Firstly, congratulations on making it into your final year of University, if it hasn’t yet hit you then the inevitable mixture of excitement and anxiety the accompanies final year will kick in soon. The last two years have flown by in a whirlwind blur and the only thing that stands in between you and the graduation ceremony is a seemingly endless mountain of work, a dissertation and of course preparing for life outside of the University bubble. As scary and as intimidating as final year may first appear it will all be over sooner than you realise but the key is to not panic, although this is admittedly easier said than done.
You need to face this challenge head on, and embrace final year, both the highs and lows. There are so many ways you can get yourself ahead of the game, the sooner you start the sooner you can manage the anxiety and enjoy the last twelve months as a student. Below are some of my tried and tested top-tips to not just survive final year but to also enjoy it. Following this advice will help you to appreciate final year as one of the best years of your life.
Your dissertation – Start writing early
I cannot stress this enough, whether you’re writing a dissertation or a research project begin to write your initial drafts as soon as you can. The time between September and May will disappear before you know it – , new exciting modules, and then the winter holidays, followed by January exams – by which point you’ve left yourself short for time to write up. This will inevitably leads to stress and the risk of neglecting your second semester modules so you can meet the project and dissertation deadline. Plenty of my friends put themselves into this predicament and it wasn’t nice to witness their optimistic, laid back nature become frazzled and dishevelled because they hadn’t planned there time effectively.
Set yourself weekly or daily goals, for example “write 1000 words before this date”. You can also use SMART goals to your advantage, I can’t emphasise enough how much more manageable writing my research project was using this goal setting method. It is important to keep in contact with your supervisor, no question will ever be considered as stupid they are there to help you, and ultimately, they have a say in how your final work is marked.
The old saying of “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” is so true when it comes to your final piece. The earlier you start writing the more chances you get to review your work with fresh eyes each time and make as many changes as you feel you need to.
As well as your dissertation, final year brings yet more exams and by now you will have sat enough exams on your course to learn what works best for you. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet you will find one and when you do stick to it, don’t compare yourself to how other people are revising. If it has been proven in the past to work continue to use it. For some people the use of colour is critical, for others listening to the dulcet tones of the lecture on record is just as effective.
Like with your dissertation I’d avoid leaving exam revision to the last minute, I typically began revising around 6 weeks before the first exam. This gave me enough time to process the material on a deeper level, do the reading, and do more research around the subject area. It also allows you to ask any questions you have for the lecturer and give them time to answer these questions.
Think about life after University
Whatever you’re going on to do once University is over, be it a graduate scheme or a Master’s degree, the applications for these tend to close very early into third year. For Master’s applications via UCAS the deadline for applications is October, for non UCAS applications that is down to the individual establishment. It is worthwhile checking your deadlines well in advance no matter what avenue you’re going onto take.
Speaking from personal experience, when January exams and then finals came around it was one less thing to worry about knowing that my future after University was already sorted. In the run up to graduation, dissertation deadline and exams to revise for, it really was a weight lifted off my shoulders.
When you leave University, having an extra-curricular activity that you can add to your CV really does make you stand out from your peers. It shows that you’ve made an active contribution to University life. It makes you seem more than just an individual with qualifications and exam results. Societies are always on the look out for members, and it adds a little colour into your CV. Also, the School of Psychology offers a number of extra-curricular activities that will be included on your HEAR document, click here for information on these activities.
Look after yourself
This is, in my opinion, the most important tip of them all. Make sure you allow yourself some time to just switch off from University and final year. At times it can and does get intense so having that night out, or that Netflix binge day can reinvigorate your motivation levels. Make sure that you’re eating healthily and getting enough sleep. A tired brain isn’t a happy brain, or a productive brain at that. All-nighters in the library may seem like a good idea but the disruption to your body clock makes them less effective than they may appear. If you do feel yourself struggling speak to someone be it a friend, family member, academic tutor, or doctor. Whoever it is they will be able to help you through it.
You’ll never have as much flexibility with your time as you do during your Undergraduate degree so savour every second whilst you have it.
Contribution by Jessica Cuerden, former Psychology student at the University of Liverpool.