Firstly, I want to say hi! It’s been a while! So much has changed hasn’t it?! Dare I say the dreaded C word? Coronavirus is obviously unavoidable in today’s society, so I guess it’s unavoidable here too!
The last time I wrote about university on this page, I was giving advice on Freshers week, and now here I am, a fully fledged graduate with a full time job. There have been lots of changes for me since then, as there have been for everyone! Covid-19 struck and shifted a lot of aspects of people’s lives. I think it’s important to remember whilst Covid has been the main change, everybody has had their own changes over the past two years, and whilst some are unfortunately not so good, there are so many things to celebrate too. For me, one of these was graduating.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but I studied Psychology and during my three years, I have had so many questions about my degree I thought I would band together the most frequently asked and then finish off with my own quick review of university as a whole experience. So if that’s something you’re interested in, then keep reading!
1a. What did you study? and bonus follow up question… 1b. What do you want to do with it?
Wow, this is a big one, and probably the most frequently asked. Anyone that has done a degree/chosen their GCSEs, A-Levels or any other type of course can tell you, this is the first thing people ask. And I suppose rightly so, surely we have good reasons for choosing our subjects? What we enjoy, what we’re good at, what peaks our interests and makes us want to know more… For some people they have a passion, such as they are brilliant at Art, a great sportsman or they really geek out on History, their choice might be easy! But for a lot of us we are fairly average at everything, and the choice can seem tougher.
In short, I chose to study a degree in Psychology because I think in the world today, a lot of young people in the job market have a Bachelors or higher. I knew I wanted a degree but had to choose which one. At the time, I was studying English, Maths, Spanish and Psychology, with that being my strongest and most enjoyed subject. It is also known to be widely applicable to a variety of career paths, and I was also acutely aware that most people take jobs in a completely unrelated field to their degree subject. So I wasn’t backing myself into a corner of becoming a Clinical Psychologist; it gave me options and more time to decide beyond the degree what I would do.
Tying into part b, I am as of yet to find out what I will ‘do with my degree’, however I have started a new job recently (my first full-time job) and I am really enjoying it! It’s not anything that I would have imagined I’d be doing but it is an exciting role in a lovely work environment with room for progression. Beyond that, I’m not sure where I’m heading, but I know that I have the foundation of a degree behind me. Whether that is actually beneficial or simply it gives confidence of knowing that I have some sort of qualification.
My final year Dissertation title
2. How did you decide where to study?
Another excellent question but with a fairly simple answer. Do your research, look at prospectuses (not tonnes), visit their websites and social media pages, watch virtual tours and visit the campuses (again don’t do a tour of the whole UK!). I found when visiting universities, I knew fairly quickly if I liked a campus or not, for example I wasn’t a huge fan of the Loughborough University or Cardiff University campuses, but when I went to Nottingham and Oxford Brookes University, I knew I loved them. You honestly get a feel for the university and you have to trust your instincts. Yes, you do have to consider entry requirements, distance from home etc. but at the base of it you have to like to campus and accommodation. So my advice; see what feels right and trust yourself.
3. Did you join any societies/clubs?
Whilst at university I was part of the Psychology Society and I played tennis socially. Personally I love playing sport and keeping fit, but I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Universities have so much to offer. Sport societies can sometimes get a bad reputation, but they are what you make of them and you decide what you want to be a part. If you love going out every night and getting plastered, go for it, you do you! But if you don’t, that shouldn’t be a reason to stop you taking part in sports you enjoy. There are also lots of events that aren’t focused on drinking, with universities pushing for a more ‘healthy’ social culture.
Most (if not all) universities will hold a Fresher’s Fair in the first week (see my post on Freshers here), and I’d encourage you to go and check out what is on offer. Pop your name down for some bits and see how you feel about them later if you’re not sure you want to commit. Change your mind? Take your name off the list, or just don’t show up! But it is a brilliant chance to try new things and probably one of the rare points in life when you have time. Make the most of it! Cliche I know, but if I could go back and do it again, I would take part in a lot more.
4. When did you choose 2nd year housing?
We were fairly organised and as a group, had found a house by Christmas. A bit of a different story in third year; in April we found out the house we were in was suddenly unavailable for the following year and we had to change our house very last minute. This gave me experience of being both very organised and being in total panic. Here’s how it went:
Organising yourself early is definitely preferable, you have more time to look for houses and you have more time to get closer with the people you will live with. You can also sort out all paperwork, tenancy agreements and deposits earlier and this can be done and dusted, no longer a stress. However, if you have left it a bit late and you are desperately looking for a house, there are options. Luckily for me, my housemates didn’t change much, so we just needed a house. We viewed a house 10 doors down from our old one in the morning, and by the afternoon we had secured it and received contracts. One tip, if it is a last minute scramble, you have to have perspective. You may not find something super nice, and you’re going to need to use some imagination when viewing these student properties. Think about how your things will look in the rooms rather than how it looks with a strangers stuff lying everywhere and it being (probably) a lot dirtier than you would keep it. Keep an open mind, and remember look for something in your budget. Just because it’s last minute, doesn’t mean you have to pay through the nose for something left on the market that’s too expensive for what it is – awful student digs.
5. Do you miss it?
Yes and no. I would say the bits I miss the most are the socialising and the university lifestyle. Realistically I’m not sure many people ‘miss’ the work, so it isn’t a surprise I’d be happy to not write another social psychology essay again. But I do miss certain parts of the work, such as the experiments and the research projects, they were (at times) fun.
The social aspects of university, such as living with friends, going out, having a very free schedule (honestly there are not enough contact hours for the amount it costs!), these things were great. But whilst I miss them, I also like having my full time job, I still see friends and go out, play sport etc etc. I just have to priories and manage my time more.
My final thoughts:
It’s so difficult to summarise whether university is worth it in a blanket statement that applies to everyone, because each person’s case is different.
Generally speaking, I would say for certain careers there is a definite set path to get there, e.g. clinical psychologist, vet, orthopaedic surgeon etc. But for the majority of us, if you are considering university simply as something to do for 3 years I would suggest you strongly consider other options, such as Apprenticeships (earn as you learn) or finding a job and working for the three years. Sometimes, working in a professional environment gives you valuable life experience that university cannot. Along those lines, and mentioned in previous posts, find a part time job whilst you’re at uni, at minimum this will give you a bit more cash and I found it helped to structure my week.
As I’ve said, everyone is different and a simple yes or no is not going to fit for everybody. Personally I am pleased I studied for three years and think even though I won’t necessarily go into a ‘Psychology-based-job’ it has given me good experience in other ways that I have enjoyed, and there a definite aspects of my degree that I use in my job now and will in future careers too.
There’s no doubt university is fun, you’ll have an absolutely amazing time, but it is hard work too. At the end of the day, you’re there to get a qualification and at some point that will need to be a priority, but do enjoy yourself, three years will whizz by so quickly and you have to make the most of it!
Thanks for reading and look out for more posts on student/graduate life!