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My final year has honestly been full of unexpected twists and turns but has been, by far, the most exciting thing I have ever done. I remember buzzing with excitement at the thought of doing my own dissertation, of being able to choose a topic and learn how to operate different kinds of equipment. The research process started the summer before, and it made me even more eager to get going. Although the first and second years are wonderful, with plenty of thought-provoking modules, the final year has a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

However, I do need to sing the praises of the first year, because who could possibly forget to mention their very first encounter with University life and all its excitement? From Welcome Week to meeting all the lecturers and making new friends, to struggling with finding your way to all your classes, (with a slight possibility of walking into the wrong lecture), it’s an incredible first step into adulthood. Add to that the beauty of a whole new experience and exciting modules and you get an unforgettable first year.

As glamorous as it is, the first year cannot compare to how incredible the second year is, when you really get to do what you’ve decided to do a degree for, when you start to realise what you want your lifelong career to be. There may be more work involved, like writing the lab reports, but it is a great opportunity to prepare yourself to choose the right type of dissertation to undertake in your third year (because sometimes you may like qualitative more than quantitative). I think it's also important to mention that year 2 has had some of my favourite modules of them all. They were fun and felt like a breath of fresh air and I found myself always looking forward to coming in. All that, and yet nothing can possibly measure up to the greatness of the very last year.

Maybe it’s the excitement of it being the last step in a journey leading up to your lifelong career, or maybe it’s the part where you get to piece together everything you’ve learned over the past few years and do your own thing. All in all, it’s nothing like the other years of study, although the preparation for your third year begins in the spring of your second, where you are either given the dissertation choices or an opportunity to come up with your own independent proposal. Although it might sound like a lot to take on at that particular time, I found the dissertation interviews to be a highly helpful experience as they aided me in picking a topic I was interested in with a supervisor who was just as excited to get started on it as I was. I was lucky enough to have plenty of leeway around what my dissertation was going to be about and I ended up enjoying the research design process the most, despite having to get my head around the ethics form! 

In the end, being thorough and meeting with my supervisor often was all worth it when I saw myself taking all the necessary steps to start data collection in the lab. From printing out and hanging posters on all campuses, to booking the ‘Blackout Room’ and ensuring I requested all the necessary equipment, to finally coming in almost every day and setting up equipment for up to five participants per day. All the excitement added up, but the highlight of my final year was getting past all the preparatory stages and making it to the data collection point. It felt like I was finally able to see all my hard work come to fruition, and I was overjoyed with what I had managed to achieve.

All in all, I feel like the last year of a psychology degree is a great opportunity to grow and develop both as a person, and career-wise. It challenges you to overcome multiple hurdles and push yourself to the max, but I don’t think anything compares to the satisfaction you feel after the completion of the degree.

My advice to those who are about to embark on their third year is to get started early, keep working on your dissertation throughout the year and don’t forget to enjoy the process! Taking a step back may be needed from time to time (as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder), but at the end of the day, as long as you remain excited about your project, you’ll do just fine!

For information about the course, visit the BSc (Hons) Psychology course page.

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