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New student environment artist looking for advice

Hello, fellow creative minds. I am a student studying to do 3D environment design in videogames and fairly new here. Currently, I have 8 months left until I graduate and want to finally push for my student demo reel projects. I currently am working on three underground subway system concepts that will soon be complete. My goal is to finish this project in three months and hopefully, have 2-3 projects done before graduation that can be put on a demo reel for hiring. The target look is realistic with a little of post-apocalypse theme thrown in. I plan on using Maya, Substance Design, UE4 and maybe 3Ds max. Note that I have already been given a ton of advice so I am looking for more advanced or uncommon knowledge that gets passed around by developers or learned on the job. So here are the questions I have so far:

1. How big should my project be to show off what the industry really demands environment artists that are new? Some examples I found in term of size: 
https://www.artstation.com/artwork/aooJ0 or https://www.artstation.com/artwork/zmWkQ
2. Is there a way to be diverse enough since everything has already been done in one way, shape or form?
3. How detailed should it be for the gaming industry or should it be as realistic as possible?
4. What are the biggest mistakes I could encounter while tackling this work? 
5. How many pieces of work are considered to be top-grade or can some people get in with just one?
6. What are some ways for my piece to stand out among applicants?
7. Lastly, is there any big advice not pertaining to the other questions that anyone can think of? Any advice will be helpful

Thank you for taking the time to read and feel free to contact me and have a great day. I will be posting this in multiple forms if the topic is relevant.


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