Hello there, come in. You’re in the Jane McConnell consulting room.
(Imagine a surgery. You are patient, I am doctor. No, I don’t have slightly sadist fantasies about diagnosing people who read the student paper. Just go along with it. Cheers.)
HOW ARE YOU TODAY? Yes, I see that you are blue. OK, let’s have a flick through your medical history. Ah yes. Your first year was, although hilarious and dotted with memorable games of pub golf which end with you, a random, a kebab and a cardboard box, it was also the very first time you ever achieved well below what you believed you meant to get – based on how fabulous you were at A-Levels. That become lesson one which took you through to second year, where you became the wizened old geezer of a university stude’ doling out judgement on and to freshers ramming up the Magic Bus, safe in the knowledge that you are at the most enjoyable phase of your degree. In second year, yes that’s right, you knew how the system worked and that essay references take as long as the essay itself. Then you got your penultimate summer holiday. It’s bliss! And then there’s that Facebook blitz – masses of posted pictures from friends who went to Thailand and Peru, whilst you worked your butt off at WH Smith/Pizza Hut/waiting-on shifts. You made all the promises to yourself that yes, this new academic year is all about hard work. No excessive debt-producing partying, less of the unrequited love and accidentally requited love… more geek action. Oh, oh yes I see here, wow especially in the panic of beginning your fifth semester, that you had to get checked out because this actually turned into more action with geeks. Not to worry, these are classic symptoms in the unofficial transcript of university life and I have just the antidote, but first I’ll have to explain a few things.
Right then. Nothing, but nothing, prepares you for the purgatory known as THIRD YEAR. They don’t tell you in lectures. It’s not in the course guides. They certainly don’t tell you about it in the prospectus – though, imagine if they did. “This is the year in which the dissertation separates the brains from the blaggers, causes an increased amount of tension in the brain and also buttocks after sitting for over five hours in the library revising without a flapjack break. Please ensure that the prospective student brings relevant social and emotional support, and flapjacks.”
Third Year Blues. TYB. It’s like TB, only more accessible, because the extra Y in the condition’s acronym makes it applicable to a generation already well versed in totally awesome three-letter- words like IMO and TBH and the quintessential LOL, before it became LOLZ by way of irony, and then not-ironically cemented in the Urban Dictionary FYI. Grrr. Anyway. The previous third years tried to warn you (They did! “You have to get your head down and work at it” wasn’t a lengthy sexual instruction, they meant it) before they steadily got you drunk with them at the end of their finals.
The first semester of third year is one filled with excitement and anxiety. It’s almost like being in first year, only this year actually counts. Sounds scary, really isn’t. If I can offer a tip to next year’s lot, it would be – roll with the crazy nervous energy and buy loads of new stationery. Develop and OCD-like tendencies to highlight, label and date everything and fight for the textbooks you need. Buy a flask for soup/tea/hot vimto for the library sessions you inevitably have to complete. For what I know of this year’s finalists, being organised in the first place will prevent it all feeling like a fist-clenchingly stressful pile of work.
There is SO much to think about for just one academic about to make a Nike Air Maxed leap into the jaws of the adult world. There’s coursework, tutorial work and probably a part-time job to get money for even more graft. There’s those really fun graduate traineeships chemes and postgraduate events that you have to keep an eye on, like so many fresh pies that might go off if you don’t keep up. Although one might say that the trick is to not put your fingers in all the pies… you gotta know that someone else will be right in there as soon as you drop one. The real trick is to know what pie you sort of want, or better, will realistically get with a bit of effort.
In a straw poll of five of my closest friends at University, plus some rough psychoanalysis/ observational stalking of relevant housemates (don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of my housemates and I wasn’t saying they are like, irrelevant to life itself, that’s not what I meant. That would just be plain cruel). I do like them, but some of them just aren’t relevant to this study because they’ve got another two years to go and they’ll walk into £30,000 jobs with bonuses year on year. Not bitter.
I can safely say that seven out of eight people display similar symptoms. For each, I can offer a little cure.
Despair: And long sighs. Nights alone. Treatment: Stress is for bankers so dance to S Club 7. And it is okay to dance alone.
Lack of trust: This is killer so know these three things, it’s instant treatment: you do have enough time, you will get the right books and you have made it this far. If it’s other people you don’t trust then think about it this way: you wouldn’t give your holiday fund to an MP to “look after”.
Attraction to booze: Normally coupled with a very public promise to get off the booze. Treatment: VERY expensive champagne for the end of the last semester. And it’s ALL for you. You won’t even get through three glasses anyway without wanting to sleep.
More Burgers: Logical? Less time making food = more time studying. Though, there tends to be this really annoying pattern: the more rubbish you eat, the worse you feel. Not getting up early enough in the morning to make some sandwiches means impulse crisp buying, or saving it all up for a Burger King. Though it’s interesting to be on first name terms with the people who make your dinner, it’s kind of like having your own chef who wears a baseball cap inside the kitchen all the time. Treatment: Potatoes and access to a microwave.
Fear of losing friends: Ah yes. Increased time studying = less time socialising. Or so it is perceived. Your proper friends will understand your need to get on with it and will know when to prize you out of your lamp-lit room for some well-earned Trof fodder. Treatment: Don’t hang out with jerks who don’t care – but then don’t lumber your mates with all your problems. That’s what you give to jerks.
Increased ordering from Amazon: You say it’s purchasing books for your course. Well, yeah you click them into the basket and then sort of wander into the paperback fiction and before you know it, you’ve gone and bought another Lost boxset, candles, a diary, and a Take That CD. Treatment: Wish List your non-book purchases.
Though I am not a qualified counsellor in a state of bright psychic brevity and actually, verge closer towards the neurotic side of life with my Twitter and Curly Wurly addictions*, there is one final antidote I have to offer.
Enjoy the last ever year. Enjoy the last ever year you’ll have when it’s okay to: order in a Dominos at 4pm and then again at 2 am, talking elegantly about the figureheads of your subject from Adorno to Newton to Wollstonecraft without getting the fuck-off-eye from the rest of the pub, have a picnic in your living room and finally, dress like a Roman, even when it’s not your birthday.
*update: Curly Wurly addiction has been curbed in solidarity with Cadbury workers at the Somerdale chocolate factory who have to face what they’ve feared for three years – no longer being able to help make the great Curly Wurly, Crunchie and Double Decker. And I am no longer eating Milka.