While your final year at university may at first seem intimidating, it does not necessarily have to be so. Here are my top tips to make your final year of university easier, and includes creating a routine, advice on job hunting, and tips for maintaining a budget.
1. Establish a routine that works for you
Arguably the most important way of coping with the increased workload that inevitably comes with being in your final year is establishing a routine and sticking to it.
This routine will vary from person to person, with some people preferring to plan what they intend to do every hour of the day, while others will be broader and simply set aside an afternoon in advance for preparatory reading for a lecture or seminar. Either is completely fine and will suit different people.
This routine should include a time to get out of bed (the hardest thing any university student will ever have to do), times you intend to do work, times set aside for breakfast, lunch and dinner and should take into account times for breaks. The latter is especially important as it is unreasonable to ask anyone to work for the entire day with no time for rest in-between, and will only result in a drop in quality of work if you attempt to do so.
This routine should not be set in stone, however, and you should be willing to change it if you find swapping certain tasks around is more effective than what you had originally been doing.
For example, you may find that doing the reading for a seminar the day before gives you more time to understand and think about the topic than doing the same reading on the same day, resulting in you being able to make more informed contributions to the discussion rather than rushing to interpret the material.
You should also be prepared for this routine to change in the short term, and be prepared to rearrange certain periods of study for a different time if something unexpected happens, such as a sudden illness or a meeting with one of your lecturers. As long as the work is done, small disruptions like this are not too big of an issue.
As important deadlines approach, it is inevitable that your routine will have to adjust in some way, with more time being devoted to meeting that deadline while other tasks are less of a priority. If anything, it is important to be flexible in these instances, as effective prioritising will help avoid the necessity of working into the early hours of the morning to finish pieces of work.
While these become more and more common during one’s final year at university, speaking from personal experience, these nights are something to avoid whenever possible, so an effective routine can be a lifesaver.
2. Maintain a Work-Life Balance and your Mental Health
While doing work and meeting deadlines is an important part of your final year of university, it is also crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance by ensuring that you have enough free time for spending time with your friends and other things you find enjoyable.
Although this was briefly mentioned earlier regarding routines, it is worth repeating that solely focusing on work will only result in a decrease in the quality of the work being produced.
The exact balance between work and non-work time will vary from person to person, although being in your final year will have given you enough experience to make that judgement yourself. If you are still stuck, try experimenting with different lengths of time for both work and recreation, ensuring that you leave enough time for assignments to be completed comfortably within their deadlines, figuring out what ratio works best for you.
It may take some time to work this out, but will definitely be worth it in the long term, and can even be adapted to suit your working life after you leave university. While, similarly to your overall routine, this balance may be distorted as important deadlines or exams approach, this should be only temporary, and you should return to normal once your workload has decreased.
The reason a good work-life balance is so important is that it is crucial for maintaining good mental health throughout your final year at university and beyond. The importance of mental health is greatly underappreciated by many people, as it is unreasonable to expect people to produce their best work while constantly worrying about other things, whether these worries are justified or not.
This also applies to when you aren’t working, as spending time with your friends is far less enjoyable while you are burdened with anxiety, making time set aside for fun not fun at all.
Tips for maintaining good mental health whilst at university include eating properly, exercising regularly and creating a support network you can rely on for advice when things get more difficult.
3. Create a Support Network
While your support network is important for your mental health, it also has a variety of uses throughout your time at university. By the time you reach your final year, you should already have a number of people in your support network, even if you haven’t consciously labelled them as such. Examples of people your support network can include are friends, family, lecturers and anyone else you feel you can confide in.
While speaking to lecturers or other university staff about your problems may seem intimidating to some people, it is literally their job to provide you with support, and they would rather you ask for help earlier on than later, after the problem has become much bigger than it had been previously.
They will also be able to answer questions related to your course far better than anyone else will, and will be more than willing to give you an extension on a piece of work if you have a good enough justification for it.
Your friends at university are also important to your support network, as they can also answer questions about university life in general, as well as work questions if they are taking a similar course to you. Friends are also available more frequently than lecturers, with the latter being restricted by office hours or having to set up an appointment beforehand.
While it is unlikely that family members will be able to answer questions related to coursework, they can provide advice on other matters, such as budgeting, job hunting among others.
4. Dedicate time to your graduate job search
One of the most pressing issues during your final year at university is what you intend to do after you graduate, with many students stressing about applying for graduate jobs, while many are not completely sure of what job they even want to apply for. While it is undoubtedly better to have a clear idea of what you want your eventual career to be, it is not the end of the world if you are still confused in this regard.
One way of solving this problem is by taking advantage of your university’s careers service, going to presentations on careers you think you might be interested in, and having your graduate CV checked and revised by the staff there. The former can be especially helpful, as you could realise, as I did, that a career is not as appealing as you first thought, saving yourself the effort of pursuing that opportunity, and can instead focus on finding a better fit.
It is important to be open-minded during these presentations, and not just turn up with the assumption that this definitely will or won’t be the job for you, as this mindset will simply cloud your judgement and cause you problems later.
Despite this, it is always preferable to have a clear idea of your future plans, knowing what employers are looking for, both in the area you want to go into, and in general in case your first option either changes or is no longer an option. 5. Finance/Budgeting
Another one of any student’s main concerns is regarding financial security, both in the long and short term as they try not to run out of money while in their final year, and then attempt to pay off their student debt later in life.
For now, I’m going to focus on budgeting while at university, the basics of which are simple enough to grasp. Firstly make note of how much money you have to spend each week/month, and then decide, based on that, how much money you want to set aside for essentials such as food, travel and any bills you have to pay.
While it is not unreasonable to treat yourself, such as after completing especially challenging assignments or personal achievements outside of coursework, ensure that this does not become too common or you may quickly find yourself struggling financially.
Other tips include getting a 16-25 railcard, especially if you travel by train frequently, as this will be valid even after you leave university. More ideas can be found on the UCAS website.
#5: Use all of the resources available to you
Whilst you are at university there will be many resources and opportunities available to you.
Take advantage of these.
Within your university, you will have access to:
The Learning Resource Centre (LRC)
Where you can access information and support to help you with your studies. For example, if you would benefit from using assistive technology, the library staff will be able to help you. If you are doing a dissertation in your final year of university, the librarians may be able to help you with your research.
The LRC at your university will also have various study environments to accommodate your preferred study method. For example, if you like to work in complete silence, use the silent study room. If you have a group presentation, book a meeting room. Visit your LRC’s webpage to find out if there are any resources and support on offer that will help you with your academics in your final year.
Academic support centre Regardless of your academic performance in your first and second year of university, you can really transform your final degree classification in your final year of university. If you got a 2:1 in your second year, it is very possible to bump that up to a first in your final year. Your university’s academic centre will be able to help you to improve things such as giving presentations, numeracy, essay writing skills, revision techniques, academic integrity and more.
Health and wellbeing support
If you are experiencing any health concerns – physical or mental, seek help. Your university will be able to provide confidential support.
Don’t suffer in silence as the university can draw on a wealth of resources and services to help you. It is important to put your health first, before your studies. The final year of university can be stressful and anxiety inducing, so if you have a health concern that may have an impact on your health, inform your university and they can support you through anything that you are going through.
There are also other benefits that you can take advantage of during your time at university. For example, many businesses offer student discounts.
As well as getting great discounts on food, clothes and entertainment, to help you to save money, you can also get discounts on things that can help you with your studies.
- Notion is free for students – you can use Notion to store your lecture notes and to collaborate with your peers.
- Apple – You can get a student discount to purchase a Mac or an iPad.
#6: Get tips from people who have recently graduated from university
You can learn a lot of great tips from people who were recently in your shoes. Reach out to your network of family and friends and ask them if they have any tips that really helped them during their final year of university.
There are also some great resources online where final year students and recent graduates share the tips that worked for them.
Summary: Tips for your final year of university
In summary, you can make your final year at university much easier through effective organisation, planning things in advance and having an effective support network.
Have you started to think about your career after graduation? Get in touch with us here at Graduate Coach. We have a wide range of products and services to help you to land your dream job. We offer personalised one-to-one career coaching, interview coaching, internships, books, online career courses, workshops and more.
Written by Sam Sheridan