I have just hit my final semester of my final year. Basically, this just got serious. Before I entered my final year of University however, I spent the months preceding suffering mini panic attacks every time I thought about the impending big D.
However, 4 months in, it’s not AS bad as I worked myself up for it to be. OK, it’s pretty bad, but I expected it to be worst.
I wanted to write a blog post to offer my top tips for fellow students who are approaching and preparing for final year and whom may be feeling the same impending doom I felt this time last year.
Preparation: Obvious, but very important. Preparation is more important than making sure you have a new notebook and ensuring you have the mind-set to work hard. Start thinking now about a topic that interests you and which you might want to spend 9 months writing 12,000 words on.
Research: Part of your preparation will come in the form of Research. I spent the first 2 months of my first semester back at University reading around different topics just to try and pin down my research question. If I had started this research earlier, I probably would have given myself a head start on the mountain of reading needed for my literature review.
Understand what a dissertation involves: I spent my third year of University on an industrial placement, so had little contact with tutors and the University as a whole during this time. This meant that I really had no idea what a dissertation involved, especially not a literature review – and it took a while to get my head round it before I started writing it. If you can cut out the time it might take you to get your head round everything in the first semester, you can give yourself a head start. This is especially important for students who might be on an industrial placement – ask your tutors all the questions you want to know before you head back.
Prepare your contacts: Whatever your question, it’s pretty inevitable that you will need to call upon your best contacts within the industry for research purposes. Start thinking about who would be best for this to provide the best content and expertise (although it may be difficult if you haven’t decided on your question) but start putting the feelers out as to who would be willing to help you out, to save you time in approaching them later on in the process.
Be prepared to give up your social life: Dissertation will take up most of your life during final year at University and as I’m sure you expect dissertation isn’t the only piece of work you’ll be submitting in final year. So get ready to put those excellent time management (and stress management) skills to the test, and yes, your social life (and other societal commitments) to one side. If you have friends and peers who are not in their final year, make sure they understand that you will not be able to go out and party as much as they will and ensure they respect that you need to spend a strong proportion of your free time working on your dissertation.
Be excited: Probably the last thing you think you might be feeling, but if you ensure that you choose the right topic, a dissertation can actually be a really exciting project. You get to delve deep into one area of your chosen industry, and really understand it and draw new research conclusions that might help future students and practitioners. Ensuring you have a positive mindset will set you on the road to success. Negativity only breeds stress and anxiety, something you definitely do not need in final year.