After the years of hard work, late night cramming sessions, make-shift student meals and a few too many nights out, graduation is nearly in sight. All that’s standing between you and the official start of adulthood is one last push through your final semester. And if you feel anything like I did during this time, the thought of getting through these next few months is probably a little overwhelming.
Between trying to knuckle down and do the best you can in your degree, wanting to make the most of living your last few months as a student and thinking ahead to what you want to do after graduation, it’s a balancing act. Take a look at my top tips for making the most of your last semester at university and how to best manage your different priorities during this time.
Maintain a strong work/life balance
Finding a work/life balance during your final (and probably most challenging) semester isn’t easy. You may feel as though you’re often overwhelmed with your academic studies and not making enough time to see friends or relax. The truth is, there is no ‘right way’ to go about doing this. A work/life balance is completely subjective and needs to be right for you.
It’s important to remember that you’re not expected to be studying 24/7. Particularly during my last semester, when it felt like I was juggling so many aspects of my academic life that I had no time for anything else, I tried to think of my studies as a full-time job. Your lectures, seminars, revision and coursework all count towards a 35-40 hour working week, giving you time outside of this to socialise and unwind. Of course, if you have a big deadline coming up, you may need to put in some extra hours. But trying to keep your working hours within this time frame may help you be more productive, whilst also ensuring you can take the time you need to look after yourself.
2. Find what opportunities you can to strengthen your CV
Although it’s important to not put too much on your plate during your final semester, you may want to consider exploring what opportunities there are for you to add to your CV whilst the time and resources are available to you. You’ve undoubtably heard this many (many!) times throughout your degree, but the job market is really tough. Anything you can do now or put in place for after you’ve finished your exams and coursework will help you in the long term when applying for jobs.
This could be volunteering at a school or with a charity for a few hours a week, learning a new skill outside of your academic studies, earning a new qualification (for example, First Aid) or taking on a role within your academic school. If you’re not sure where to start looking for these opportunities, ask your personal tutor or university careers advisor for help. Think ahead but remember to keep any extra workloads at a reasonable level to help you maintain a healthy work/life balance.
3.Soak up your university town or city!
If you’re planning on moving back ‘home’ or to a completely new area after graduation, this is your last opportunity to make the most of all the things that your university town or city has to offer. This is the place that has been your home for the last few years, full of new friends, new memories (good and bad!) and probably lots of things you’ve been meaning to do and see since moving in but haven’t got around to yet.
This could be a visit to a nearby beach, a trip to the museum, an evening spent in that new restaurant or bar or a walk through a local park. Grab your friends (or spend some time by yourself!) and soak up your last few months as a student in your university town and city. It’s also a great way to make sure you’re taking regular breaks from your studies.
4.Explore your options for life after university
This is something I actively avoided doing during my last semester at university, and it probably made finding a job after graduation much more difficult. Between being overwhelmed by my workload and being in fear of leaving the university bubble, I thought that ignoring making any future plans was the best solution. I was very, very wrong!
Doing this ultimately put me on the back foot and led to months of job hunting with little else to focus on. Whilst your studies need to be your main priority during your last semester, there is no harm in thinking about what you want to do when you finish. Applying for graduate schemes, researching job opportunities and getting in touch with companies to organise some work experience are just some of the things you can do. It’s also your prime opportunity to research whilst your university tutors, lecturers and careers advisors are on hand to offer their support.
5.Make as many connections and contacts as you can
Throughout your university experience, you will likely have had a personal tutor as your main point of contact and have been taught by various lecturers with different specialisms. These are all good people to reach out to if you’re looking to make some new contacts within the industry you’re interested in, particularly when thinking ahead to possible career paths.
During your next meeting with your personal tutor (you should be having these at least once a semester to keep them in the loop with how’re you’re doing both academically and personally) have a chat about your post-uni plans. If you think it would be beneficial to make new contacts within a particular field, ask your tutor if they can help you with this. They may be able to direct you to someone else in the department with a more specialist knowledge or to other personal contacts they have. It’s also important to maintain a good relationship with your personal tutor as they are likely to be a referee on your job applications, especially in the first few years after leaving university.
Your final semester will undoubtably be a balancing act, but the trick is to find a balance this is right for you. Work hard, make the most of every opportunity and take the time to look after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.
Ellie can be contacted via twitter @EllieJerman, and via Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellie-jerman-88706b152/
Ellie also has a personal blog: https://forgettheworld1006.wordpress.com/