At the end of this year, I’m due to walk on stage and receive a piece of paper that summarizes the last 3 years of my life. At this point in many students’ educational careers, an existential crisis and fear of promise unfulfilled is expected. Over the summer, I had the chance to mourn the end of this phenomenal time in my life. The study sessions with friends filled with giggling and a level of moral support I never imagined; movie nights with flatmates who never left me lonely; and self-actualization within and beyond my degree.
My time at university has been incredible, and endless reflection has confirmed this to me. However, I’ve also taken time to evaluate the shortcomings of my experience. The memories never made, the friends never locked down, and the places I have yet to go. One more year at the University of Manchester. Ten months of opportunity. A few loose threads. When I graduate, I intend to do so with no regrets. No lingering feelings of business left unfinished.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And that is why I have set goals – actionable goals that I can measure at the end of the year. I have devised how I’m going to make good on these goals, and I’m going to share this, in hopes that other frightened final-year students, such as yourself, may find some comfort and motivation in them.
Goal number 1: Make connections and lasting memories
I wouldn’t know what graduates’ biggest regrets are, seeing as I am not one, yet, but I would imagine it has to do with missed opportunities. I want to leave university with as many friends, close and casual, as possible! When these three years are over, I want to feel like Manchester left a significant mark on me, but also, that I left a mark on Manchester and the people here.
I’m going to spend the next year saying YES to as many opportunities as possible, whether it is social, academic, professional or otherwise. I’m going to join new societies that I haven’t been in before and keep in touch with those I’ve previously been involved with. If at the end of this year, I’m satisfied with my network and pleased with my mental portfolio of memories, I’ll know I succeeded.
Goal number 2: Learn to budget before entering the real world.
Money – a most valuable resource yet least simple to manage wisely. As a student, I’ve had the luxury of worrying about finances and the concerning realization that I’m not a natural at budgeting. Like most other students, I’ve had periods of binge spending that have resulted in little but stress and shame. I’ve dedicated some time over the past year to making attempts to track my spending and restrict my shopping – with fruitless results. I am going to enter the real world soon, where money is scarce like oasis water. I must become a budgeting connoisseur. Girl math simply won’t cut it.
I am going to tackle budgeting with a trial-and-error system. Each month of this year, I’ll try a new tactic for financial planning, and over time learn what works for me and what doesn’t. Hopefully, I’ll identify the golden method sooner rather than later.
Goal number 3: Leave healthier than I entered
I was 17 when I started uni, and I had very little grasp on the concept of health and well-being. Over time, the fear of irreversible physical damage to my body has really spoken to me. I’ve made significant changes to my sleep, diet, and physical activity. I feel stronger and healthier, but there is always room to improve.
I think I’m making good progress with this goal so far, but I could completely turn the trajectory of my health around by abandoning my inhibitions and giving into my own laziness and lack of motivation. Therefore, my goal is actually to make sure I don’t give up on myself. I’ll need to stick to my routine (which is easier said than done), be consistently motivated (is that even realistic?), and prioritise my health over other things (while somehow excelling at school). This one is more difficult to monitor, but my mental well-being and reflections on my fitness will be my reference.
Goal number 4: Write
I would like to be an author someday. I would love to publish papers in my academic field, but above all, I desire to publish my own novel. It’s only a matter of starting. Now, I don’t expect myself to type out a 500-page fiction story over the next 10 months. However, I do wish to establish writing as a habit. I want to write fictional texts more often, whether it is poetry or prose, paranormal or provocative.
It is a habit I need to start, and I think the solution is to join communities like the Creative Writing Society to motivate me and give me a reason to write. I’m also strongly driven by mocha-motivation, so perhaps a coffee shop visit with the intention of writing for an hour every other week might be triumphant. At the end of the year, I want a collection of at least 20 pieces of short writing that I have put together.
Goal number 5: See every last tile of the university
I have a lot of university pride, and witnessing such a captivating campus every day is a substantial part of my academic journey. I don’t plan to leave any building unseen by my curious eyes, and that includes all the study spaces. I have explored the atmosphere in the Alan Turing Building and the Greenhouse Cafe, some lowkey spots on campus, but I want to discover every other hidden gem for studying. I want to experience the university in all its glory, and I’m going to do this by taking a weekday morning off to explore the deep crevices of campus, creating a checklist of every place where I could sit and revise. I don’t plan to accept my degree certificate until I can surely say that I’ve stepped foot in every possible corner of the University of Manchester.
Those are all my goals – some nerdier and some more aspirational, with varying levels of importance. All of these are aims that I legitimately strive for, and I’m grateful that my overthinking allowed me to plan ahead to avoid any regrets.
“The more time you spend contemplating what you should have done…you lose valuable time planning what you can and will do.”