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Here’s how to stay motivated during your fourth year.
You’ve made it through a lot to get to fourth year, and you’ve almost reached the finish line! Just like when you reached the last year of high school, you might be feeling a little tired. You’ve settled into your routine and are trying to figure out what your next step will be. Understandably, you might spend a lot of time this year thinking about the future instead of focusing on the present.
But it’s important to stay motivated and finish your last year at U of T with as much energy and enthusiasm as you’ve put into your studies for the past three. If you’re applying to grad school, getting great marks in your final year can help you land a spot in your dream program. Not going back to school? Stay engaged now and you’ll form stronger relationships with your professors, learn more about your field of study and gain skills that you can use in whatever path you decide to take.
Below are some strategies you can use to keep your motivation up over the course of your fourth year.
Take on a new project
You’ve become an expert when it comes to your major, so it might be time to try something completely new. A fresh challenge can give you a great burst of motivation because it’s new and fun. This could be a creative project like learning an instrument or starting to paint, taking on leadership position in a club, or taking a class outside of your program that you’ve always found interesting (you can even C/NCR it so you don’t have to worry about it affecting your hard-earned GPA!).
You can also think about doing a thesis or fourth-year project to synthesize everything you’ve learned so far and create something you’re really proud of. Check with your specific department for more information.
Take care of yourself
Burnout (“long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work”) has similar symptoms to clinical depression. That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself if you’re starting to feel run down. Make time for sleep, eat healthy food and stay active. Talk to your friends about what you’re going through (if they’re also graduating, they might be feeling the exact same things). Find ways to destress and take care of your mental health at HealthyUofT.
And if at any point you need help, there are a lot of resources available to you. Visit your registrar or the Dean of Students/Student Life Office at your college or faculty for advice and information about other services. Connect with your community by talking to staff at First Nations House, CIE or the Family Care Office, and get support from your peers through student groups. If things get really challenging, visit the Health and Wellness Centre. In an emergency, call 9-11.
Consider mentoring a first-year student, whether through a formal mentorship program or by going for coffee with a younger student from your college or club.
Talking about their experiences and giving advice will show you how far you’ve come and remind you how much of an accomplishment it is that you’re graduating. Giving back to the community can give you a final push of motivation to get you through your degree.
You can also participate in the Community-Engaged Learning, which will allow you earn academic credit or build your Co-curricular record, while also giving back to the community. Getting involved with something outside of the university will integrate you into the world outside of academics, and maybe even introduce you to a position or organization that you want to stay involved in after you graduate.
Whether you’re a dedicated colour-coordinator or someone who never uses a planner, it’s important to stay organized in your final year. It’s easier to stay on track and get things done when you know what it is you have to do, and seeing your upcoming deadlines and events on a page or in your digital calendar makes them feel concrete and doable. There may be lots of things on your plate right now — like applying to grad school or looking for work — but if you focus on being organized now, you’ll be able to stay that way during whatever you do next.
Find balance when thinking about the future
Your time at U of T is coming to an end soon, so don’t leave planning for your life after until the last minute. Take concrete steps to plan out your future like registering for prep courses, applying for grad school, brushing up your resumé or attending job fairs. Planning ahead will give you something to look forward to, as well as make your next step feel more attainable.
But, don’t obsess over what’s next. You need to take some time now to focus on the present, spend time with your friends and make the most of your time left at U of T. Live in the moment by hanging out at your favourite spots on campus, making a coffee date with friends from your classes or grabbing free pizza at campus events. Create a bucket list of all the things you want to do before you leave U of T, and then get to work experiencing each one.