10 Tips for Present and Future Undergraduate Students in Nigeria

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Students are not here to worship what is known but to question it.

  • Anonymous

If you believe everything you read, better not read.

  • Japanese Proverb

Your university/college days are one you will live to remember; and whether you’ll remember this stage of your life with satisfaction or regret depends on what you make of it. This is a very important stage of a young life in which the experience you create is your responsibility. As graduates out of school, looking back through school days as a student in a Higher Institution, we sometimes wish we’d known better than we did at that time. If you learn to look at things from the bright side, you‘ll understand there’s no room for regrets because everything we did and didn’t do while in school should all turn out to be profitable experiences; it’s just a matter of how you look at it. If you are a student currently in a higher institution; University, Polytechnic, or College of Education, I want to share with you a few tips that will help you have an interesting experience in school and prepare for your career after school.

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The country isn’t so fresh and graduate-friendly, and just hoping for a better life after school is not enough. They say it gets easier after school but from what we see around us, you’ll wonder how true that is. There are said to be currently over 19.7% unemployed graduates in Nigeria (I doubt the near-correctness of this figure); some taking to odd jobs just to find their daily bread, hoping for a miracle, others trying so hard to find a better life with little results. I was once in the shoes of trying to figure out what would work for me, and looking back (excluding issues with the country not making necessary provisions for fresh Nigerian graduates) things would have been a lot easier if we had laid a better foundation for ourselves during school days. History doesn’t have to repeat itself. You can always learn from those before you.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.

  • Albert Einstein

1. Choose the Right Course to Study

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

  • Carl Jung

If you ask most students in higher institutions today why they chose their course of study, most will hardly give you a reason. For some, it’s just the name; Industrial Chemistry just sounds good. Some might say a rich uncle is making a good living from the profession. For others, it’s either the profession sounds high-paying or they just don’t have a clue. An Architect friend said he chose to study Architecture because he enjoyed how an Architect he once met made and received calls while on a construction site; it just felt good watching him control things with his phone. I made similar judgments when filling out my Jamb form in 2002. I chose Petroleum Engineering because I felt it could easily grant me financial freedom once I graduated from school and got a job in an oil company, but that wasn’t such a good idea. In five years of studying petroleum engineering at the Federal University of Technology Owerri, I never saw an Oil rig (except in theory) let alone step my feet on one. Funny enough I didn’t care to. So how does that come into play; An aspiring petroleum engineer, at the time, was not enthusiastic about visiting an oil rig for once in his career. If you are a prospective undergraduate student, ask yourself; why do I want to go to the university or college? Do I care about becoming a Microbiologist? What is the point; really, in spending four to five years learning to become something I have no interest in? Do I accept to study a course hoping to fit into it? How employable or self-employable is this profession considering the economic situation in the country? How equipped are our universities to train me on this course?

Before you fill out a course choice in your Jamb form, be sure to talk to at least two professionals (online or offline) in the field. Ask them questions on what the profession involves and its applicability in the country. Research the internet and read about the field you intend to study. Whatever you have to do, just be sure you understand the details of the field you are going into before making your career choice. This is supposed to be the job of the Guidance and Counseling Office in secondary schools; to guide students in choosing the right courses to study in higher institutions, but I wonder how effective it is these days.

I read a funny story of a student who chose to study Psychiatry in school only for him to realize by his second year that what he wanted to choose was Psychology. You wouldn’t make such a mistake, would you? Choose a course to study consciously and have a reason for it. Choose the course, don’t let it choose you.

2. Make a Clear Decision for going to Higher Institution

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness…

  • Anonymous

It’s the trend. You leave secondary school; the next is to attend the university. That’s the right thing to do. But the wrong thing is to go there for the wrong reasons. I met a student recently whom, two years ago, everyone thought was in his final year at the university. When he could no longer cover his scheme, he had to confess to his parents that he was never admitted to the university in the first place. Four years had gone wasted pretending to be a university student while he was simply whiling away time on campus. When asked why he made such a silly decision, he said his friends were already in the university and he wanted to get close to school so he could easier work on his admission the following year. While having a chat with him, he confided in me that he hated staying with his parents, so wanted to be away from home. His decision simply got him four wasted years in the name of trying to gain admission to the university. Lucky for him, he has a forgiving family that accepted him for his mistakes (not without some serious scolding and you know what) and had to put the past behind him. He is now a student at a college of education in Nigeria, this time, for real and for real reasons.

I wouldn’t blame any secondary school leaver for being so excited about gaining admission to the
university. It’s about the desires that go with that age group; to leave parents and guardians and have some freedom for once with peers. Some Parents can be hindrances to growth and socialization sometimes, and I agree with that. But don’t make living at home your number one priority to get into a higher institution. If knowledge and experience are not your main reasons, it’s not worth it. Do it for the right reasons.

3. Your career after school does not revolve around your degree certificate.

I have nothing against education. But a times, education gives people false confidence. It makes people relax, trusting in their certificates rather than working hard

  • Rasaq Okoya

To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too can be president of the United States.

  •  George W. Bush

For most of us, going to a higher institution is all about graduating with good grades. Go to school study hard and graduate with an excellent result. Once you have a good result, every other thing falls into place after school. Those with a not-so-good result can go mourn their loss. But things are changing these days. The same advice that worked for your father in his days may not apply today; not in a fast-moving world. Life is much more complicated than rigid career advice. Concentrating solely on your academics is just too risky, especially with the quality of education you end up receiving in our higher institutions. Gone are the days when parents should advise their children to go to school and mind nothing but their studies. My degree certificate has never earned me a penny since I left school, but I wouldn’t say that your certificate is useless; that would be going too far and selfish of me. You need to work hard on your studies and get good grades but don’t devote the whole 4 or 5 years to doing that alone. Your certificate is worth whatever you qualify it to be worth. Employers are getting smarter. An applicant doesn’t automatically get the job because they had a better result than the other applicants. There are other required skills like communication skills, leadership strength, self-confidence, work experience, community service, etc. Possessing these skills can take you further than an excellent result can. Spend your time in school self-developing.

If after putting in your best effort, you end up with a second-class lower, you can still prove that you are worth more than a third-class citizen, it’s totally up to you. I wouldn’t have to tell stories of people with low-class grades or even drop-outs turning to employ first-class materials. Such stories are not farfetched. However even if you don’t end up employing people that did better than you did in school, you can draw strength from wanting to prove that you are worth more than that printed piece of paper and become more productive.

4. Start Making After School Plans

The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did every myself. I had to keep my overhead cost low by learning everything about a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I started from scratch.

  • Li Ka Shing

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in June 2010, unemployment in Nigeria ran at around 19.7 percent on average… and almost half of 15-24-year-olds living in urban areas were jobless. The secondary-school graduates were said to consist of the principal fraction of the unemployed, accounting for nearly 35% to 50%; 40% for the age group between 20 to 24 years, and 31% for 15 to 19 years.  As imperfect as this statistic may be, it still does not tell a good story.

An ideal student in Nigeria goes to a higher institution, fairly concentrates on his studies while having a bit of fun, and aspires to a good job after school. The question is; what if your aspiration doesn’t fall into place as hoped? There is no better time to start planning for your future than now that you are or about to get into school. One major false impression we create as students is that we still have time to prepare. You are fresh into school and four or five years seem like a long time. How bad can things get by then? Probably the Federal Government might have created 355,000 jobs by that time. That’s all wishes that may never come true in your time. Don’t wait till four or five years drain into your degree-chasing career before you start making further plans. Questions to ask; Where do I anticipate to take my profession after acquiring a bachelor’s degree? What extra skills can I blend with my course to become irresistibly employable or self-employable? How can I earn extra income as a student?

5. Combine your school course with external courses. Learn at Least one new self-employable skill outside your course of study before you graduate.

Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others
are wishing.

  • William Arthur Ward

In an assessment of reading culture among students in Nigerian tertiary institutions, it is said that 60% of students read prescribed textbooks only during the examination period; that browsing and watching television have taken most of the students’ time for reading, and that only 21% of students buy novels and self-help books to read for knowledge and pleasure. This isn’t a surprising statistic; it could be worse. Do a random questionnaire yourself; ask a few students the last time they read a book other than their course textbooks. There is indeed a steep decline rate in the reading culture among students in the tertiary institution. Other activities like partying, watching Television, playing video games, ‘aimlessly’ browsing the internet, and being a die-hard Chelsea fan; which are supposed to be secondary are taking over most of the students’ time. The best most such students would do when things don’t go as wished is find redemption in blaming the government and the Nigerian Society for their demise. This is where most current graduates begin their plan for frustration after school. They thought it was all about the certificate. Don’t make that mistake. During your four or five-year period of study, there are a series of holidays and breaks in between. Devote this time to learning a new skill; Computer programming, web design, Java, Oracle, digital photography, video editing, sewing, fish/poultry/snail farming, etc. Read how-to books, and attend Language schools teaching foreign languages like French, Spanish, and Chinese. The internet has made it easier for one to learn and know about anything at little or no cost. My source of income today is based on the self-education I gained on the Internet. I wasn’t fortunate to have somebody telling me some of the things you are reading on this page.

So I spent my years in school learning a course I was not interested in and not seriously learning an extra skill. The effect was evident after my graduation. While in school, I read books on self-development and the like but that wasn’t enough. You need more than theoretical books. Go practical, look for something that has the possibility of working out, and give it your best shot, while still minding your school work. Time shouldn’t be the problem because as students we spend a lot of our time doing unproductive things already. Luckily for me, it’s never too late to start. I started learning about the internet and how to use it to do business and make a living. I made a lot of mistakes on trial and error without a guide. Today I’m making a fairly good living online and offline with my initial start-up originating from the internet. I now devote my time to learning new things and helping people. There’s no shortcut, you need to start equipping yourself now. By sitting and reading this article, you are already taking a positive step; one that very few take. The importance of a good reading culture cannot be over-emphasized. It enhances the chances of success at school and beyond.  Reading is not just for school but mainly for lifetime growth. Reading to self-develop is a better thing.

6. Take more Actions and Worry less

You never will be the person you can be if pressure, tension, and discipline are taken out of your life.

  • Dr. James G. Bilkey

One silly mistake we make as students is spending most time worrying about our grades. “Oh, each time I remember that carry-over my heart skips”. “Oh, how am I going to pass this lecturer’s course”? You end up getting programmed to worry and wasting your energy rather than taking action to make sure whatever you fear never happens. I can vividly remember several students who found themselves involved in academic-related problems that seemed almost impossible to overcome. Today they are somewhere living their lives. One way or the other the problems were solved. Whatever problems you encounter in your school days, there’ll always be a way out. Someday, the problem will be solved and it won’t kill you. You just have to try as much as you can to work towards a solution rather than spend your days in misery. If you so fear carry over, read to avoid them. If you already have a carryover, you can’t change that can you? Except your scores were wrongly graded and you want justice, a carry-over is not the end of your career. Even after you have done your best, stuffs happen on campus and you don’t meet your goal. You may encounter lousy lecturers, fall sick during a test or exam, or just have a not-so-nice week. Think of managing the situation as a great college experience. Amid the situation, imagine what it’ll be like to tell stories of how you triumphed over that sexist lecturer, or how you overcame extra unit loads from carry-overs. Sometimes you win, and other times you learn. That’s just the way it is, even in the outside world after school. The point is, to take more actions to solve your school problems than worry. Think of it as one of those things.

7. Don’t get caught in the System

Your imagination, my dear fellow, is worth more than you imagine.

  • Louis Aragon

The focus and objectives of education originally were to develop natural talents to produce
skilled manpower and generate knowledge necessary to improve the economy of the country; to inspire and enable individuals to develop capabilities to the highest possible level so that they can grow intellectually and contribute effectively to society. How well do our higher institutions fit into these objectives?

Our university system of education is just so demeaning. The system is designed in such a way that you just have to wait in a queue. If you could master it in two years, you still have to take the slow pace and wait till four. You waste your first year relearning what you’re already done with in secondary school. You may say that the longer years help mold the students to become professionals. Professionals at what? That is a look at the lives of great entrepreneurs of our time. If you care to read through, here is an interesting article with a list of Successful School Dropout Entrepreneurs; an interesting article, I must say but I would not advise you to drop out of school. Ask the employers. Most of our fresh graduate employees still have to go through graduate training programs before they can take on their jobs effectively. So what are we doing in higher institutions for four to five years?

A friend told me a story of two graduate mechanical engineers who attended an interview at a Scottish company here in Nigeria, where he was working at the time as a contract staff. Both applicants neatly dressed in their ties and suits, were hoping to have a debate session for an interview. The Scottish manager, dissatisfied with their dress code asked if they were “Theory” or “Practical” Engineers, and invited them to return for an interview the next day in the right dress code for the job, to show seriousness. They showed up the next day in T-shirts, Jeans, and Safety boots ready to defend their degree. In their disappointment, the Scottish manager took them to a machine room and asked them to couple a machine and make it work. He left them with the manual to get to work. After two long days of disappointment, they could not perform their magic on the piece of equipment, even with the manual. It was a practical interview which they failed to deliver. Right in their presence, an apprentice school drop-out did a few tricks on the machine, and in thirty minutes, it was ready for production. As you would already guess, they lost at the interview.

What then should I do? I’m not encouraging you to drop out of school. No, I’m not. I’m telling you to believe more in yourself than in the system. I’m telling you to reread Point Number 4 and 5.

8. Manage your Time. It’s Precious

I’m not afraid of turning 80 and I have lots of things to do. I don’t have time for dying.

  • Ingvar Kamprad

Some lecturers are lousy. I remember having stiff fingers copying notes from one of our lecturers those days. This guy does nothing but dictate notes, while we the students do nothing but write down his notes. The worst path is that he takes attendance of students in almost every one of his classes. His lectures were the most boring and annoying I’ve ever had. What do you do about such lousy lecturers? At first, I wanted to dish his classes to the trash and read up the material that I downloaded from the internet, but because he takes attendance, and did not know how seriously he’d take the list, I had to be present. For other such lecturers, I mostly don’t attend their classes. I’d rather be having a nap or just hanging out. As for the note-dictating lecturer, I later decided to use his time to either read the material or be dumb from the back seat. At the end of the class, I’ll borrow a note from a coursemate and make a photocopy of it to compare with my downloaded material. If you find your time being wasted by such lecturers, get a copy of the previous notes, go to the internet, and search for the source of information (most of such lecturers download these materials from the internet or textbooks. They are often too lazy to create their examples or even rephrase the texts). Download a full copy of the available material. Buy it if you have to. When next he comes to read the news for the day, gets busy reading up from the material from the back seat. From time to time, look up to see if he has something worth noting to say. That way, you discard the feelings of your time being wasted. Above all decide how you want to use up your time. Being in every single class will not guarantee you an A. Also, be on alert for unprecedented lectures and tests.

9. Invest your energy where it’s worth it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously permit other people to do the same. As we’re liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

  • Marianne Williamson

Let’s face it, some academic stuff we learn in school is not worth the time. Some classes will rather drain you psychologically than add to your knowledge. They are just pointless courses with large abstract materials to read. You’d rather be reading stories of arrogant politicians from the national dailies. Some lectures should be taken more seriously than the other. In my school days, there were courses I only attended classes once a semester and read the material two weeks before the exam. I still passed the courses anyway, and have no regret whatsoever not devoting so much time to them. I wouldn’t advise you to follow that step. We all have different learning speeds and abilities. Towards the end of my stay at the university, I began to realize that the major reason for my attitude towards my academics all the while was because I made a blind choice of course. Nothing particularly drove me into studying Petroleum engineering except for the fact that I learned that people who work in oil companies are highly paid, so I wanted a high-paying field of profession. It’ll feel good to be addressed “Engr. Iyke”. Your motivation towards choosing a course of study will greatly determine how much effort you put into it along the way. Well unless you go with the intention that “it’s my academics or nothing else, whether it interests me or not”. For some classes, it’s necessary to attend as you’ll have something new and useful to learn, for others you just need to get the notes and textbook and read them up. If you want to take this path, be sure to use your time for something useful and not just be out of class for conformity reasons. Use this time to rest your nerves, do assignments, cook your meal, be with friends, or just be involved in some activity.

10.  Create a Memorable School-days Experience

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

  • Helen Keller

While striving to leave school with a good qualification and adding more skills to your resume, you also need to have fun and create wonderful campus experiences. Rather than spend all your time on academic stuff, add some flavor to your college experience with extra-curricular activities. Join sports clubs, societies, and fellowships; Take a leadership role if you are opportune; just explore. Think of it all as part of your education. Feel free to make mistakes and learn from them. I’m not talking about becoming a nuisance in school all in the name of being adventurous or stooping so low to practice cultism. These are totally out of the question and totally self retarding. College days lost can never be recovered. There are opportunities for self-improvement you find on campus that you can never come across after school. Make the best of your time while it lasts.


These are a few tips I have for current and aspiring undergraduate students to make the best out of their stay in higher institutions and get prepared for the life that awaits them after school. What more tips would you like to add? What are your reactions, suggestions, and comments on these tips? We are all eager to hear your opinion on the comment below.

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  • Ikenna Odinaka C. is a Writer, Career Development Professional, Entrepreneur, Educator and Investor. He is the founder of AfterschoolAfrica.com, AfterSchoolMedia.com and Edxtra.com. He has also co-founded other businesses in Education, technology and media industry. He is passionate about the future of work, entrepreneurship and helping young people explore opportunities to develop their financial capability. You can read his best content on AfterSchoolMedia.com and watch his insightful videos on YouTube

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