Entering University is one of the most exciting times of your life. With a fresh wave of BCom students joining us in 2021, we reached out to BCom student Dhanush Girish to get his advice on how to make the most of the experience.
Congratulations on gaining admission into the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom). Finishing your studies during a pandemic is no ordinary feat, and the university community cannot wait to welcome you! I encourage you to make the most of this experience as the BCom offers endless possibilities to grow individually and professionally. I hope to share my insights on how to best maximise your learning, refine, and achieve your personal goals.
The Academic Experience
The BCom offers a variety of majors and options. Personally, I was unsure about which majors to choose and decided to take the required first-year subjects for a range of possible majors (see here), which allowed me to make an informed decision. I was also unsure of whether to pursue an Honours year and so I took the required prerequisites to keep the option open. In making these decisions, it can be very useful to sit down with a Stop 1 academic advisor.
I would encourage you all to deeply engage with the course material throughout your degree. We are very privileged to have highly distinguished faculty members who are thought leaders, who are very generous with their time, and often provide advice to organisations and the government. I would recommend that you look into their research, which you can find through Find an Expert and ask them about it during office hours (ask you lecturers for their office hour times) – you’d be surprised by how interesting and impactful their work can be.
Finally, aim to broaden your academic experience by selecting different types of subjects and subjects from other institutions. For example, I undertook International Business Experience with New Colombo Plan funding, in which I had the opportunity to build a social enterprise in rural India. There, I developed an understanding of the challenges of development and social entrepreneurship. I also undertook a Summer School with the University of Zurich and cross-institutional study at other Australian universities. These experiences enabled me to diversify my academic experience, gain an international perspective, and undertake unique subjects. Another great way to broaden your academic experience is through an exchange program, in which you complete a full semester at another university. As planning exchange can be quite difficult, start the planning process early by engaging with global mobility.
There are countless extra-curricular opportunities available to you as part of the BCom, I wasn’t able to partake in them all after five years! To stay on top of the current opportunities, read the weekly BCom newsletter (emailed to your university email every Monday) and follow clubs and societies that interest you (on social media, or many offer newsletters to their members). These opportunities are a great way to learn about industry, be stimulated by interesting panel discussions (my personal favourite was the Economic Student Society's Q&A event) and gain leadership experience as a club committee member.
When deciding on which clubs to join, consider the type of skills and networks you would like to develop. During my degree, I was a part of the Global Consulting Group (GCG), as I wanted hands-on consulting experience and the opportunity to make a positive social impact.
My most rewarding university experience was competing and coaching as part of the university’s International Case Competition (ICC) team. The program is very intensive and involves training throughout the summer, where you receive incredible mentoring, to gain and refine your ability to solve business problems, present effectively, build financial models, and compete internationally.
A great way to complement your studies is to seek professional development opportunities, which are incredibly useful for obtaining graduate employment. During your first year, many firms offer introductory programs, for example EY's Career Compass and some firms offer cadetships/traineeships, which involve almost full-time work and part-time study. Then, during your second year (very early in the semester for some industries), internship applications open. I was fortunate to complete a cadetship with a professional services firm that developed my professional skills, allowed me to apply course material and assisted me in understanding the type of work I enjoy.
I would encourage you to use these opportunities to learn more about the professional world and see which industries/organisations you would like to join in the future – find the role that excites you and feels fulfilling rather than being guided by the perceived prestige or allure of certain industries. A great way to assess your options is through networking events, and in my experience as a company representative, the students who get the most out of these events attend with specific questions to assist their own decision-making process. The university also offers a range of mentoring programs to assist your career decisions such as the Ask Alumni and the Career Mentoring Program.
In addition to corporate experience, it can be incredibly rewarding to volunteer with a non-profit. Compared to corporate opportunities, volunteering allows you to gain relevant skills, offers greater responsibility and fosters interdisciplinary learning. I have been fortunate to volunteer with a growth-stage social enterprise, where I am working on an impact measurement. You can also have your volunteer and extra-curricular activities recognised through the Leaders in Community Award.
Some final advice
I think the most important piece of advice I could share would be to always apply for opportunities that interest you even if you feel under-qualified or are afraid of failure. I have been rejected countless times throughout my degree, and while it can be disheartening, it is also an important opportunity to self-reflect and to become more resilient. Many professional firms use AI based application processing systems and so it is very likely that an imperfect algorithm has decided your application outcome, so don’t take a rejection as you not being a good fit! Finally, never make the judgement yourself that you are not good enough for a role or industry – after a number rejections from consulting opportunities, I felt that the industry was out of reach for me, but by reflecting on my application strategy, leveraging mentoring services and simply trying again I was able to break into the industry.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity provided by the BCom to learn from leading academics and pursue a range of extra-curricular and professional opportunities that enabled me to grow my capabilities. All the best for this next chapter of your academic life – I hope you find it as rewarding as I did.