Student Life 

What Next? How to survive final year

Rebecca Reid graduated from Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University and shares her tips on how she survived final year.

29 Nov 2021   26 min read

overlay graphic What Next? How to survive final year

What are you doing next year?

  • How many jobs have you applied for?
  • Are you going to live at home or go away?

These are some of the dreaded questions that I’m sure any final year student will agree they get asked at least ten times a week by family, friends and their old neighbour’s cousin’s auntie that they run into at the shop occasionally.

It seems that once you utter the words final year, people automatically assume you have it all figured out. Little do they know; you’re still trying to figure out how on earth you are in final year when it feels like only last week you were on a Wednesday night out during 1st year freshers.

You’ve survived the first couple of years of one big party, with some coursework and exams thrown in along the way, but now you have final year problems galloping towards you.

Up until this point in our lives, we have not really had to think about what lies ahead or what to do in the following year.

Our lives have essentially been mapped out for us; we have drifted through year by year progressing in education.

But what happens now?

Now we don’t have someone telling us what our lives will behold in the forthcoming year and no longer have a path to follow.

It is our decision from here on in.

Whilst certain career paths may be the ideal scenario for some, it most certainly isn’t for others.

A girl with a book on top of her head, showing that she is exasperated.

Haven't got it figured out yet?

If you have it all figured out and know what you want to do… then fab, but if you slightly stutter when asked about your career’s prospects - don’t fret. A large portion of like-minded students, (including myself) share the same dilemmas. Doing a masters, taking a gap year, doing a ski season, doing a graduate scheme, joining officer training for the military, or moving to London and putting my vocational degree to use are just a few of the ideas I’m humming and hawing with.

If finishing uni and taking time to reflect on what’s important to you and finding your passions to guide you to your next step then so be it. This course could help ensure that you make a decision that’s more suited for you, rather than making a rash one you may regret.

Enjoy what university has to offer

Studying for exams, doing lit reviews, going to training, giving your best friend advice you’re definitely not qualified to give, maintaining some sort of social life that allows for the odd, much needed blow out, getting relevant work experiences, holding down a part time job, to name a few, all whilst ensuring to fit in the weekly visit to the grandparents can be daunting and make it seem like there is little to no spare time for adventures.

Whilst addressing these inescapable first world problems is inevitable, it is important to take a step back and enjoy what university life has to offer, even if it involves a hefty workload. I, like many others have already had phases of becoming so wrapped up in my studies that I have forgot to enjoy my final year. We are often in a whirlwind of stress with coursework to do and exams rapidly approaching that it leaves us in bereft of a social life. But from listening to advice from family and from friends who have already graduated, I have tried to adapt a different mind-set.

A group of students throwing their graduation hats in the air.

Tips I have learnt thus far for managing final year;

  • Set aside time for family as they really are the best support network, and who knows, this could be the last year that home is so close, where it’s possible to have a hearty meal made for you when you need it most
  • Make time for friends- it provides sanity and takes your mind off stress. Plus you don’t know if you will all be living in the same country again so this is prime time to make the most of having your best friends in close proximity
  • Make time for your hobbies and team commitments – don’t lose sight of your interests and passions
  • Invest in a diary and make to-do-lists for every day. It ensures you know exactly what you have to do in advance and it’s oddly satisfying crossing off things as you complete them
  • Don’t work too many hours in your part time job - uni comes first
  • Make use of the career’s advice in uni- they are a great help when it comes to tips on CV’s and job applications
  • Find a routine that suits you- give yourself a break at the weekend, discover where you work best and at what time, whether that be in the library or curled up on the sofa
  • Keep healthy- try to maintain a healthy(ish) diet and exercise regularly… release those endorphins!
  • If you’re reading this and you are not final year yet- be prepared to work hard and consider dissertation topics before beginning the year (this will benefit you in the long run, even if it’s just a rough idea)

What stands between you and graduation are several all-nighters in the library, a few mental breakdowns, a tea spillage ruining a new laptop with all your unsaved work (if you’re as unlucky as I am) and an unhealthy consumption of Red Bull, but all in all, this is the last year of it being acceptable to sleep in on a weekday, go out on a random Tuesday night and have the free time to go on those trips away.

2 friends reading outside their university building

You'll never get this time back again

So, although stress levels may be skyrocketing, rather than burying your head in the sand, enjoy the final year of being a university student, we will never have this much free time or as many of our mates around us again.

Rather than being all work no play, by managing time more efficiently and taking a step back, we can enjoy the year.

Take it one step at a time and if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life at this particular moment in time, that’s okay too.

This blog was written by Rebecca Reid, who graduated from Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.

Walking in graduation gown.

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