Every university has a list of requirements that they publicize to all applicants; however, many hidden skills that are valued are not as transparent. Here is a list of skills that I have found helpful during my first year at university–hopefully picking them up will make your university life a lot easier!
Familiarizing yourself with Microsoft Excel
Many projects at university require data processing and visualization. If you are going to be taking any course related to statistics, mathematics, science, or finance, it is extremely helpful to know the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel. You do not have to know anything tech-savvy or advanced (although of course if you do it is better) like the Visual Basic language and Macros, but knowing your way around the basics, such as calculating the mean, median, mode, merging cells, applying the same formula to multiple cells, creating pivot tables and generating a linear regression graph will help speed up the process of writing reports.
Citing your sources (especially MLA and APA format)
If your high school has not taught you how to properly cite your sources when writing essays, research papers and lab reports, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the most commonly used citing styles–the MLA and APA format prior to starting university. It is guaranteed that every university professor would ask you to specify your sources; academic honesty and copyright are treated with the utmost seriousness at the university level. You do not want to get in trouble with plagiarism unintentionally for not knowing how to credit the original author.
Writing cover letters and resumes
Many students start looking for internships, part-time jobs, and summer jobs at university. Most of these positions would require cover letters and resumes at minimum if you want to apply, so it is extremely important that you know how to present your experience and achievements on paper.
I do not have a lot of advice to give as I am still learning, but the one tip I wish I had known sooner is: In your cover letter, highlight a few of your experiences that are the most relevant to the position you are currently applying to and/or have contributed the most to shaping the person that you are today. Link these experiences to your passions, beliefs, and most importantly how they have led to your application.
There is no way of sugarcoating this–you will be doing a lot of reading at university, even if you are in engineering, science, or commerce programs. Weekly readings are inescapable. The number of research papers and scholarly articles you need to go through before you have enough information to write your report is not small. Therefore, it is crucial for you to know how to read fast and how to quickly locate the relevant information you are looking for.
There are tips and tricks that help with speed reading, but the best way to harness this skill is through practice. Read as much as you can in your spare time, especially non-fiction, which resembles the type of reading you will see at university.
Writing usually comes in a package deal with reading–often you will be asked to write analyses based on assigned readings. On top of that, reports and research papers will also come up frequently. You will save yourself a lot of time if you are able to type swiftly. This is also a skill that can only be developed through practice; find online quizzes and games that help you to get familiar with your keyboard.