Take a peek at his online profile, and the list of Aly Madhavji’s accomplishments is long for a recent graduate. To add to this, he’s published a book, Your Guide to Succeed in University, with the intention of helping other students along.
Madhavji graduated from UTM in June 2012 with a Bachelor of Commerce. During his years in university, he noticed that alumni and upper-year students tend to wish for prior knowledge that could have helped them avoid making some common mistakes and get an edge.
In his fourth year, Madhavji began to compile a list of these common struggles. When he came up with some solutions to these problems, alumni advised him to convert them into an accessible guide for students—and so he did.
Your Guide to Succeed in University was published in August, and it has been received positively.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Madhavji and ask him a couple questions about his guide, his reasons for writing it, and what his guide offers students that other guides don’t.
Full Interview Transcription
The Medium: How would you describe your years in university?
Aly Madhavji: I definitely loved it. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
I did poorly in my classes [in] first year, but I learned to get organized and prioritize, so over time I could still be involved around campus, yet focused. I got involved with student government, my residence housing, meeting new people, and it all contributed to my personal development.I was able to work for students and [participate in] social as well as academic activities.
TM: How did you manage all of that and good grades? What was something you used to separate the personal growth from the academic?
AM: For me, the big thing was learning to be organized and I talked about it in the guide as well. I think any student can do it. I’m an ordinary student who made all the ordinary mistakes. What I think I picked up a little quicker was to stay organized and trying to push myself—one step each time—further. I used resources like my phone calendars with due dates and reminders to finish my assignments before deadlines. If you can do that, then you can also plan out volunteering and work, if you’re doing that part-time. The important thing is definitely to organize oneself and be efficient.
TM: When did you decide that you wanted to write this guide?
AM: As I was graduating, I talked to a lot of alumni and they all wished they knew things in first, second, and third year that would help them do certain things better. I kept hearing the same things and wondered why everyone still continues to make the same mistakes.
It didn’t make sense to me, so I started compiling different ideas in my fourth year. And as I talked to more alumni, they suggested I can make into a helpful guide that turned into this. But then we needed to make it accessible to students, so I ended up getting it published.
TM: How was your publication process?
AM: I published it through Smashwords, and then I self-published it. So it’s available on iBooks, Androids, and from the Barnes & Noble online bookstore.
TM: What does your book offer to students that other books don’t?
AM: There are a couple of things that really stand out about it. Most college/university guides basically just say that you need to study, to go to class, and to get organized—the basic stuff that’s not very practical. A lot of it focuses on the academics, whereas I try to emphasize that academics are important but so is getting involved. What I tried to cover in [my guide] is how I made my mistakes. I have excerpts that are personal. It talks about how I screwed up, what you can do differently to learn from my mistakes. It’s very down-to-earth; you get to know me through it and see how I messed up but gradually improved over the next three years.
TM: Do you think it’s important in university to say, “Okay, I messed up,” or just move on when you make those mistakes?
AM: It was vital to capture the realism and the down-to-earth bit. I had to be able to say that this guide was written by an ordinary person so you can do it too. You can make mistakes too, but you need to be able to learn from them, grow up, and continue to improve.
TM: How has the guide been received?
AM: It’s been distributed to over 1,000 students and the reviews have been amazing. Though only a few students have rated it [online], I keep getting messages and emails from students that find the topics so helpful, like how to network. Or they like that it’s so down-to-earth and practical. They want to share it with their family who are either in university or about to start it. It’s very touching. I don’t know these people, but it’s really nice and I’m very glad that’s it’s helping them.
TM: In a nutshell, what’s the take-home message this book is trying to convey?
AM: That’s tough. I think it’s trying to tell students to really embrace their university experience by trying and making the most of their time here.
Your Guide to Succeed in University is available at smashwords.com/books/view/351861.