My advice for struggling final-year students

Third year BSc Psychology student, Heather, gives us an honest insight into her final year and her advice for other students coming to the end of their degree, including finding the right balance between completing your degree and looking ahead towards your future career.

Psychology student Heather

Coming into my final year at university was actually a big shock to me. I’d started in September 2020, and moved across the country to study psychology only to find that COVID-19 meant all of my classes were online. It also meant I had little contact with anyone else on my course.

Now in my third year, I don’t feel like a final-year student. I still find myself trying to catch up on the experiences that I missed in my first and second years, but the pressure of more work and bigger deadlines has often left me feeling overwhelmed. I think a lot of final-year students might feel the same as me, like we were robbed of a great experience and are still scrambling to catch up.

A lot of this year has been dedicated to starting my job hunt for next year. I have been in a university bubble for three years now and the thought of leaving it to join the real world became something that kept me awake at night. I began my search at the very beginning of the year, determined to have my future neatly wrapped up, like it had always been in education.

Of course, I didn’t really think about the practicalities of applying for a job a whole year in advance, and when the initial rejections came in, or the offers to get back in touch in April, I felt like I was being left in the unknown even more. Even when my friends a few years ahead where reminding me that I had plenty of time, I still felt uneasy. “You’ve already got your jobs, you’re all sorted”, I thought.

Applying for jobs became a way for me to procrastinate from my university work. I would spend a weekend on Indeed, and wake up on Monday with a pile of lecture notes to type up and loads of articles to read. But my LinkedIn profile has never looked so professional! I took the career progression activities required in third year to the extreme, and I enjoyed it. But when exam season came round, or grades come out, it brought out the fear that I wouldn’t achieve what I needed to get for that life after uni that I had imagined.

Student with head face down on book

I’ve been committed to the job search, trying to fill that gap in my future that begins as soon as I graduate. However, I’ve realised that procrastinating from my uni work to look at jobs and plan my future should not be the main priority right now. While I’m excited for life after uni, I’m not there yet. And I know that I won’t get there unless I put the hours in now. I’m reminded that I should try to enjoy my time as a student while I still am one and focus on the things that bring me joy, like doing a shop at 10:30pm in the big Sainsburys.

So what would I suggest for final-year students? I think searching for jobs, and getting an idea of what’s out there is really important. But you shouldn’t let it take over your life. I’ve found the third year comes with a lot of pressure, both university work and trying to make the most of the last year as a student. Sometimes it’s hard to manage both, and sometimes you might lose sight of what the final goal is.

I think my final year has come too soon, I still have some of my teaching online even as COVID becomes a forgotten era. My circle at university has remained small and I still sit alone in lectures but I’ve enjoyed my time, and I’m definitely ready to get started in the real world. Before I get there though, there’s a lot more work to be done, and I will make the effort to enjoy it all.

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