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How resilience helped me make it to the uni finish line

By Xavier 22 Apr 2019
Smiling USQ graduate surrounded by friends.

Have you ever felt like dropping out of university? I know I have. I have been studying at USQ since 2013, and it has been quite the journey. I first completed the Tertiary Preparation Program, before transferring to a Bachelor of Arts degree. I found that studying arts was not for me, so I transferred to a five-year dual-degree bachelor program in engineering and business and I am currently in my final semester. Needless to say, studying at university has been a long road for me, with many twists, turns and hurdles to overcome. 

According to the Australian Government, only 64.4% of students who commenced university in 2012 at a bachelor level completed their degree within six years. This could be for all sorts of reasons, such as financial hardship. I know, from personal experience, that it can be difficult to focus on your studies when you are worried about paying the bills. However, staying motivated over the span of time it takes to complete a degree is an ongoing struggle many students face, and staying motivated becomes even more challenging when combined with other difficulties.

Studying at university has been a rewarding and challenging experience for me, with its fair share of triumphs and unexpected hardships. I would like to share some advice that has helped me make it to my final semester and increase my resilience along the way.

1. Study a program you are genuinely interested in

Are you studying a program that you are genuinely interested in? If I had not changed from the Bachelor of Arts degree I was originally enrolled in, I probably would have dropped out of university years ago. Extrinsic motivation only lasts for so long and completing a university degree takes years. If you find a subject area that you are interested in, you will find it easier to tap into the motivation you need to keep going. You will feel like you are working towards a meaningful goal. Don’t be scared to make that jump.

2. Get involved in the university

I have found that one of the most rewarding parts of university has been getting involved in a wide range of extra-curricular activities. This could involve anything from joining different clubs, to doing volunteer work, to serving on the Student Representative Committee. Engaging in extra-curricular activities has allowed me to perform a wide range of university-related activities that I enjoy and given me a sense of community. Staff are always happy to talk to students, and I built great relationships with them (and shared quite a few silly puns I’ve thought of). 

What has this got to do with resilience? 

When I first started studying, I found it to be an isolating experience, and did not feel like I was contributing much to society. This made me feel like dropping out of university. Engaging in extra-curricular activities has shown me that the student experience can be so much more than just academic learning. Enriching my university experience in this way has helped me enjoy being a student. As a result, I no longer feel like dropping out and leaving my studies behind. 

3. Work in an area that is relevant to what you are studying

If you are working in an area relevant to what you are studying, it will help keep that motivation to study alive. You will be able to see how what you are studying is applicable to the real world and the career outcomes of what you are studying. If you are unsure about how to find work that is relevant to your study, book an appointment with the USQ Careers and Employability team

In the past I have been able to apply principles from my degree program to my employment. For example, while working as a project management assistant for a small engineering research company, I was able to apply principles I had learned in a project management subject to write a project management plan. I have also learned about concepts in engineering through work that I later studied academically. I believe this helped me to succeed in some subjects. Working in an area that is relevant to my study, and seeing how my academic studies are relevant to the real world, has really helped motivate me to finish my degree. 

4. Get into a routine

Sometimes, one of the difficulties students face is completing the study itself. You may have other commitments, be prone to procrastination, or have difficulty understanding some subjects. Balancing study and other commitments such as work can be tricky, and it may be that your circumstances will change over time while you are completing your degree. 

Get into a routine of study that suits your current schedule. This can be difficult to do, but once you consistently put the time in, it can become easier. Another benefit of getting into a routine is that you avoid the stress of worrying about when you are going to study or engage in other commitments. 

If you have recently started studying at USQ, then three years of study (or however long your program is) may sound like forever. Even if you’re halfway through, you may be lacking the motivation to keep going. I can guarantee – from experience – that time will go faster than you expect, so make the most of being a student. Embrace this opportunity, as it will help develop your resilience and prepare you for your future career. 

For more information on how to develop your personal resilience at uni, at work or in life generally so that you can keep moving towards your goals no matter what challenges you experience along the way, read this blog by HR executive Cathy.

Australian Government, Department of Education and Training (2017). Completion rates – Cohort analyses. Retrieved from 

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