Advice for fourth years, from a recent graduate
It’s the final countdown
As the start of a new academic year draws ever closer, here are my tips for those transitioning from third to fourth year.
Have confidence in yourself
Most student’s grades, according to my dissertation supervisor, spiral on an upwards trajectory in Honours. By their final year, students are more experienced and more confident, and so generally receive better marks. He was right – the vast majority of my friends did much better in fourth year than third. You have the practice and the technique. You know what’s expected, and what works best for you. So relax, have confidence in yourself, try your best, and you will soon reap the rewards. If you weren’t good enough, you wouldn’t have made it this far.
Dissertations: find what’s best for you
A dissertation is a daunting task. It’s easy to compare your efforts to your friends, and be intimated by the work ethic of your peers. The most effective way to tackle your dissertation is to figure out your studying technique, then persevere. It suited me to do work little and often; around 3-5 hours most days, splitting my time between the dissertation and essays. This allowed me the freedom and flexibility to prepare for my seminars, work in retail, visit home, and have a social life, while also making steady academic progress. Starting your diss early also helps massively – you’ll thank yourself later.
Mix up your studying
While central lib is an obvious choice, working in the same spot is repetitive and mundane. Alternative locations include Kings Buildings (free parking and near a McDonalds), Hugh Robson (dungeon-like, but little chance of running into anyone you know if you’re feeling reclusive) and coffee shops (expensive, loud, yet aesthetically pleasing). Going out for lunch with your pals is another way to change up your day. George Square is in close proximity to plenty of affordable and convenient options, including Redbox, Caravan, Union of Genius, Paradise Palms, or even, weather-permitting, a Meadows BBQ. Food is going to be the highlight of your day; at least make it tasty.
Start preparing for, or at least thinking about, your career
Juggling studying and job-seeking is hard, and while it’s important not to let your marks slip in the process, I would definitely recommend making time to consider your future career. If you’re totally clueless, think about the skills your degree has given you, and read through a range of appealing job descriptions to see if there’s a match. You could also talk to your lecturers or supervisor, as they may have some good suggestions. Don’t worry if it’s all too overwhelming, though. The careers advice service is available for past students up to two years after graduation, and they can help with interview preparation, job applications, and any other queries.
Make the most of what student life in Edinburgh has to offer
Unless you’re a local, pursuing further education, or lucky enough to have a full-time job in the capital, then you will have left Edinburgh by this time next year. Allocate time to be a tourist in your own city. There’s so much to see and do, especially in comparison to the small town suburbia you will, if you’re like me, move back to after graduation. Although some days it might be hard, try to savour student life. There are so many final milestones – final essay deadlines, final exams, final hungover mornings eating dominoes and watching daytime TV with your flatmates – hurtling towards you. You will miss it intensely, but be so grateful you made the most of your four years in Edinburgh.