Managing the end of your time at university

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

The end of your time at university can involve mixed emotions; concerns about the future and competing challenges and tasks, all calling for your attention at the same time.

The end of your time at university can involve mixed emotions; concerns about the future and competing challenges and tasks, all calling for your attention at the same time. Some thought and planning can help you get the most out of this transition. It isn’t surprising that students can find this period overwhelming as during a very short period of time, it may include:

  • Completing final pieces of coursework and/or sitting exams that are important to your overall grade.
  • Looking for jobs to begin post-university or applying for further study.
  • Moving accommodation – possibly to a completely new location.
  • Managing very significant changes in your friendship group, as people move to different geographical locations.
  • Seeking work to pay the bills for now, while you look for a graduate job.

This can be exacerbated if you don’t know what you want to do next, where you want to live or if you are managing other types of uncertainty or have caring responsibilities. But the key thing to remember is that all of this is ok.

While this is a big transition, there are ways to manage this that can help you to get the most out of your time and prepare for what comes next.

1. Be kind to yourself

Acknowledge that this is a big transition and don’t expect too much of yourself. It’s okay to be scared, concerned or to feel lost at times. It’s also okay to be excited about the future, ready to finish university and looking forward to not having any academic deadlines ahead. Whatever comes along, accept that this is normal for such a big change in your life. You are doing okay. Try to take breaks, get good sleep and eat healthily

Healthy Habits can help your mental health

2. Break things into chunks

With such a lot going on, it can help to reduce things down to manageable chunks. What can you reasonably do today? This week? This month? Planning in this way can help you feel in control and prioritise what needs to be done right now.

3. Don’t get drawn into trying to plan the rest of your life

The future is unpredictable and despite what you may have been told, you cannot plan your life and career in a straight line from now. So let go of that need and instead, just focus on the next steps.

Your first graduate job does not have to determine the rest of your life – you don’t have to choose the perfect career straight away. It is okay to not like the first job you do and then rethink what you want. Focus on the next best step from now - what job would you like to do next? What support can you draw on to help find it? (remember your careers department will probably still offer you support after you graduate).

Sometimes it’s ok to be on a different path to others - sometimes that’s exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to end up.

4. Plan to stay connected

If there are going to be changes in your friendship group, try to address these proactively. Talk to your friends about how you will stay in touch, when you will meet up next and how you can maintain your friendships.

Changes to friendship groups after graduation

5. Health care

If you are moving away from the area where your university is based, remember to also transfer your health care. You will need to move to a new GP in the area you’re moving to. If you have regular treatment for a long term condition, speak to your health care professionals about moving your support well in advance of moving.

6. Celebrate!

Don’t forget to take time to mark what you’ve achieved. Whatever your final grade, you’ve completed a course of study at university – that is no small thing.

It may be good to get together with family or friends to share this celebration. This doesn’t have to mean doing something that costs a lot of money or having a huge party. Do something that is meaningful for you and the people with you. Or you may wish to find a meaningful way to celebrate the moment on your own. But do take the opportunity to mark this moment – you deserve it.

Page last reviewed: June 2023