Top Tips for Final Year Psychology Students
So there I was, walking into my university building with fake confidence and a very limited amount of motivation to tackle the year ahead. I was officially a third year student in my final of university studying Psychology. We had previously been prepped with what to expect and how to go about handling any assignments, exams or even any stress that managed to crawl our way. Yet none of it was enough to carry the weight of dread that dropped onto my shoulders on induction day and how the third year panned out.
In my first week of university all Psychology students attended an induction session to third year, where we were given an overview of our modules and their weighting towards our final year grade. Exams and assignment hand-ins were explained and the most important thing: the DISSERTATION. It was heavily stressed upon that day that the dissertation should be the most important thing in your life for the year. Scratch that – it should be the only thing in your life that year, in fact, it IS your life for that year! Trust me when I tell you that I am the kind of person who is easily influenced by what people say. So the stress they put on the importance of the dissertation, and third year as a whole, really got to me. I decided then and there that I could not have a repeat of first and second year. No more leaving assignments to the last minute and revising for the exams a few days before. No more rushing to get work done and then complaining that I didn’t get a good enough grade. I couldn’t afford any ‘what ifs’ this year.
I was determined to keep on top of all my work for this third year. I began the research for my dissertation as soon as university started, since it was the only piece of work, at that point, that I had all the information on. I wrote down topics, ideas and prepared for my first meeting with my supervisor. To say it was painful, was putting it mildly. That first supervisor meeting made me realise I should have had a head start on this dissertation during the holidays. I should have chosen a few research topics at that point and come in to discuss them. I should have chosen a set topic and started on my ethics form. I wanted to find a quiet corner to cry in. I felt like I had got off to a bad start and that it was going to get worse. Let it be known to you all, this would be the first of many break downs.
A plus point about third year is that not only is your supervisor supposed to help you out with your dissertation, he/she is also practically your personal therapist. Makes you kind of glad that they have a degree in Psychology. Hence, the break downs you may or may not have are in good hands. I think I had about two before I was strictly told to get a grip and get back to work. You have a set number of hours in the whole year in which you must meet up with your supervisor but if you manage to score an excellent supervisor like I have, they let you use and abuse that time limit. No deadline necessary there, they understand that we have enough of those already.
A month into third year and after extensive research and information gathering, I had jotted down in my student planner any deadlines I was to face within the year and any other activity that needed preparation beforehand. I felt slightly more prepared to face them all. My free time and breaks consisted of dissertation research whilst lectures helped me prepare for assignments I was going to face.
I had prepared Word documents for all the assignments coming up and chosen the questions that I would tackle for each one. Now that one point of my dissertation (the ethics form) has been dealt with. I am now planning on researching ideas for the assignments that are due in the beginning of the New Year. At the same time, I am drawing up a plan for a poster regarding my dissertation that is due in December. Pre-planning these things will help keep the panic at bay when the deadlines spring up on you. And it doesn’t have to be that the first thing you see has to be included in you work; write down the ideas, compare them, choose the better one, discuss your ideas with your lecturers, they are there to help you. What’s the worst they could say, “It sucks”? I doubt they would ever say that but even if they did, go back and try again. Ask your peers for help, they won’t turn you down. Don’t forget they are in the same position as you and may need your help too.
One thing that has been drilled into my head since first year was preparation. Unfortunately it didn’t stick until third year but I’m paying for that now. That’s not to say that work, assignments and exams are the only thing you do for this year, it’s important to enjoy your last year in university as well. It may possibly be the last time you see your fellow colleagues. You should cherish these last moments of youth before real life hits you hard. I myself am planning a trip in December with my university mates. We’re broke and up to our ears in responsibility and work but we understand the importance of taking a few days break and enjoying our time together before getting back to work. We have promised each other that as long as we manage to carry out a certain amount of work for university, we will follow through with the trip. If not, it will be delayed. I find that setting personal deadlines with rewards works for some people, including me. Like going to that party on the Saturday if you manage to finish your current topic.
Even while I write this, I have Google Scholar open in another window with research topics in the search bar. I don’t know about the others but I want this holiday!