Hard (job specific) and soft (transferrable) skills often get the most attention and while they're incredibly important, especially in terms of your future career, life skills are equally as valuable although they're frequently overlooked
Diane Appleton, head of careers and employability at the University of Chester explains 'the university experience is not just about subject knowledge, but also about developing skills that will equip you for your future life. You'll develop these skills both within the curriculum, in the context of your subject, and through extra-curricular activities and events.
Developing a holistic student experience is not just about employability, but also about making the most of your time at university, developing the skills needed to be involved in university life and feeling a sense of belonging within the university community that will equip you for your lifelong personal and career journey.'
It's impossible to graduate from university without a raft of people skills under your belt. During your studies you'll meet new people, make new friends and learn to get along with people from different backgrounds. You'll also interact with lecturers, tutors and university staff almost daily. Making the most of freshers week and joining a club or society are easy ways to quickly acquire skills in this area. If you have a part-time job you'll pick up people skills there too.
When it comes to flatmates or housemates you're thrown in at the deep end - more often than not (especially in your first year) you'll live with people you've never met before. Navigating this - bonding with certain flatmates, while learning to tolerate and compromise with others - provides a wealth of people and social skills.
Responsibility and self-motivation
It's likely that university is the first time you've lived away from home. It's also probably the fist time that you've had to take responsibility for yourself and your own schedule. This can be a bit of a shock at first - with no parent there to wake you up in the morning and insist you get out of bed, getting to lectures and seminars on time can be a bit of a challenge. Assuming that responsibility is another life lesson that university teaches you.
As is self-motivation. A lot of university study is self-directed - it's up to you to plan and organise your work, juggle multiple projects and manage deadlines. Writing essays, completing dissertations and revising for exams all require self-motivation, as does fulfilling work commitments and social engagements. By the time you graduate your student experience should have given you enough 'get up and go' to see you through your working life.
David Gilani, head of student engagement and advocacy at Middlesex University says 'we talk a lot with students about the idea of leadership and that starts with self-leadership. We encourage students to take ownership of the way that they engage in their studies, but this doesn't mean that we just leave students to work it out on their own.
From accessible staff members to our raft of student support services, we're there to provide that supportive environment that gives students the confidence to be leaders. I think those self-leadership skills then reverberate into all aspects of students' lives, which helps them to develop important skills beyond the classroom.'
All that responsibility can weigh heavy though, so if you're struggling read about 5 ways to manage student stress.
How to look after yourself
The biggest life skill university teaches you is undoubtedly self-sufficiency. As a student living away from home you'll learn how to cook, clean and do your washing. As well as domestic chores you'll figure out how to get around on your own (in the absence of mum's taxi) and how to fund your lifestyle now the bank of dad is closed.
The level of independence afforded by student life is one of its main draws and while some take to it well, others need more time to adjust. Find out what to do if you feel homesick.
This is another essential life skill and by the time you finish university you'll be a pro at it. Throughout your studies you'll have to deal with a number of financial concerns such as tuition fees, student loans, rent, bills, living costs, social outgoings and travel expenses. As a result you'll often operate on a tight budget. Knowing how to manage your money and balance your incomings against your outgoings is a skill you pick up along the way.
For tips on saving, student banking and dealing with debt see saving money as a student.
How to overcome obstacles
Whether academic, work related or personal you'll face your fair share of hurdles as a student. Maybe you get a lower than expected mark for an important piece of work, perhaps you have to deal with a less than understanding boss in your part-time job or maybe you have to battle against mental health or money struggles. Without the shelter of your family you'll have to stand on your own two feet, although help is always there is you ask for it.
Resourcefulness and resilience are two excellent qualities that university life teaches you. Both of which are highly valued by employers.
Organisation and time management
If you were a bit unorganised before you went to university you won't be by the time you leave. To successfully navigate student life you'll need to handle a variety of study, work, social and personal commitments and the only way to do this is with organisation and time management.
Alongside your course you’ll learn how to manage deadlines, balance work and study, schedule time for extracurricular activities and fit in time for yourself. No mean feat.
Kasha, student at Middlesex University believes that university life has helped her to develop skills regarding prioritising tasks and breaking them down. 'Setting goals has helped me to stay motivated and on track with my work. I have used a diary and post-it notes for important reminders and for setting times. I now have an understanding of when I work best, which is in the mornings.'
University provides a myriad of opportunities to work on and boost your confidence. Academically speaking you'll work in groups, host presentations, complete work placements and internships, attend careers fairs and maybe even stand for student election.
The social side of university life offers up many more. Parties, pub outings, student nights, summer BBQs and joining a club or society all help to bring you out your shell.
Even the most introverted of students will leave university more confident than when they started.
Find out more
- Read more about university life.