So, the end of your undergraduate BCM degree is fast approaching and you’re not sure what the hell to do with the rest of your life. For most of us, the final semester of university is our first glimpse into the terrifying “real world”, which is wildly different to the institutions we’ve been a part of since age 5. Should you stay at university for an Honours year, or should you try to make your mark in the elusive world of full-time employment?
Well, I’m here to help inform your decision! I recently finished my Honours year at UOW. I wrote my thesis about meme warfare – hmu on Twitter if you want to read it (pls). I had an awesome experience and am really glad I chose to do it. But I also know that an Honours year is not for everyone. With this in mind, I’ve listed my top 5 things to consider before undertaking an Honours year.
- Do it for a reason. An Honours year isn’t something you should do just because it feels easier to stay at uni for longer
and keep getting cenno payments hehe– trust me, it isn’t easy. Despite the minimal contact hours, you have to do a huge amount of reading, writing, and generally hard work. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you have genuine passion for your topic though. So before you apply, think seriously about what you want to get out of the experience. My supervisor, Ted, suggested that I use my Honours year either to enter into academia or to position myself for my desired career path. I think this was a great piece of advice and would encourage everyone to take it on board. If you’re going to invest time and money into an extra year of university, you should be aiming to actually get something out of it.
- Research something that actually matters, both to you and the world. Obviously your thesis topic is totally up to you and your supervisor, but I would strongly advise that you choose something that has relevance and application in the world outside of the university bubble. There’s not much point working hard on a thesis for a whole year for it to only be read by your markers and your supervisor. If you want to use your thesis to start your desired career path, this point is particularly relevant – there’s definitely more leeway if you’re wanting to pursue a career in academia. If you struggle to think of a relevant topic that you have an interest in, an Honours year may not be for you.
- You will have to make sacrifices. A lot of people cruise through their undergraduate degrees partying first and studying second, still managing to achieve good grades. Honours isn’t like that. Before applying, consider the things you might need to say “no” to and whether you have the discipline and self-control to actually follow through. For me, this meant reducing my alcohol consumption significantly, while still maintaining some semblance of a social life. I also took a month off work to finish writing my thesis in April. If you’re willing to make these kinds of sacrifices, the process of writing your thesis shouldn’t be the nightmarish hellscape it’s often made out to be. I can honestly say that because I had discipline and motivation, I never once pulled an all-nighter or had an emotional breakdown while finishing my thesis – yes, this is actually possible!
- Don’t worry about whether or not you are “smart” enough. You definitely don’t need to be a genius to do an Honours year, nor to gain full-time employment. I believe you only need a credit average to be accepted, so don’t stress! I remember feeling so overwhelmed in the first few weeks of Honours because I was worried that my writing wasn’t academic enough (what does that word even mean?). I made the mistake of comparing my writing to others, which made me feel inadequate. Avoid this! As long as you work hard and take feedback onboard, you should be fine. I spent the whole year with the concern in the back of my mind that my writing wasn’t good enough, and I managed to get First Class! So, do not let “smart” impact your decision whatsoever.
- Prepare for your world view to challenged. Should you choose to do an Honours year, you’ll be exposed to a vast range of different viewpoints on your topic, which you probably think you already know a lot about. This is particularly relevant for our faculty, because you’ll likely be reading about media, people, and society as a whole. My thesis involved a lot of psychology reading, which radically shifted the way I view people’s interactions with themselves, each other, and the media. At first it was actually kind of scary and isolating, because I knew my perception of reality had become very different from those of the people around me. I eventually realised this was a good thing – but that’s another story entirely. 😉 What I’m trying to say is, don’t go into it thinking your thesis is just going to reaffirm your existing beliefs. It’s going to challenge them, and that’s a good thing!
That brings us to the end of my list of things to consider before undertaking an Honours year. I’ll end with an important tip: whichever option you choose, just have fun with it and try not to stress too much! One of the
very few benefits of living in the modern world is that you don’t have to commit to one job or career path for the rest of your life. There’s a gazillion different jobs out there for us BCM graduates, and you can always return for further study later in life. I hope this list has helped with your decision! Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you have any questions.
Oh, and one last piece of advice…DO YOUR REFERENCES WHILE YOU ARE WRITING THE THESIS! Trust me on this one.