Four tips on how to not graduate on time

Universally speaking student life in Finland has been made easy. University level education is free and if certain minimum requirements are fulfilled we’re entitled to a student allowance. Despite of all this (according to some because of all this) many students have trouble graduating in time.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong taking some extra time to finish your studies, so that you can work, focus on your hobbies or just lead a less hectic life. As long as it’s a conscious decision. It becomes a problem when you can’t control the phase of your studies and end up falling behind. If falling behind could be embodied as an object, it would be the mould growing in your cellar. It gets worse and worse and after a certain point it is very hard to fix. It also causes the person dealing with it a great deal on anxiety and stress.

As for me, not graduating in time is something I definitely didn’t plan. There’re various reasons behind that, but looking back to my past years in university, I’ve gathered some mines I stepped into, which you might want to avoid if you’re just starting your higher level studies.

  1. Deal with this later

I have no idea if this is common among freshmen but it took me a good long time to get used to how independent studying was at university. Course requirements varied from course to course and unlike in high school, there was no teacher to give me constant reminders to turn in my assignments. Sure, the lecturers did go through them at the first lecture and I used to sit in the middle rows and store all that (very crucial) information into an imaginary file in my brain labeled deal with this later. My later would mean sometimes almost halfway through the course (whereas university later usually means the following week) and I would realise that I had missed an important lab or a paper deadline. My advice: do not for a moment think that you’ll remember all the requirements for all the courses you have in a semester. 

The requirement are listed on the course website, which is enough for some students. I needed more extreme measures. After stumbling from course to course like a drunk person who has no clue what’s going on, I did what I do best -went shopping. I bought a beautiful, wax cover, pocket-sized Moleskine and started to write down assignments and deadlines for every single course that I took. This was to make sure that I’ve through them at least once. After that, I could decide whether I wanted to do those assignment or not.

2.    You can’t sit with me

For some people it’s easy -they are bubbly and vivacious and find their own place within any group. For others, such as myself, climbing a mountain seems like an easier task. Whether you belong in one of those two categories or you’re somewhere in between, it’s always a good idea to make at least one friend from your university.

I wish I could say that I’m behind on my studies because of an overflowing social calendar. Or because all of my study group meetings turned into catching up with friends. That was not the case.

Studying is obviously main purpose of going to university, but a student life which only consists of lectures and labs and assignments without social contact is a bleak experience and doesn’t really motivate anyone to go to school. Being detached from school can have disastrous effects on your studies and I personally believe that the best motivation to attend classes regularly is when your know that you’ll meet your friends there.

That being said, I do know many people who are progressing just fine with their studies even though they’re not “socially active”, so this is not carved in rock (none of these are), it’s just something that affected my progress.

3.   “I’ll do it next year”

This might be the single most important (or least unimportant) thing I have to say. All through middle school and high school I used to get pretty good grades and I was determined to keep that up in university. However, the phase in uni was far more hectic than I had imagined.

Anyone who reads my report sheet will no doubt think that I’m just lazy. They would be only partially correct. I sat through hours of lectures and did hundreds of calculations, but I have nothing to show for it. It’s actually fucking annoying. As exam week approached and work load piled up, I’d drop off courses and always assure myself that I’d do it next year when I have more time and get a better grade. That time it seemed smart and responsible. Here’s the problem in my process of thought. I had, due to momentary brain disfunction no doubt, assumed that I would have more time in later stages of my studies. Postponing a course for later will almost always mean that you’ll have postpone another course to make time for the course you postponed previously and the cycle goes on…

It all comes down to accepting a few “bad” grades in your report sheet. They’re annoying, but they are way better than having just a handful of courses with top notch grades.

4.  Just not interested

Studying for a degree in a field that doesn’t interest you much is one the most depressing things ever. One option would be to quit what you’re doing and seek the profession you want. The thought is scary, yet wonderful if you succeed. This is where my student life takes a happier turn. I did end up applying for the subject I initially wanted to study and I got accepted. And yes, it was kinda wonderful.

However, people tend to get more responsibilities as they get older and sometimes changing your field or starting a new degree from scratch isn’t an option. If that is the case, the best thing to do is to focus on the positive. If you’re studying engineering but wanted to become an artist, think of the financial stability you’re more likely to have in the future. Or if you’re working in customer service and wanted to be lawyer, think of all the extra time you’ll have for your friends and family. Every profession has its downsides -even the profession of your dream.

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