Are you just about to embark on your final year studying as a History student? In this blog one of last year’s History graduates, Callum Devine, reflects on his experiences as a third year student. He offers advice on how to work through the year, as well as how to go about planning for your future careers. Callum graduated in July with a 2.1.
The third and final year of your history degree… The year that seemed so far away when you started, and yet has crept up so quickly. For most of you it will be the year of many lasts: the last essay, last seminar, or last purple Wednesday. Before I went back to Portsmouth for my final year I found the prospect of finally finishing my degree in history quite daunting. The impending workload and fairly irrational fears, nothing short of Victorian gothic literature, made the finish line of graduation day very unclear.
However, in no time I found out just how wrong I was to be worried. Third year as a Portsmouth University History student was absolutely fantastic and hugely engaging. Without realising it, all those units from first and second year, especially those teaching us the skills to be ‘real’ historians, had actually sunk in. Once the seminars, reading, and assignments began I felt like the adjustment was easy. So do not panic, you might find you will shock yourself in your abilities and knowledge that you have already built up. In comparison to second year which consisted significantly of assessed seminars (love them or loathe them, we can certainly agree they took a lot to prepare for), I found the workload in the third year far more manageable.
While the workload did feel more manageable, it can easily overwhelm you if you do not keep on top of things. My biggest worry over the summer was my dissertation. Although I had completed my proposal, I still felt I only had a vague idea of what it would consist of. Therefore I would advise that you do not hesitate to get started with the 10 per cent dissertation task. It is a great opportunity to get the initial bulk of your reading completed and much of what you write can be utilised in your initial first chapter draft. The more you do at the start before the other assignments are due, you will be in a much more comfortable position with your dissertation. Third year is not solely made up of your dissertation however, and this year your units will challenge you in a slightly different way. The group research projects and special subjects will challenge you to delve deeper into specific topics in far greater detail, and you will be granted far greater freedom to research what really interests you. Although it may seem like a long time away, the final group research project presentation will come around very quickly, but it feels very rewarding to deliver a project tailored by yourselves and with extensive knowledge that you have built up over the term. The best advice I can offer is to not be afraid of seeking help with your work. Whether the help consists of discussing an essay plan with your tutor or utilising the vast learning support resources on offer at the university, it can all help to improve your marks even slightly.
Looking beyond graduation and to careers can also be a daunting prospect, especially if you do not have a specific job in mind. There is no need to panic or worry though, I found it too tough to complete lots of lengthy job applications while still studying, as a history student it is not easy to sacrifice an hour or two for a job application when that time could be spent reading for seminars or other work. It will be useful though to just have a think, and a browse at the types of jobs that interest you. Knowing what language employers use in advertisements is something I wish I had investigated earlier. Doing this research may also highlight if employers are looking for specific forms of work experience or volunteering which can be gained while still studying. There are plenty of museums in Portsmouth in which part time roles can be undertaken, as well as many local history projects on offer that always need volunteers. Finally, definitely use the Purple Door careers advice while you are in Portsmouth, whether that is the graduate job fair, or just simply advice with your CV, it will be really beneficial.
Lastly but most importantly, enjoy your final year as an undergraduate as much as possible, nothing quite compares to it. Retaining a social life is vital to remaining sane and fresh when it comes to studying. Explore and enjoy Portsmouth, do things you might not have done before, there’s lots and lots of history to enjoy. Good luck to every third year History undergraduate student, you’ll do fantastically.