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The final year of university survival guide

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As a recent survivor of her final year in university, Sofia Crawford Walker shares some advice on how to keep the momentum going when completing your dissertation and possibly looking for a graduate job - two dreaded phrases for anyone progressing into their final year of university, but don't worry, Sofia's got some great tips and tricks to help along the way. Take it away, Sofia!

This time last year I was heading into my third and final year of university, looking forward to the year ahead but feeling very OVERWHELMED! So, I’ve put together a little list of things I wish someone had told me before heading into final year, with a focus on the grad job search and your dissertation.

Let’s get into it!

The dissertation

Your dissertation is made out to be a big, scary project, that’s a HUGE deal - and yes of course it is important - but if you just take it step-by-step (as with most things in life), you’ll be fine!

Here are some of the things I found useful:

1. Plan

An obvious point, but an important one. I’m not saying you have to plan out everything you’re going to write, but break it down into sections, take note of some questions to prompt points you want to make and get an idea of what’s ahead.

Once you’ve done that, you’ve got a starting point and can get the ball rolling.

2. Know your deadlines

Get yourself organised - once you know the date of the final submission, work back from there and figure out a timeline.

I found it really helpful to set my own mini deadlines that were a few days before any set by the university. This gives you a bit of leeway in case you do need more time or you want to make your writing that little bit snazzier.

3. Have a first draft completed around 3 weeks/1 month before the final deadline

This gives you loads of time to proofread and add in any extra bits you have the word count for. It also means you have time to dedicate to any other coursework or exams without the panic that you still have all of your diss to write. That’s another thing; it can feel like you’re supposed to be spending 24/7 on your final project, but in reality taking a few days or even a week away from it can be the best thing. This way, you can come back with a fresh set of eyes and a clear mind.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

That’s the reason you have a supervisor. No question is a silly question and make sure you meet up with them regularly to check you’re on the right path or even just to bounce ideas off someone.

The job search

I would just like to start this section off by emphasising that you do not need to rush into a job straight after university. You know what will make you happiest and if that’s getting stuck into a graduate job, brilliant! Equally, if that’s taking a breather and having a year to figure things out, that’s perfectly fine too! Don’t be pressured into the job search just because everyone else is doing it.

Either way, when the time comes to look for a grad job here’s my top tips:

1. Where to start?

My best advice is to set up a lil’ LinkedIn profile. It’s good to get a professional profile out there for employers to look at and it’s great for checking out jobs, as you can tailor your search to what matches your profile and the location you want.

2. Update your CV

You want to make sure you’ve got everything in order so when you see a job you want to apply for, you’ve got everything ready to go.

Make sure you have highlighted the relevant information for that particular job. You might not need to do this every time, but a wee tweak of the information here and there is worth it.

3. Application deadlines

If you are interested in a particular graduate programme, keep an eye out for dates on the applications opening and closing dates. Generally, more corporate graduate programmes will open any time between October and January, but smaller companies might only release jobs towards the end of the academic year.

If you really want to work for a company but you haven’t seen any jobs advertised, there’s no harm in contacting them and checking if they have any opportunities coming up or would consider taking on a graduate. That’s what our very own Zoe Kerr did and you can read all about her journey here.

The worst thing they can say is no and at least you know you tried.

4. The interviews

As my teachers at school always told us “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail." With interviews, you will be so much more confident if you’ve rehearsed some practice questions. Obviously don’t practice so much that you sound like a robot in the interview, but just know the key points you want to highlight and follow the STAR technique when answering situational questions.

Don’t forget: the company have to sell themselves to you as much as you have to sell yourself to them, so ask questions and get the info you need.

Also don’t be afraid to be yourself – they want to find out about your personality as well as your skills.

5. Rejections

What’s for you, won’t pass you. It’s easier said than done, but try not to take the rejections too hard and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback to help you the next time. Sometimes you can tell by your reaction to a rejection that it really wasn’t something you wanted to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

You are not alone! But remember that you have so much to look forward to, and you will be so proud of yourself for all you have achieved. Try to enjoy your final year as a student and soak up the silliness and laughter.

On the other hand, if you can’t wait for it all to be over and to move on from that chapter, that’s completely normal. Try to plan some fun things to keep you going and to look forward to throughout the big year.

As my mum always tells me, ‘It will all be ok in the end and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.’

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