I remember walking into my first day of university, bursting with excitement, a little bit nervous, and so very naive. After braving through stressful exam periods, writing essays full of thousands of words and sitting through confusing and, often pointless, lectures, I have looked back and thought about all the things I know now after graduating that I wished I knew three or four years ago.

Could things have worked out differently? Could I have been better off?

Here are five things some former students wished they knew when they started their degree.

It is important to get some experience ASAP 

Your teachers will tell you, your parents will tell you, and you will be telling yourself when you’re struggling to get a job after uni. Getting some experience before you graduate is crucial. There’s only so much you can learn from your degree, and simply having one cannot guarantee you a job.

Start with some internships or unpaid work experience programs that are in line with what you want to do when you leave. It’s not only a great way to gain some invaluable experience, but you can also see if your chosen industry is the right place for you. Hopefully you’ll be doing things that relate to your course (not busy getting coffees for your boss) and gaining skills that you will use later in your career.

It's okay to change your mind

If you’re in the middle of your course and you know you’re not enjoying it, you don’t have to finish it. Even though you are convinced to use your post-school pathway as you finish Year 12, you can change your mind as you get older. Some people may change courses, while others may change universities.

I know a few people that found other opportunities that don’t require a university degree. They stand by the belief that leaving university to take on these opportunities was the best decision they ever made. If you’re unsure what you want, defer for a year. Get a full-time job elsewhere, or use this time to travel. If you’re plans don’t work out, you can always go back.

You don’t have to go to lectures to pass your course

Going to lectures is optional at most universities because, thanks to the wonders of today’s technology, they’re all up online. It might surprise you to know that most people don’t attend any of their lectures after the first couple. You can get a grasp of your content by checking out the lecture slides in your own time, alongside your weekly readings and tutorials, rather than being talked at for an hour.

If you’re wondering how you can productively fill the space in your schedule, we’ve provided a bunch of more helpful alternatives you could do instead.

Your time management skills need to be on point

Being a university student means a lot more freedom. You’re not bound to a classroom for six hours like you were as a school kid. You run your own schedule. This being said, you won’t have a lot of free time to play with.

University students are most likely in class for at least eight hours a week, plus putting in your study and working a part-time job. If you’re serious about what you’re doing, you probably also have to slot in a internship or two. That can become a little overwhelming. Create a schedule so you can keep on top of everything, and don’t forget to allow yourself some down time.

Party as hard as you study

You work hard for your grades. You deserve to celebrate the stress is all over. The three or four years that you’re at uni are supposed to be the best years of your life. Don’t waste them sitting at your desk.

Take some time out to hang out with your friends. That being said, please take care while you’re out having a great time. You don’t want to see any photos of yourself in questionable situations floating around the internet. If you can find them, a future employer is most likely to find them too.

If you are still studying, or starting very soon, consider it lucky that you found this before you graduate. You can now take these precious pieces of advice and use them to give yourself the best chance for success.