As the final semester of the Final Year approaches closer on the calendar, every minute counts. It is not too late to achieve the goals you had set yourself.
One of the things I loved the most about Final Year was the ambitious drive amongst myself and my classmates. We all wanted to make the most out of the remainder of studies. We all had goals we wanted to achieve. We all put ourselves out on the line to because we knew it all happens outside of your comfort zone.
Final Year was one of the most challenging time of my academia, but it was also the most rewarding. I pushed myself beyond my limits to get what I really wanted. Time was ticking and I made sure I used every second I possibly could to never lose sight of the goals my younger self had set.
With some extra determination and a few more cups of coffee, you’ll be beaming with a smile on your face as you sit alongside your fellow graduands because you know you have finally made it. I hope these tips will be of some help as I fully understand how hectic things can be! As I type this, I can vividly remember the late nights and weekends at the library from this time, last year, to work on my research papers and Engineering Project. I can just about taste that mocha with hazelnut syrup (which tastes exactly like a liquid version of Nutella. I totally recommend trying it!)
By the time I had graduated from University, I had:
- Achieved a 2:1 overall classification in BSc (Hons) Computing.
- Delivered the Graduation Speech on behalf of the graduating class of School of Computing and School of Education & Childhood Studies.
- Became the School of Computing Prize Winner for “Best Business Solution Project”.
- Became an accredited IT Technician with The IET.
- Presented my Engineering Project at two conferences: BCS Women Ada Lovelace Colloquium in Aberystwyth; University of Portsmouth School of Computing Student Conference.
- Secured a position to work as a Software Developer at a FTSE 100 company.
These views are completely my own and not affiliated with the University of Portsmouth at all. If you want to know more information, feel free to contact me via the form here!
So without further ado, my tips for you Final Years are:
1. Plan your time.
You need to be disciplined with your time. Create a timetable with your employment, extra curricular, independent study sessions, and lectures. Be realistic when setting a time-range: some may be able to work from 9:00am to 9:00pm, some may be able to do their best pieces of writing during the late hours at night, some may be able to get the ball rolling from 6:00am. You know yourself best and know what, and most importantly, when works for you. Plan everything you can think of so you can timebox your sessions accurately – the smallest of things can build up to consume more time than you think!
Keep a timetable in your calendar, iCloud or printed on your desk so you are constantly reminded of what you need to complete for that day. Colour coding is also a great way of differentiating between deadlines for assessments and milestones for your Final Year Project, as well as between independent study sessions and lectures.
2. Look after yourself.
I cannot emphasise this enough. Please look after yourself. Balance is key and maintaining a healthy lifestyle should be as high of a priority to you as achieving in your studies. It is inevitable to think working to exhaustion is the key to doing well and achieving beyond the 70-grade-band, but you will burn out much more rapidly.
Final Year can be exceptionally chaotic and may make you feel anxious when you have so many academic commitments to fulfil. Therefore, it’s imperative to look after yourself both physically and mentally: confide in people you trust, write your feelings in a journal, exercise, visit the beach, eat some vegetables, drink water, the list goes on.
What you should not do at all is bottle anything up. Vocalise your worries to people you trust. Even if you feel like it’s difficult to do so, say something and they can work at your pace to help you solve your issues.
Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness training app, was a total goldmine for me during my final exams. Taking 10 minutes out of my day to simply breathe and sign off from the world put me at so much ease. It made returning to my revision sessions and processing the information much more plausible.
My inbox is always open to anyone going through difficulties. Do not hesitate to contact me. I promise you will get a response from me if you need someone to talk to. We’ve all been there and we can help you.
We all love a good discount or a freebie. It’s even better when it’s of the academic variety and you can get an entire book for a very minimal amount of your finest English pounds.
There are a good handful of free PDFs and discounted textbooks around. No, it’s not a myth or the subject of a viral tweet. These things actually exist!
You can get discounts of up to 25% on sites such as Class Learning. Ask your lecturers or Unit Coordinators if they can provide you with a discount code.
4. Mentorship Schemes.
The School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth offer a range of mentorship schemes to their Final Year Students. The Information Services Department at the University give students an opportunity to have an industrial professional to mentor them throughout the academic year.
I was part of the mentorship scheme offered by the Information Services department and I have nothing but good words to say for it! My mentor and I had worked on postgraduate prospects and identifying what opportunities were available for me upon Graduating. It gave me so much clarity and I completed the scheme with a solid plan on what I wanted to do after. Their knowledge and guidance know no bounds and I cannot recommend the scheme enough!
Applications for the School of Computing Mentorship Scheme is open from October. Discuss with your Personal Tutor or Course Leader to find out more information.
The School of Computing also provide their own mentorship scheme by giving Final Year Students the opportunity to mentor First Year and Second Year students. Final Years can provide guidance on a range of subjects from programming to project management. Consult with your Course Leader for more information.
For the School of Computing students at the University of Portsmouth, there are two different Final Year Projects:
- A study project which requires students to write a 10,000 word report demonstrating their investigation related to their research area.
- An engineering project which entails students to write a 10,000 word report as well as constructing a software solution to an engineering problem.
Depending on the degree course, students will need to complete a study project orengineering project. Students studying for a specialist degree, such as Forensic Computing, may have the choice between a study or engineering project.
One of the most important responsibilities project students must maintain is contact with their supervisor. You were assigned that specific person because your dissertation topic and their research area complemented one another, so do not hesitate to share ideas with them to get their feedback. It is a judgement-free zone. They are exceptionally knowledgeable individuals and can help you exceed! They are there to provide you guidance and advise you on the decisions you make on your project. They can only do so, however, if you are honest with them. If you’re falling behind of schedule, tell them. If you’ve hit a wall with your ideas, tell them. If you have a few draft chapters ready to show, then do so.
Prepare for each meeting with a set of notes with three main areas:
- Prerequisites of tasks you completed ahead of the meeting.
- Agenda of items to discuss at the session.
- Action points of tasks or people to contact after the meeting.
If you have come back from an Industrial Year, continue to treat these meetings as a business meeting. You wouldn’t show up to a performance review with your boss without a set of items to discuss, so don’t do the same with your Project Supervisor. You have approximately 20 minutes to discuss progress on your project and address any issues, make sure you make the most of this time.
6. Extra Curricular.
Going back to my point in Tip #2 about looking after yourself, take some time out for extra-curricular activities, spending time with others and doing what you enjoy. You can still join clubs and societies to take part in tournaments and attend events, respectively.
Make sure to do something in your downtime, and more importantly, to include some downtime in your schedule.
The IT Society at the University of Portsmouth Students’ Union do excellent events, including visits to Flip Out! (trampoline park), hosting Lightning Talks (conferences), and field trips to places such as Bletchley Park.
7. Remember your end-goal.
You will finish your dissertation. You will graduate. You will create a career in your desired field. All will come in due course.
Remember your end-goal. As cliché it may sound, it’s true that you are so close to the finish line. A rather profound and helpful tip my tutor had told me on the first week of returning to University for Final Year was to mark the graduation date on my calendar. Granted, these dates are not confirmed and released until later in the year, but all I had to do was pick any date during the graduation period. This would serve as a constant reminder and quantify exactly how long I had left of studying for my undergraduate degree. It would trigger the question “what else do I need to do to achieve my goal?”
Only you can determine if you have achieved everything you had set yourself to achieve.
I wish you all the best. I know you’re all going to make it!