8 Ideas for University Student Leaders

Today I had the opportunity to address 300 incoming student leaders of residences at the Australian National University (ANU). As an ANU alumnus, I was asked to return to speak about my experience establishing Raising Hope Education Foundation and provide the students with advice for 2016.

After sharing the incredible academic journeys friends Helen Baxendale and Josiah Khor, I provided the following ideas for those present to reflect on.

1) Actively consider how you live you life.

The most successful people I have met are those who know their values and have have deliberately chosen to live their life in a certain way. Many go to the gym, regularly read new books, volunteer and attend events that give them new ideas or challenge their perceptions. While everyone is different, understanding who you are and actively choosing to live your life in accordance with your values is an important part of being prepared for leadership.

2) Look for your next step today.

By establishing plans and goals for the future, students can give themselves concrete reasons to be at university. If you can’t find one, it might be time to genuinely think about why you are at university and if it’s the right place for you to be.

3) Be conscious of your time – it is precious.

One of my former bosses once told me ‘time is our most precious commodity, you can’t buy it. Even the richest person alive craves more time.’ By being aware of this and using the time we have more effectively, all people can improve their leadership.

4) Complete your readings and attend lectures, but don’t be afraid of skipping a few.

Something I struggled with at university was attending lectures and ensuring I read required articles before attending tutorials. While some of the opportunities I had meant it was ‘worth it’ to skip the occasional lecture, I should have been far more diligent. Because of this, I didn’t get the most out of the academic side of ANU. A first class university requires students to be well-read and ready to engage in high-level dialogue. Unless you’ve done the readings and attended lectures, it’s difficult to make this happen.

5) Seek out ideas you disagree with.

One of my favourite memories of time at ANU is the discussions I had with those I disagreed with. From political issues to religion, having an open and respectful dialogue with people who held different opinions made me a much better person.

6) Be an active contributor to campus life.

Universities are inspiring places where students can take part in a diverse range of  extra-curricular opportunities and give back to their community. Actively participating in campus activities ensures a better university experience for yourself and others around you.

7) Get to know the awesome that is Canberra.

Living in the bubble of on-campus accommodation at ANU can limit your contact with the ‘real’ Canberra. While some students venture out into the deep South or North, many miss out on the local magic. From walks around Lake Burley Griffin, hikes in our local national parks, or visit the great local bookshops, exploring Canberra is a must for any ANU student.

8) Build relationships for life. 

Students should seek out real and long-lasting friendships. ANU is an incredible place full of opportunities to meet genuinely passionate and inspiring young people. Utilising this time to meet ‘your people’ who share a similar passion for life should be number one on this list, but left to last so that it was hopefully the most memorable part of my presentation.

Finally, similar to friendships, university is an incredible time to search for love. While many students, including myself, tried and failed to find love while at ANU, it is a noble goal nonetheless.

I hope that all students of ANU continue to share in the incredible journeys it has to offer, both now and well into the future.


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