advise Nigerian universities to encourage students to attach themselves to companies/organisations during their holiday breaks, so students are exposed to real life industry scenarios.
    Also it’s important for one to learn the importance of time management, in other words, work hard when you have to, have fun when you want to as well.
    Cultivate friendships also. Try and develop at least one skill or program knowledge that would serve after leaving the university.
    Also too many students are made to believe with “good grades” in naija, we say 2.1 at least, a great job would just appear after school. Yes, it’s good to work for “good grades” but what happens if 1year after NYSC, for instance this “great job” doesn’t arrive?
    That’s where the skill or program knowledge developed in school can come in. Is it possible to be converted into a business of sorts?

  11. Muyiwa Talabi says

    Looks like boys will not have girl friend again from what I am reading here. :'(

    • Very funny. But truth be told, most boys in school just want to have stories to tell. And the girls are so naive as to expect too much from the boys. In the end, their needs might just change (as is often the case when people are still trying to discover themselves).
      Most times, everything’s just experimenting. And for what? Your time and energy and good name? And it’s worse when your grades suffer. Except the girl can stand graduating with a third class, only to spend the rest of her adult life as a housewife etc. etc. Except she works hard to acquire other skills.

      Life is just too complicated to let boys compound your troubles… Shikena

  12. jheez! I wish i knew exactly what i wanted to do and chilled a bit before falling to the pressure of going into UNI as soon as possible and doing a Nigerian “elite” course like medicine without any passion whatsover. I wish i stood up for myself and followed my dreams. Basically Uni is the prelude to the beginning of your life make sure you do what your heart knows is right and not what has been planned out for you.

  13. I wish I paid (more) attention to developing “soft skills” because they are critically important for long term success. Soft skills include courtesy, having elegant manners, confidence, communication, leadership, team work…in fact everything your gut (please listen to it) directs that you should be developing for everyday greatness. Now I know the grades (whatever you studied) will probably get you in the career door, but “soft skills” will keep you in (and expand your opportunities post graduation).

    I wish your sisters and friends the very best!!

  14. 'Gbeminiyi says

    I wish I knew to have as much fun as possible because life becomes to busy as you grow older and you won’t have as much time for a lot of things as you did in University.
    I wish I realised that there were no do-overs in life and I put in all my effort into everything I was doing, laziness really has no rewards.
    I wish I learnt to express myself well and not let my fear of failure hold me back.
    I wish I was told the importance of getting involved in as many extra-curricular activities as my school work permitted.
    I wish I knew the importance of friendships earlier and that once anyone starts bringing drama I should move on as soon as possible.

    And @Muyiwa, no matter how much they tell girls not to bother with boys only a very small percentage will listen; I’m sure quite a number in our generation were told not to bother with boys but how many listened?

  15. I am still in my first year in uni and i wish i knew that uni is an entirely different ball game from secondary school. I was told bt i guess u have to experience it to know.
    I wish i knew that its basically a one-man life in school. U r responsible for urself, u plan when to read, eat, play, etc. Nobody is going to breathe down ur neck. U have to do what is right all by urself.
    I wish i knew d importance of socializing with my coursemates earlier, asking questions, seeking directions, etc. My transition would have been way smoother.
    I wish i knew that uni is part of the real, grownup world, infact uni is a microcosm of d world, different challenges, different individuals, different choices.
    I wish ur sister and her friends the very best in school.

  16. Have fun. Take breaks. Discover new things. Live. Love. Be a friend. Don’t be an enemy. Forgive yourself. Love you. Learn. Be curious. Laugh….a lot. Be kind. Find meaning. Understand what’s important to you. Know your values (mine are honesty, integrity, kindness and sharing…just to help you along!)

    Learn to study. A bit everyday. Don’t wait for the big exams to come.
    Learn to study. A page at a time. One day at a time. Develop study skills.

    Always have a pen and paper to hand. Write. What you understand and what you don’t.

    Don’t be ashamed of asking. Of questioning. Of not knowing. That’s the best way to know…..by asking.

    Don’t let who you were yesterday…and didn’t like…..stop you from being who you want to be today. Live.

    Make decisions. Follow your passions. Be self-aware: know who you are, whose you are…and what you’re born for. Discover yourself.

    Write. Read. Write. Don’t stop.

    Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Stand up for what you believe in.

    Don’t worry if your friends don’t understand your point of view. Be yourself. Live.

    Be free. Even if you are a Nigerian and committed to a life of respect. Respect yourself but don’t be afraid. He’s not your father, she’s not your mother, auntie, neighbour. You can speak your mind. Respectfully. Be respectful.

    Embrace failure. That’s a good way to learn. Actively review what and were you went wrong – admit defeat then, but celebrate the learning. Courage is trying. Is attempting.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Before you ask you have a 50% chance of a yes or no. Sometimes, we think we know what the other person is thinking. Very often, we have NO idea.

    Learn about other cultures. Respect those who think differently from you. You don’t have to accept it….only respect it.

    Ask. What’s the worst answer you could receive? You might think it will be a NO but you will be stunned at the yes! I live by this principle – its changed my life. Its a great thing to learn early!!!!!

    Explore the world. Go places. Read random things. Paint…in watercolour. Write. Sing. In the shower. Learn to crochet, to bead, to collage with paper and glass. Decoupage.

    Discover spices. And world cuisines. One by one.

    Note the differences, but study the similarities. The Dutch have a version of our Nigerian puff-puff, they call them olieballen. The French call them beignets. The American have a variation called the cream puff. The Italians call them bomboloni. I could go on.

    We’re more alike than different.

    Live with a sense of wonder. We can learn from any and everyone.

    Finally Love. Yourself. And others. And the world. There’s an infinite amount of good in life to discover.

    Know when to call it quits and start afresh. I went to Uni in Naija for 3 years, was unhappy with the frequent school strikes, quit, moved to Liverpool and started from scratch. 16 years later, I remind myself of the courage I demonstrated when I was young.

    Keep an achievement list.

    Seize opportunities.

    Develop your creative side.

    Be an ambassador for Nigeria. Whatever aspect you like of who Nigeria is – food, culture, fabric, history.

    Understand your body. Know when you need to rest. Relax. Refresh.

    Fall in love with Paris. Please.

    Use your hands to craft. Braid hair, weave, embroider.

    Be young. Free. Full of courage. Hope. Wonder.


    Respect your sister 🙂



  17. aduair says

    I wish I knew I am responsible to myself only. I wanted so much to please everyone around me including my parents who paid my fees and I fell short every time.
    I wish I started my first book. Now I get so caught up in the stress in Lagos that its hard to get any inspiration.
    I wish I had broken up the relationship with my ex earlier. It would have saved me the guilt that I felt especially since I had began to know his family.
    I wish I had impacted more lives especially young ones in school who seemed lost.
    I wish… that rather than wish, I can be more grateful because I was a better person when it all ended.

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