Final year stress: what do you do after you graduate?

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Sophie McDonald, Fourth Year Biology

University eventually comes to an end and you have to enter the big wide world. Although for some this may seem exciting, many fear an uncertain future, especially having to think about what is to come next. Channeling that fear into excitement can help us tackle the next steps.

  1. Fear is a great thing

If you’re scared about not knowing what you’re going to do after you graduate, you’re in luck. As it turns out, fear can be great. That blood-pumping, adrenaline soaring physiological reaction that happens when you’re scared isn’t that different to the way your body reacts to excitement. It may be that you need to start reshaping the way you react to the feelings that you get when considering life after university. The fact that your future could take you absolutely anywhere and you have no idea where it is yet, it’s a scary situation, sure, but you have to admit it’s also an incredibly exciting one.

As it turns out, fear can be great.

Remember: being scared is normal and it is powerful. The best things often happen when you feel the least comfortable. Learning to embrace the fear you’re feeling and channel it into excitement is the first step in changing your outlook during your final year.

  1. There is more than one path in life

This is a pivotal moment in many of our lives – it’s the point where we decide whether to follow the same path as everyone around us, or if we are going to create one for ourselves. Comparing yourself to other people is unhelpful in most situations but when it comes to figuring out what you’re going to do at this crucial point in life, it is especially important that you try to just focus on yourself.

Your path in life is also not set in stone by the degree you’ve chosen. Just because you may hear the same types of jobs cropping up time and time again in careers talks in your department, doesn’t mean that they are the only opportunities that exist. It is entirely possible that your dream job is something you’ve never even heard of before, and you’ll come across it in your own time.

Remember: Everyone’s individual path is remarkably different. Looking over your shoulder at your peers’ journeys probably isn’t going to help you find your own way.

  1. Take every day as it comes

When considering something as complex as your future, the endless possibilities can leave you feeling dizzy. Mapping out the next few years, or even months is always a daunting task. While it’s a good idea to know your goals if you have them, trying to organise your life to specific deadlines is often counterproductive, leaving you so overwhelmed that you end up unable to make a single decision. This is especially relevant if you are struggling with poor mental health, and can have drastic impacts on your wellbeing.

If you already have to deal with a mental health issue on top of the day-to-day challenges of being a student, then taking small steps forward will get you further than trying to leap ahead and finding yourself feeling worse than when you started.
Instead of laying out your entire life ahead of you and trying to plan every moment in advance, try instead to consider whatever you find manageable. This will be different for every individual, and if you’re going through a particularly hard time right now, this could involve just taking every day as it comes.

Remember: The future can be overwhelming. Try to start considering more manageable portions of it, perhaps even just one day at a time.

  1. Stop feeling guilty for wanting to focus on being a student

Do you feel like you only have one term left and you’d rather spend that focusing on being a student rather than planning what’s coming next? But you still feel that niggling guilt that you should be putting more time aside to think ahead? It might be time to put an end to feeling guilty and just embrace student life.

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It might be that you just want to focus on your academic work right now, and simply don’t feel like there’s enough time to add writing CVs or personal statements to your already never-ending to-do list. Fair enough, applications are extremely time-consuming. You can lose days at a time, especially if you have to travel anywhere for interviews.
Even if you just want to focus on your social life or a hobby, then the same also applies. You only have so much time and energy, and if you think that obsessing over plans after graduation is going to mean spreading yourself too thinly, then perhaps you should balance it out a bit more and cut yourself a bit more slack.

Remember: You’re only a student for a limited amount of time. Don’t feel guilty if that’s your main focus at the moment.

  1. Everything is going to work out

You are in no way expected to land your dream job straight away. Give yourself the time and the space to figure out what’s right for you without rushing into something out of panic. The opportunity that you are going to end up taking might not have even been advertised yet, so don’t worry if nothing has caught your eye so far.

Remember: Everything is going to be just fine. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, don’t compare yourself to others, and go at your own pace and you will end up exactly where you’re meant to be.

Featured Image: Marina Afzal-Khan


Approaching the end of university isn't as scary as it seems! What do you fear the most? Comment below or get in touch!

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