Ah, final year. It represents many things; the end of an era, the start of our next adventure, a time to knuckle down and actually start studying. Above all though, it marks a time of stress and uncertainty for the future. Gone are our carefree days of skipping lectures, attending every social event possible and banging out essays the night before they’re due. Now our lives consist of grad fairs, applications and the dreaded question of “what are your plans for next year?”. These seven words are enough to strike fear and panic into the hearts of many final year students. We are on the cusp of making a significant life transition, from student to fully-fledged adult (apart from those going straight into a Masters). It reminds me of the transition from secondary school to university; although there is still one major difference. While the sixth year to college change is definitely an overwhelming time in many lives, there still remains an element of certainty, a path to follow. Most students arrive into college with a clear route – attend some lectures, answer some MCQs, have a busy social life and maybe even go abroad for a year.
This time, however, that single path has turned into a terrifying maze, with multiple paths to be chosen. How do we know which path is best? What if I choose the wrong one, and it’s too late to go back? All these questions are a common feature of final year. One such panic that seems to revel in my fear is the thought “Am I even doing the right degree?”. Never mind that I have loved the last three years of my degree, or that I am sure in my module choices for fourth year. None of that matters when this thought rises up, crushing all possibilities of productivity for a while. As if these fears weren’t enough to be coping with, final year students still have to juggle all the other aspects of college life. Assignments, part-time jobs, extra-curriculars and Netflix are all fighting for commitment, battling it out with online aptitude tests and recruitment fairs. A research survey conducted in Scotland showed that, for 75% of final year students, career prospects after graduation were the biggest source of stress, second to 90% who say dissertations and final year projects are the main sources.
The multitude of options available to graduates is a sign of the growing economy and Irish students are fortunate to have so many different choices available. Completing a Masters, working with a leading Irish or international company, or heading abroad to work, there are so many opportunities for graduates nowadays. This is another factor that contributes to the final year fears; we are torn between a few different choices, unsure of which is the best one for us. Do I make my decision based on the salary offered? Or my parents’ expectations? Or do I take the easiest option? It is ultimately a huge decision to make, and I sometimes feel that twenty-one is too young to be making such a life-changing decision. This time next year I could be working for a huge multinational firm, making strategic decisions that could have a significant impact on the company’s performance; yet right now I still call my dad when the
engine light comes on in my car. Our early twenties are a strange time in this respect; we are not planted firmly in the adult world yet are expected to be wholly independent and responsible.
At this time of year, many final students spend their precious time researching and applying to grad schemes. We fill out form after form, spouting all sorts of nonsense to prove we are the perfect candidate for this highly sought position. We battle it out online, answering real-life questions and aptitude tests, all in the hopes that we will have a defined plan by the time our exams roll round in May. The desire to work in a large multinational is often overshadowed by the overwhelming need for certainty after graduation. No, I don’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder of an Italian analytics company, but I’m still going to apply for the position! On top of these applications, we are expected to attend job roadshows and graduate fairs, career talks from established firms and advice meetings. All these tasks accumulate into a constant, nagging fear in the back of our minds; a voice that rejoices in making us feel lost and helpless. We look on with envy as first-years chatter about County Colours in The Rock or student Race Days, remembering a time when we were so flippant about attending lectures.
While the final year fears are an inevitable part of your degree, it is important to enjoy your last year as a student too. Meet with the UCC Careers Office to talk through your options and get valuable advice. Attend recruitment events with an open mind. Stick with your friends, that assignment will still be there if you take an hour off to grab a coffee, and they are robably experiencing the same stress. If you do find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, do not hesitate to contact the UCC Student Health Centre to make an appointment and talk to someone. Remember, every graduate out there has gone through this, and it will all come to an end! UCC offers a free counselling service in the Student Health Centre. To make an appointment you can drop into their building on College Road or contact them on +353 (0)21 4902311.