9 Skills you gain from University

Summer is a time of mixed emotions for 3rd/4th years finishing their degree.

First comes joy, no more essays or exams EVER and graduation week is set to be a blast; a week of partying with all your mates – what could be better?

Second comes upset, life as a student is over. You can no longer justify getting up at midday and partying 4 times a week. You might never live again in the place that you’ve called home for the past 3 years and all your friends are now at opposite ends of the country.

Third comes sheer fear. You’ve been dodging for years the inevitable questions of “What are your plans after you graduate?” “Do you have a job?” Suddenly it’s time to have an answer and the thought of future plans is exciting, daunting and quite terrifying. How do you apply for jobs when you have no clue what you want to do?! Some people have it all planned out, but a lot of us don’t.

So now what?

Well fear not, over 3 years you will have acquired a vast amount of skills that make you desirable to any company that you set your sights on. You’ve paid £9000 a year for more than just a bit of paper. Even if you studied a specialised degree, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t developed skills that are transferable into all industries. Having studied a rather niche degree myself (law in two different jurisdictions and a French masters in European law), I surprised myself when I considered my own competencies.

For those of you struggling, I’ve compiled a list of 9 skills that university has enabled me to develop, all of which can be broadly applied:

#1. Organisation.

It’s a full time job managing to fit in all your lectures, reading lists, essays, going out with friends and playing your favourite sport or taking part in your favourite society. Balancing numerous assignments is one thing, but you can’t neglect your social side because 1) it’s boring being a hermit and 2) future employers want to see that you can bring something to their company other than academic skills – having interests makes you interesting.

For me, the best way to organise myself is to make numerous “to do” lists linking to my iCal. I have continued this practice into my internship with Upstreamly, which has not only been useful for Amir to know what has been done, but I can also refer back to it when updating my CV.

#2. Ability to cope under pressure

This skill, more often than not, relies on organisation. Say what you will about students, but when it comes to deadlines and exam season, we work hard and we are put under a lot of pressure. It’s a steep learning curve; you have to adapt very quickly to handle the work that lands on your lap usually all at once.

I thought I knew what hard work and pressure was until I did my masters in France. That amount of pressure and work at the time was synonymous with the feeling of being on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean…Yes that sounds a bit OTT but it’s true. Nevertheless I got the work done, I passed and now I know how much pressure I can really handle! So when in the first week of my internship Amir said “I want a new website, go build one” I wasn’t phased.

#3. Research and Evaluation

The majority of degrees require even the minimum amount of research of topics and the evaluation of your findings. By the end of your degree it’s so much like second nature that you probably don’t even realise how good you are at it.

#4. Analytical Skills


Whether it’s a science or a humanities degree, you will do some form of analysis, whether that be of data, opinions, books or legislation. Lecturers don’t want you to believe everything you read or see; they want you to question pretty much everything. This equally becomes second nature and you’re sent off into the world being inquisitive, informed and well-rounded graduates, having been exposed to a diverse range of ideas and mediums.

#5. Communication Skills

These skills come in both written and oral form. Most degrees require some form of written assignment and/or oral presentation over the course of the 3 years. University makes you articulate and persuasive, two pretty formidable traits for the future.

#6. Adapting to New Environments

It may not feel like a skill, but when you turn up to university as an innocent little fresh (slang for a 1st Year), you have to instantly adapt to the new environment – make new friends, remember your way around the city or campus and live without having your parents do everything for you. What is even tougher is going abroad for a year; experiencing a new city, culture, language and system. Both can be daunting at first but once you’ve mastered it you can adapt to anything life throws at you.

#7. Teamwork

Universities like giving students group projects and presentations to help build teamwork skills. These can be the most stressful tasks because you rely on other people to do work that counts towards your degree and inevitably you get stuck with that irritating person who does NOTHING and disagrees with EVERYTHING. You learn to compromise and work together – even if you vow to never speak to them again afterwards.

#8. Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

In the first year of university you are put in a flat with complete strangers who become your best friends within a week. It’s happy days until second year arrives and suddenly you have to be an adult, sort out your own living arrangements and deal with the dreaded utility bills. There’s always one person who complains of being cold and puts the heating on, whilst only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Heat = money, so put a jumper on!!

You learn to discuss issues without WW3 ensuing and reach a compromise. This will stand you in good stead when you meet people in the working world who differ from your opinion or are just difficult.

#9. Dedication

You should be proud to have graduated from your university with a great degree and with long-lasting friendships. Not everyone makes it to this point and not everyone gets that good result. It’s the people who are dedicated and persevere who achieve that ultimate goal – donning a gown and wearing a hat that looks awful on just about everyone.


So there you go, my 9 transferable skills that university has given me.

I’d love it if those who have enjoyed this blog could comment below with #10. What’s another skill that you learnt from going to university? Or what do you find that your graduate employees have which make them a great candidate?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, if only to put them on my own CV!!

* Olivia, 22, Bachelor of Laws in Law (European) with Maitrise en Droit from the University of Exeter.

3 thoughts on “9 Skills you gain from University

  1. 10. To be able to use your initiative in the workplace and by using your 1-9 skills to effect positive change

  2. 10. Creativity – generate new ideas, research topics or methods by thinking outside the box, making connections, and maybe approaching things a bit differently!

  3. Great article Liv! My number 10. Responsibility – Leaving home and living at university teaches you responsibility and respect. Living away from home teaches you many things as simple as paying your utility bills on time, doing your fair share of cleaning in the shared accommodation e.g. washing your dishes after you eat out of courtesy and respect to your house mates. Booking cheapest train tickets/ flights back home during breaks, buying your food and drink economically, finding a part time job and managing your general expenditure / student loan. Basically taking responsibility over your budget to survive the year with minimal debts. These sound very basic but a very important life skill.

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