Surprising Skills You Didn’t Know Would Prepare You For Uni

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Have you ever noticed how superbly talented we are at putting ourselves down? For some reason, we’re experts at assuming we’re rubbish at certain things, meaning we’ll throw in the towel before we even bother giving the unexplored a solid go.

But if we stop the negative self-talk and take stock of the all the things we’ve already achieved and appreciate the skills we already have, we might be surprised to learn we’re more than capable of almost anything if we just put our minds to it.

When it was time to wrap up my high school experience and think about what was next, it was daunting, to say the least. I had always been horrible at maths and science. I’d been a creative, not an academic.

But here’s the thing – I had an ace up my sleeve. The real world wasn’t actually that scary because I had been living in it, working in it, doin’ my thing and making my money for years. My years of work experience were about to come in handy – making my time at university more fun, more productive, and more in-line with the career I always wanted.

#1 Retail = Major People Skills

There’s nothing quite like trying to help an adult into a pair of pants from the kids’ section to remind you that anything is possible. During my time working in retail, I came in contact with people from all walks of life, from those angrily pursuing refunds to those legitimately seeking guidance.

This time behind the register gave me the skills to negotiate, to engage, and to speak to adults on their level. It helped me whenever I needed to talk to my tutors and lecturers about grades, extensions, and any formal faculty issues. I could relate to the adults I interacted with in a way that was entirely natural because I’d been there before.


In retail, you’ll be tasked with everything from opening and closing to balancing the till. It’s how I learned to establish effective procedures, create positive routines, and to break overwhelming tasks into small pieces that could be tackled bit by bit.

That’s also known as the universal “how to” of writing a university level assignment.


#2 Hospitality = High-Pressure Genius

Is there anyone who can handle pressured conditions better than a person who has just taken a huge order, balanced a bunch of plates on one arm, and recorded a reservation over the phone? No. No, there isn’t.

If you’ve spent your teen years working in a café, restaurant, or fast food outlet like McDonald’s, you’ll quickly realise you’re especially well-equipped to handle the time-sensitive nature of university. The multitasking skills you acquire while working in hospitality help you learn to compartmentalise and to prioritise – two of the biggest skills you can have at uni.

Hospitality is the perfect training ground for uni life, arming you with the ability to quickly assess problems, break down big tasks, and embrace a self-motivating “let’s do it” attitude.


#3 Second Language = Secret Weapon

Have a second language (or two!) up your sleeve? Lucky you! Even if you don’t use (or study) it at university, just knowing another language can give you an edge. The nuances of and approaches to communicating in multiple languages means you’re used to coming at things from different angles, embracing fresh perspectives, and having a deeper understanding of the way people interact and communicate with one another.


#4 Internship = In The Know

So many undergraduate programs require students to take part in internships and industry work experience. Why? So you can get real-world skills that relate to your preferred industry and workforce.

For anyone who has worked throughout their teen years, these internships are a walk in the park, because all the experience you’re meant to be gaining is experience you’ve already got locked down. Back yourself – you’ve got this.


If doubt is standing between you and uni, Open Universities Australia has helped over 350,000 students study towards their dream career. With no entry requirements to study online with leading unis, there’s no need to worry about your skills. Contact a friendly student advisor on 13 OPEN or head to open.edu.au.