Going into my third year at uni, I thought I had it covered. I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. I thought my dissertation would be a breeze because I like writing, and I thought my plan for after graduation would somehow magically fall into place. But it’s not like that. Here are some things I wish I knew before term started last September.
- You need to actively make sure you don’t burn out.
The workload can be a lot. And you still have to make time to work on your diss, and make the most of the time you have left with your friends. I had my part-time job on the side and wanted to do extra-curricular things like work experience and being active in societies to make sure I had something for my CV.
I thought it’d be okay, and that was why it hit me like a ton of bricks. Make sure you’re aware that it’s going to be overwhelming at times. Prepare, get enough sleep to be able to function throughout the day, and don’t sign up for more than you can handle. There’s so much pressure to be on the go all the time, but it’s not worth having a million commitments if you’re only going to be able to give them all 30% of your energy.
Take it easy from the start and if you have free time, take on more. Burning out isn’t worth it – once you fall off track it can be so hard to get back on.
2. If you’re struggling, talk about it.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise how many people were in my boat. I didn’t want to look like I was struggling. I thought about everyone else who’d ever gone to uni and had made it through, and I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t good enough. The imposter syndrome can be really disarming.
Talking to people and seeing that they feel the same is relieving. It shows that we’re all only human. University is hard. Instead of doubting myself for finding it hard, that energy should’ve gone towards applauding everyone else who’s made it.
A strong support network makes all the difference in the world. My friendship group might consist of a bunch of hot messes, but just being around other hot messes makes you feel instantly a little less messy.
3. You don’t have to have your next steps all laid out.
You’re just trying to get through your degree right now. You’re young and, even though the question “so what next?” is being thrown at you from all angles every day, nobody really expects you to have the next ten years sorted out.
You might not fall straight into your dream career the week after graduation. In fact, that is so unlikely – that’s why it’s called a ‘dream’ career. It might take a couple of years – or even a decade – to get to the exact place you want to be. And that doesn’t make you a failure.
In the meantime, you’ll be okay. If you have to do a different job to tide you over until the best opportunity comes along, that’s not a setback. You’ve earned the degree and that’s something to be proud of. Any way you can find to support yourself is something to celebrate – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
4. If you’re broke, you’re broke.
There are so many things I want to do this year before I graduate and maybe leave my uni town for good. Places I’ve never eaten, people I want to hang out with as much as possible, bars I’ve never been in, and experiences I want to have while I’m still a student.
It has taken me way too long to feel comfortable turning things down because I can’t afford it. At the end of the day, as much as you want to make the most of it and have the craziest time, it’s rough being a student. Three years of being in overdraft is going to take a toll at some stage.
Other people will understand if you can’t do it all. They’ll find other ways to spend time with you. Plus, if you’re stressing about money the entire time you’re out, you probably won’t be having an amazing time, anyway.
5. It’s okay to be proud of yourself.
Regardless of grades or money or friends or anything, you’re here. When you were sitting your A-Levels, could you actually imagine yourself in your final year at uni? No, because it was so unknown.
Your next steps are just like that. You can’t always see things playing out because you just don’t know what it will be like. But you’ll get there. And you should be proud!
Check yourself and lift yourself up now and again. Managed to make it to your 9am but almost slept through half of it? So what? You must’ve been exhausted but you still made that effort. Eaten a frozen pizza for the third time this week? Good for you for finding the energy to throw something in the oven rather than opening Uber Eats. All you did today was shower and neglect your diss? Self-care is so important, and you’ll feel better rested to take a closer look tomorrow.
And don’t forget to give this same hype to your friends whenever you can. It’s not cringey to say you’re proud of them – you never know who needs to hear they’re doing well.
Image courtesy of Shubham Sharan