What to expect in your final year (Toby)

You have made it through two years of university and you are still somehow chugging along.

You do not understand how you have made it. I honestly do not have any idea how I’ve made it this far. I re-sat first year and didn’t submit everything in second year. Yet here I am with just a few months left of my final year and yes, I have now submitted everything. Somehow.

Final year is very similar to your first two years. You have lectures, essays and exams. One difference to expect in your final year is more free time. I am in class six hours a week, which used to be a single day of high school! How did we cope back then? Only six hours a week and I still somehow end up missing some classes. Life can be difficult.

The biggest difference is you have a dissertation to complete that takes up an entire unit and basically is one big essay. Here is some advice from someone who is seven months into their final year: start doing your work early. I didn’t do much in my first term because I didn’t realise so much independent study was expected. It was so bizarre how much free time I had that I sometimes thought we weren’t expected to do anything! So, I’m going to tell you what I wish I’d known: do as much of your dissertation as you can in the first term.

However, you are going to feel so overwhelmed by your dissertation. You are not going to know how to tackle it. Where do you start? Research, method, discussion? I started with the title and even that was too much. It’s such a big and daunting piece of work. How can I do this? Normal essays were hard and now you’re expected to do something even bigger?

You are going to feel more mature. This is your final year and, for the majority of us, the end of full-time education. Remember when you saw university students as adults? Now you are one. Eighteen-year-old freshers will begin to look like children.

Yet at the same time, you are going to feel so young. What a fun paradox. I am expected to complete a dissertation? I only just learnt how to make toast. I am expected to work after graduation? Full-time for forty hours a week? Sorry, I am definitely too young for this.

You might feel utterly clueless. People ask me what I am going to do after I graduate, when I don’t know what I am doing tomorrow. Please give me some space. I can’t breathe. I just say I am focusing on university until I no longer need to. That usually ends the conversation.

Obviously, when they ask that dreaded question, you are going to think about it, and you are not going to know which path to choose. Get a job? Masters? Jump straight to a PhD? (How?) Travelling? (With what money?) I might just get another degree and pretend I’m 18 again.

Honestly, what am I going to do? Where do you find one of these jobs of which you speak? How do you apply and get an interview? Even if I could do all this, what job do I want? Who wants to hire someone this clueless?

You may experience these negative and irrational feelings, but you will get through them. Even I’m getting through them, despite how my first two years went. I am going to work it out, get this degree, and find my path. And you will too. Then, we can celebrate to freedom!

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