Four pillars of success start on campus

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Young women can boost career options and connections alongside degree study.

Research undertaken at Sydney’s Macquarie University has found that sustained engagement with campus life has a profound effect on students’ ability to succeed in academia and, ultimately, increase the odds of being employed once they graduate.
University offers life-changing experiences, but intellectual development is just the starting point.
A student’s time at uni also helps with the development of critical social and emotional soft skills that enhance the chances of success academically and in the workplace.

As part of the research, around 1000 undergraduates were surveyed and interviewed about their uni experience. The research found that the key to success at uni and in the workplace was dependent on how much time and energy was committed to the development of four key pillars of student engagement and success: discovery, action, connection and aspiration.
Knowledge and intellectual development are, of course, the very reasons for attending university. The discipline-specific skills gained will offer a sense of confidence and conviction in your life direction and these skills equip you for future employment.
Learning requires a focused effort to sustain motivation especially during the early stages when transition to uni life is new. The workload is demanding and it is essential to plan and organise your time and activities to achieve a high grade.
There is no substitute for hard work and challenging interaction – attending lectures, workshops and tutorials. Take responsibility for your learning, as you get out what you put in. We found that the more students invested in their learning, the more they felt a sense of achievement in their journey of intellectual growth and discovery.

One of the best aspects of uni is the opportunity to live a student lifestyle and get involved in campus activities. Although the idea of combining study with extra-curricular activities may seem overwhelming, engaging in uni life will enrich educational experience and strengthen confidence and self-esteem.
Employers are not just looking for grade point averages. They are also looking for well-rounded graduates who not only excel academically, but who demonstrate leadership, responsibility and organisational citizenship.
Our research found that participation enhances CVs and makes graduates more employable.
Sign up to student societies, study and sports groups. Develop your leadership potential by joining student governance committees and self-development programs. Take the opportunity to attend expert industry speaker and networking events.

“Develop your leadership potential by joining student governance committees and self-development programs.”

Professor Jana Bowden

Meeting new people and making friendships, especially in the first year, plays a large part in shaping the uni experience. Making an effort to connect with others early on can provide a sense of belonging, camaraderie and being ‘‘in it together’’.
However, relationship building is not just about making friends; it is about creating a robust network with people who can help you to succeed. These networks provide greater meaning in your study, work and life, and support the ideation and incubation of ideas. They will also strengthen your ‘‘soft skills’’, which are essential when entering the workforce. Spend time connecting socially and professionally and you will graduate with a ready-made set of supportive networks to assist you to succeed beyond university.


The transition to uni is a journey replete with feelings of excitement, inspiration, aspiration and optimism. It is a new phase of life, change, growth and development as you discover more about who you are and what you want to be.
There will be times during uni when you feel overwhelmed and worried. It might be about an assignment, your choice of program or career. But remember to enjoy the experience and relax, celebrate milestones, achievements and goals. Most of all, enjoy the process of discovering new ideas and perspectives.
Of the four pillars of student success, ‘‘aspiration’’ was the most critical factor in determining student happiness, transformative growth and employability. So grab new experiences with both hands because, in the end, uni is what you make of it.

Jana Bowden is Chair of Ethics and an Associate Professor of Consumer Behaviour at Macquarie University Business School.

Period7 Mar 2020

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