Will a placement year benefit me in my final year?

Katie OliverFinal Year, First Year, Katie Oliver, Second Year, UK Placements

With the winter holidays fast approaching and the festivities in full swing comes the sudden realisation that we are now almost halfway through the academic year. Having completed the majority of my first term in my final year, I can now clearly see my personal development and abundance of new skills gained from placement year having a real impact in my studies. I’ll admit, whilst applying for placement positions in my second year, I was feeling really apprehensive. I knew without a doubt that it would tremendously increase my employability and provide me with invaluable workplace skills, however, I was unsure whether these new abilities would transfer into my degree. Now, looking back at the past 4 months of final year, I can see an improvement in many academic and personal areas, all thanks to undertaking a placement year.

Confidence

Confidence has always been something I have struggled with and something which I hoped to greatly improve during University. Placement year massively helped me improve my confidence in not only speaking coherently and professionally to a variety of new people but also confidence in my own abilities and independent working. Having a confident mindset has helped me no end during my final year so far, most notably with my dissertation and completing all the independent qualitative research ahead of time without requiring continual guidance. As well as this, I have developed an increased amount of confidence when preparing for graduate-level interviews since I feel much more equipped for a variety of roles and the qualities they require.

Organisation and time management

After working for 8.5 hours every day, managing two different roles and varying deadlines, organising my time around my less demanding University timetable has been something of a breeze. I find myself having many extra hours in the day, something that is crucial with all the final year deadlines, meaning I not only get a lot more done with my time but also do not feel too overworked and overwhelmed in the process. During placement, we always had a plan of which projects were most time-pressured and which elements needed completing each week, something which I have now implemented with my University work. Nothing feeds your productivity ego more than ticking off a list of to-dos.  

Research

This relates more specifically to my placement and degree course; however, I feel this will be reflective of most individual’s experiences of placement year. Since, studying Psychology, I must have knowledge surrounding varying qualitative and quantitative research techniques, working for a market research agency helped me no end. For example, my dissertation requires me to conduct my own focus groups, something two years ago I would have shuddered at the thought of. Yet, after being involved in the preparation, recruitment and observation of numerous focus groups throughout placement, I felt extremely prepared and even excited, to put all my new-found research skills into action.

Motivation

Whilst this may initially seem like a random addition to the list, my increased motivation is one of the personal developments I have noticed the most since placement year. Placement year gives you a taste of what’s to come after education and the amazing experiences that await you after University. I have found it has made me 10x more motivated to achieve my goal degree classification so I can get back out into the world of work. Alongside this, it does also make you realise that this is your FINAL YEAR! I have found myself enjoying every aspect of University a lot more and appreciate even the little things, whilst still having that drive to put all my effort into my final year of education.

Therefore, if, much like I was, you are sat pondering whether a placement year is “worth it” and will “actually help my degree”, the experiences and skills you gain are incredibly beneficial not only to future career paths but also handling and excelling in your final year studies.