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Are you graduating this year?

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Life is full of transitions and periods of change which can make us feel vulnerable and uncertain. For students in their final year of study, the prospect of leaving university can be one such time. The end of your time as a student can be difficult to think about, after all, you have probably been in continuous education for most of your life! As a student you are provided with a structure; timetables, lectures, assignment deadlines, semesters, exams and reading weeks and all this structure helps us feel safe and secure. As a student you also have a clear identity ‘I am a student’; a sense of belonging, to your course, your peer group, to Queen Mary; and a well defined purpose, to pass exams and complete your course.

Some final year students start to feel constrained by student life and long to break out if it and set off on a journey where they have the freedom to choose their own direction, set their own timetable and make their own decisions. For others the thought of losing the identity, structure and purpose that comes with being a student can be bewildering. Not knowing what lies ahead and having to take responsibility for your own direction in life can cause a great deal of anxiety. Sometimes, this leads to academic paralysis and failure to progress towards graduation. If this sounds like you, it might be helpful to talk it through with a friend, family member or a counsellor in the Advice and Counselling Service.

As well as the emotional challenges which arise when you come to the end of your studies, there are obviously many practicalities to attend to. Deciding where to live, managing your financial affairs, applying for further study or finding work- all can prove relatively straightforward for some students and extremely difficult for others, depending on how much you have planned ahead and how much support you have.

Given all this it's hardly surprising that anxiety and stress can be high for many final year students. Whilst it makes sense to plan ahead and seek advice where necessary (try the Careers Service for advice on how to plan for employment) it’s also important to be able to focus on the here and now in order to complete your academic work. You are meant to be stressed to some extent - its part of the process of achieving graduate status, but you can perform under pressure, you’ve done it before and this is no different. It will be over soon and then you can step back and reflect on what you have found satisfying and worthwhile.  You can have that sense of satisfaction of seeing something through to the end knowing you’ve given it your best shot. The knowledge that you have persisted with your studies, whatever the outcome, will confirm your personal resolve and resilience which, in turn, can help you engage with whatever comes next after College.

If you are worried about life after Queen Mary and are feeling stressed by all the change, deadlines, exams and future plans it maybe worth talking things over with your personal advisor or mentor or even friends.  Often, hearing that other people have similar feelings can help us feel less isolated and that in turn will help reduce stress levels. If things really feel they are getting too much and you think your stress or anxieties are stopping you being able to study effectively, see your GP or come to the Advice and Counselling Service - to find out more visit: www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk.

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