University life is a huge learning curve for a lot of people, and not just in the academic sense. Aside from everything your lecturers will teach you from the syllabus, there are many other things you’ll learn while studying for a degree.

The skills and competencies you’ll learn in your student years will set you up for life, and will certainly prove useful in a number of situations. Here are five of the most important non-academic things you will learn while studying in higher education.

1. How to manage your time effectively

When you’re studying at university, it’s likely that you’ll be juggling several different commitments. On top of your studies, you might have a part-time job to help cover the rent; if you’re a mature student, you may have a family to look after. Plus of course, there’s a social aspect of your life to maintain.

Those with busy schedules at university will have to get used to organising and managing their time effectively. Time management is essential for organising your free time, meeting deadlines, and making sure you get time to fit the fun stuff in.

Figuring out how to manage your time effectively while at university will help you in the long run, no matter what career path you choose.

2. How to communicate with different types of people

At university, you will have to deal with many different people. From friends and acquaintances, to lecturers and professionals from the outside world, you will be expected to judge how best to communicate with people on varying levels.

Once you start work, you will be expected to deal with everyone you encounter in a professional manner, regardless of whether you like or dislike them; university is a great place to start getting into this mind set.

Not only will you learn how to communicate with people using different communication styles as you progress through higher education, you’ll also pick up other communication skills along the way, such as presentation, teamwork, and negotiation. 

3. How to take care of your personal finances

Unless you’re a mature student, it’s likely that university life will be your first real taste of independence - and with that independence comes the responsibility of managing your own money.

If you have access to limited funds throughout your student years, it’s important that you get to grips with budgeting in order to make your money last as long as it needs to. Affording a decent lifestyle while paying out for rent, bills and other necessities will probably lead to some penny pinching – if you’re someone who already spends more than they should, university is a good place to start tightening the reigns.

Limiting the money you allow yourself to spend will always be difficult to start with, but once you get into the routine, it should get easier. It’s certainly a skill you’ll be grateful in the long.

4. How to motivate yourself

University is very different to school – it’s entirely up to you whether you attend your timetabled classes or not. On some days, it will probably take a large dose of self-motivation to get yourself out of bed and ready in time for your 9am lecture.

As well as this, it’s likely that you’ll have several assigned self-study hours, and perhaps a lot of free time, too. In order to stay on top of your workload, you’re going to have to stay self-motivated; there won’t be anyone there to make sure you’re getting things done – that’s entirely down to you.

There are several ways to keep yourself motivated, the best of which is to give yourself incentives along the way, for example, when you reach a certain target (say, 1000 words of an essay), give yourself a couple of hours off to do something you enjoy.

5. What you want from life

Some people go to university not really knowing what they want from life, hoping that it will offer them some sense of direction.

When you start university, you may have a vague idea of what career path you wish to follow. Studying your chosen subject further should help you decide what it is exactly that you want to do after your course has come to an end. Perhaps you’ll find an area you wish to specialise in, or a certain industry speaker may inspire you to want to work for a particular company.

Whatever shape or form your direction comes in, you’re likely to leave university more certain of what you want to do with your life than when you started.