If you are reading this then it’s likely that you’re exams are over. If you’re exams are not over yet then why are you reading this and not studying?! Summer resits are very inconvenient!
When you’re exams finish for the year there tends to be a bit of an anti-climax, especially if you are doing a high pressured course or took the crazy decision as I did to study extra modules every year to become accredited in two disciplines. After ten months of life revolving around lectures, seminars, tutorials, reading, studying, a bit of part time work, the obligatory socialising and the exams, it can feel a bit strange to suddenly be free. So what should you do when you’re exams are finished?
What should you do when you’re exams are over?
This really depends on one two major points – what year of university you are in and how well you think you have done in your exams.
If you genuinely think that you have failed your exams, or you haven’t done as well throughout the year as you wanted to do then you should think hard about resits. It might seem like a much better idea to go on holiday or spend your summer doing something that is a bit more exciting than studying and resitting exams. And let’s be fair it is quite easy to think of so many things that are more exciting than studying and resitting exams! But doing an undergraduate degree can be thought of as a once in a lifetime opportunity these days with the costs of tuition fees. Not many people will have the money to be able to start over and do another degree if they mess this one up.
The job market is brutal in today’s economic climate and having a 2:2 or 3rd degree is often seen as equivalent to having no degree at all. Very few graduate employers will take on a person with a low degree and so you will be left with the decision of getting a non-graduate job and working your way up or studying further to prove that your academic abilities are worthy of a graduate job. Neither of these situations is ideal. Most people cannot afford to study more straight from an undergraduate degree and so you are likely to be left getting a job that you could have got without going to uni at all.
Resits are probably looking more appealing now! For the sake of a few more months of studying and a few exams you could put yourself back on track to the dream career you wanted when you started uni. If you have no idea what job you would like (just like me the entire way through uni!) then having a 2:1 or first degree will give you so many more options. Doors are opened to people who have achieved higher level degrees that are closed and locked to people with a 2:2 or below.
Study or relax?
If you are in your first or second year (or third year if you are doing a four year course) you will need to choose between carrying on studying when your exams are finished so you are ahead or up to date ready for the beginning of the next year, or to have a break and relax for a bit.
There is an obvious advantage to carrying on studying as soon as you have finished your exams. You will be in the right frame of mind for studying and you will get ahead for next year. Some lecturers may even expect you to do some reading over the summer so you are prepared for when you return. However, you will probably be happy to hear that there is also much to be said for taking a break.
Maybe you love your degree and can think of nothing better than to start studying for next year but even if you love your subject a break is always refreshing. Breaks during the academic year may seem long to an outsider but it is rare to find a course where you don’t have to study or write an essay or two while you’re on your Easter or Christmas breaks. So the summer may be the only chance you really get during the year to relax and not think about assignment deadlines or revision.
It is a fact that people learn better when they are refreshed and alert. If you take a break from studying, even if it is only for a few weeks, you are likely to be more refreshed and alert and will learn so much more effectively.
Another great reason to take a break over the summer is that once you leave uni and get a job you are unlikely to ever have the chance of taking so many weeks off in one go so make the most of it!!
Final year? What to do next
If you are in your final year then the end of your exams marks the end of an era and potentially the start of exciting new challenges. Throughout your final year you should have been accessing your career centre and deciding what you want to do once you have graduated. It is quite possible that you have a job lined up and know that you can take a break once your exams are finished as you already have your start date for work (so long as you did as well as you needed to in your exams!). Obviously you should spend some time preparing for your new job but you can generally relax and enjoy a break.
If you haven’t got a job lined up then taking a break could be a huge mistake. A high number of people will be graduating and competing for jobs and taking a break could mean that you miss out on the opportunities that you would like. If you have been applying for jobs and getting nowhere think about volunteering over the summer so you have more experience to put on your applications. It may be tempting to sit back and think you can worry about it after the summer but in such a competitive market you are taking yourself out of the game at a crucial time. If you are serious about getting a graduate job then as soon as your exams are finished you need to be proactive. Use your free time to job hunt, volunteer and get yourself known in the field you want to work in. Otherwise your degree could go to waste!