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Dos and don'ts for university students keen on success

By Kalangi Kiambati | Nov 4th 2021 | 3 min read

The University of Nairobi towers [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Dear student, congratulations on your admission to university or college.

If you ever doubted your potential, let this admission remind you that you are bright and have the potential to achieve anything you set your mind to. For many of you, this is the first step towards your future career. I hope that you are undertaking a course you are passionate about. By now, you must have noticed a few ‘unusual’ things, the most obvious one, perhaps, being that you are not in school uniform.

You also have a lot more freedom than you have hitherto known – there is no time keeper here and your class prefect, dining hall/dormitory captain and teacher on duty is you. You probably have your own ‘house’ outside campus and away from the prying eyes of your parents/guardians. You are each in charge of your own conduct and have the choice to prioritise what you deem important.

I know on most days you would rather be out about town exploring the ‘You Only Live Once’ mantra than listen to some random person go on and on about theories of some thing or the other. This is even more exciting for those of you who have recently turned 18 and can now legally ‘do stuff’. Although you will expectedly find this quite fascinating and liberating, the new-found freedom will also potentially drive you down a path of self-destruction if you do not use it well.

Choose your friends well. You most probably will have to choose a new best friend from among the many new diverse personalities you now have to deal with. Do not be in a hurry to fit in but rather take your time to study your new colleagues. Remember you are unique and have unique goals and aspirations. Make friends with wise, rather than just popular people.

Use your free time to learn a new skill. In between classes, and to keep yourself productive, consider learning a new skill. There are many useful things to learn around campus. You could, for example, learn how to turn a hobby into an income-generating activity and make some money for upkeep. Make good use of the free internet to build a portfolio that will come in handy as you transition from college to work.

Keep in touch with home. Call your parents/guardians often. Keep your family updated on what is happening in college. Share your frustrations and/or excitements with them and seek counsel when you feel lost. Your family loves you and are the only people who have your best interest at heart.

Remember not all that glitters is gold. The pressure to keep up with your peers is immense here. You will need to hold on strongly to your values to survive. But most importantly, beyond knowledge, you need wisdom. There are many unscrupulous ways to earn a luxurious living while on campus.

While it is common and commendable to find successful entrepreneurs in college, do not blindly follow your seemingly well-to-do peers unless you can confirm that their lifestyles are funded by legitimate businesses. Have responsible fun and find a healthy balance between work and play. Attend all your classes and sit all your exams or you will soon chase me down a hallway saying ‘excuse me, mwalimu, they say I cannot graduate because I have a missing mark’.

Dr Kalangi is a communication trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University

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