As a graduate who came very close to finishing with a first class in engineering, I can easily identify errors that cost students the prestigious first class degree. I made one or two of these mistakes. Over the span of five years that I spent in the university, I saw lots of people make the same mistakes outlined here. Many brilliant students start with the initial dream of graduating with a first class, only to end up struggling to even finish with a 2.1. Obtaining a first class takes a great deal of hardwork, consistency, intelligence but most importantly discipline. Commit these errors and your chances of getting a first class will be very slim if not nil.
1. Womanizing – This is not about having a committed girlfriend in school which can even be very distracting. This is referring to keeping strings of girlfriends while in school, or pursuing anything in skirt. I am not speaking for or against womanizing in school. But womanizing is the quickest way of ensuring that your dream of graduating with a first class vanishes into thin air as your attention towards your academic studies will be greatly divided.
2. Not starting well – Except UNIBEN which notably operates CGPA system that is based on percentage depending on undergraduate level, all other universities operate a cumulative system based on credit load of individual courses. Most first class graduates build a solid foundation in the first 2 years in school. Thereafter, they ensure they do not fall below the boundary. Not having a high CGPA in your first 2 years means that you will not have any buffer during tough academic times, as the going may get tougher as you progress and your CGPA may become progressively lower. Your academic standing after your first 2 years can make or mar your chances of graduating with a first class. In addition, having a high CGPA may help build you gain respect amongst students or even lecturers who may be careful when marking your scripts so as not to make mistakes.
3. Placing less significance on small unit courses – Yes, some courses may carry smaller credit units but they count. Such courses may be electives and general courses. Cumulate all those courses and you will surprised about how big the effect can be. Every ‘A’ grade matters especially if you just on the edge, and there may be moments when it is the smaller unit courses that keep you above the boundary. One of the critical moments that defined my final CGPA was a 2-unit course that dropped my CGPA from a potential 4.51 to a 4.47 in my penultimate semester.
4. Not studying hard enough – I need not say much about this. Studying hard does not necessarily mean spending long hours reading in classes. Studying hard involves studying with high level of intensity and depth within a study period. The difference between a first class student and others is the attention to detail when studying. I use myself as an example. I remember that eventhough I sometimes spent hours reading, I was always too lazy to solve sample problems. In many cases, I overestimated my level of assimilation. I sometimes got away with it in exams but it cost me a few important A’s which would have made significant differences in my final CGPA.
5. Not taking internship and project work seriously – SIWES (internship) is mainly for science and engineering students. Internship has a combined credit load of about 12 – 15 units depending on the course and the institution. Imagine what damage a ‘B’ can do a first class student! You don’t necessarily have to work for a top company as an intern. Sloppiness in filling log books, poorly written internship report, and inadequate preparation towards defense of industrial attachment are enough to cost you an ‘A’ grade.
Project and practical works also carry significant credit load as well. Practical work can be particularly tedious, and undisciplined students can be lax about it.
6. Allowing the opinion of mediocre students influence you – Average students will always be negative about their academic environment. They will talk about how tough it is to graduate with a 2.1 much less a first class. They will complain about how tough the courses or the lecturers are. They will remind you about the failure rate in the past. They will play the victim when they fail exams. They will congratulate themselves on how ‘lucky’ they are to escape a carryover with an E grade. They will continually demonize the school environment and their department. They will never say anything but positive things about the school. They will criticize everyone but themselves. Feed your mind with such thoughts from them and kiss goodbye to your dreams of graduating with a first class.
7. Not seeking help / information – Not seeking information can be harm your chances of finishing with a first. Information gathering is important in the pursuit of a first class. Having the right set of past questions, exam materials, handbooks, textbooks, etc. matters a lot. Most Nigerian lecturers have different handbooks, textbooks or online materials they are comfortable with. They often set exams from these handbooks and textbooks. First class students are aware of these and sought to get the necessary information.
Forget secondary school days when you can be completely independent and isolated. In the university, you will likely encounter academic challenges one way or the other, you matter how good you are. You will need the help of others who are equally good. Build high walls around you and it’s almost a certainty that you won’t graduate with a first class.
8. Helping others during exams – I have seen and read about how potential first class students make this mistake that can deprive them of not just their dream grade but their entire aspiration. A lot of people look up to first class students to help them during exams, not minding the distraction it may cost them. Some even make monetary requests for first class students to write exams on their behalf. Time after time, brilliant students keep falling for this trap without thinking of the consequence of being expelled or rusticated.
In many cases, first class students already have good reputations amongst their fellow students and lecturers, and being caught teaching in exams can soil that reputation.
9. Not attending classes – I have seen many that graduate with 2.1 that ‘stabbed’ classes on a regular basis. But I am yet to see or hear of a genuine first class student/graduate that deliberately missed classes frequently at least in their last 2 years of study. They attend classes because 1) They want to listen to the salient points made by the lecturers so that they can understand better and prepare well for tests and exams. Attending classes is one way of getting information 2) First class students are perceived to represent the department and generally have a good image. Not attending classes can damage their reputation 3) Many lecturers take attendance seriously and allocate marks to attendance 4) There can be impromptu tests and classworks during classes.
You want to graduate with a first class but you keep skipping classes? Then think twice.
10. Not taking care of your health– Some, in the bid to get a first class, spend almost all their time and energy reading. They are always in class reading or attending one tutorial or the other, and they often do overnight reading not minding the fact that their body needs to be catered for. Consequently, they experience frequent health breakdowns, and this can cause serious setbacks in their dream to achieve a first class. Nothing can be more frustrating that falling ill in an academic session. Wanting to have a first class does not mean that you cannot eat well, rest when necessary, relax, play games and manage stress. Nurture your health. Health is wealth.
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