Career Advice

How to Prepare for Your Final Year of University

Entering the final year at university is pretty daunting. After experiencing tougher topics and deadlines in the second year, I can’t be the only one a little scared about what third-year might bring. Fortunately, there are ways we can prepare for the final year of university!

I’ve put together this post during the corona pandemic as I’m already wondering how I can boost my employability for this time next year. Like many, I have a lot of time on my hands and student jobs aren’t exactly easy to come by. Students graduating now are really struggling for work, I’m determined not to be in the same position.

Summer - Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Organisation is key during your final year. Create a timetable with all your assignment deadlines, exam dates, seminar tasks and group work so that you can see clearly what is due when. Make to-do lists and prioritise your workload. If you have a dissertation, start it ASAP, not one month before the deadline. Remember that third year, or fourth, is when you’ll complete the majority of work that actually counts towards your degree. It’s important you’re taking it seriously.

Talk to Your Tutor

Your tutor will know exactly what you can expect from a course in your final year. It might be a wise idea to book a meeting with them to identify what you will need to do, and how you can do it. You can guarantee he or she will have plenty of advice and stories to share, so they can help you feel a little more confident and focused when entering the last year of your course.

Plan Ahead

Buy a diary so you can effectively plan your final year. Write down starting dates, coursework or exam dates, and book appointments with a personal tutor and lecturers. Also, if a piece of coursework is due in three months’ time, schedule when you will finish your first, second and third draft before submitting it to a lecturer.

Similarly, develop your dissertation plan. If you do not have one already, a good place to start is by putting together something that shows the individual sections/chapters that will make up your thesis and says a bit about what each one will contain.

Gain Extra-Experience

Sign up for some extracurricular opportunities for your final year, or instance student mentoring or being a student representative. You might think this would be a lot to take on in the final year, but it will widen your network of connections across the university and you only have to give up a couple of hours of your time a semester.

During the summer, there are student internship opportunities and part-time jobs. The initiative to spend your time effectively over summer is something employers will appreciate!

Through the Covid-19, remote student jobs online will be an area to watch.

Start Your Reading List Early

Students’ reading lists tend to be pretty huge! Give yourself a head start by tackling your reading list over summer. Many students buy their textbooks and wait for the third year to begin to start reading, but this is a big mistake. Lecturers will provide your reading list early, so you will know what to expect from the remainder of your course. So, avoid scratching your head in confusion in a lecture or seminar, and read as many books as you can during the summer break between the second and third year. You will be glad you did.

Student Schedule in a Bullet Journal

Autumn - Start Applying

Now is the time to start applying for graduate jobs or postgraduate study. Some applications can be very long so give yourself that head start. This is where strong organisational skills will help you massively, as you’ll be juggling uni commitments, job applications and hopefully interviews!

If you want to pursue postgraduate study, applying in the autumn term is ideal. Popular courses fill up quickly and, for some universities, you need to accept a place before you can apply for funding.

Arrange a Meeting with the Uni Careers Team

The careers team is there for a reason; take advantage of their experience and get help. They can look through your CV and give you pointers with your interview technique. It’s also a wise move to get them to check your first few job applications to make sure you’re getting all the right things in there.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

If you’ve done particularly well in a module then ask the tutor to write you a letter of recommendation. It’s something positive to attach to your job applications. Just make sure that the tutor recommending you is happy to be contacted by employers.

Attend Career Events

If you can attend a few career events, you’ll be doing yourself a great favour. This is your chance to talk to various potential employers and ask them any burning questions you have about graduate programmes. Some of these events have workshops running too, so it’ll be worth your while to attend.

Autumn - Begin the Year Strong

Arrange Group Study Sessions

You can guarantee your university friends will be just as nervous as you to enter the third year. Ensure you all receive superb grades by arranging group study sessions, so you can learn effectively from each other. Ask each other questions, enjoy topic discussions and make the sessions fun, as you will be more likely to remember what you learned in the group study. However, only invite people to a study session who are willing to work hard and focus, or they could become an unnecessary distraction.

Prepare for Essays/Reports

Like some, I learnt the hard way with essays that you can’t just start them a couple of days or a week before the assignment is due. Well, technically you can… But you might not necessarily get a very good grade for it.

Now, as soon as the title of the assignment and the brief is posted I begin working away slowly at it as and when I learn about the new information in class. Starting early allows me to complete more thorough and in-depth research and time to well formulate my argument. This method also prevents the build-up of referencing as you can do it in small chunks as you go along.

Brace Yourself for Group Work

Again, you’re in your final year; the idea that there is one person in your group who you didn’t know was even on the course and/or isn’t going to do any work is nothing new. Assume that at least one person is bone idle and is more than happy to coast through their degree based on other people’s work and plan that into your timeline.

Ideally, you and the rest of your group want to plan to be finished at least a week before the deadline in case you have to rewrite something that’s been copied and pasted from Wikipedia, or if you need to pick up their slack. It’s ok, you can slate them in the peer review later; though we all know they will still get the same grade as you.

Winter - Prepare for Interviews

Prepare for interviews and assessment centres. Ensure you factor in time for these alongside your university work, and have a respectable interview outfit ready for the day.

Keep applying for graduate schemes. Some will accept applications into the new year or have ‘open’ deadlines.

Spring - Smash your Pass

Ensure you do your absolute best in your coursework and exams – take a break from job hunting if needs be. With a 2.1 you will be eligible to apply for many more graduate programmes than with a 2.2.

Exam Preparation

Make sure all of your lecture and seminar notes are up to date, whilst also checking through the notes to highlight important topics.

As it gets nearer to the exam, complete past papers, mocks and write up questions and answers on revision cards. Get your housemates to somehow corroborate into testing you for a couple of hours a day to really memorise all the small details that will boost up your grade.

Do you have any top tips for preparing for a final year at university? Are you nervous about entering your third year? If so, please feel free to post a comment below.

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