Working life

How to make the most of final year

6 Dec 2023, 16:01

graduating college!

Finishing college is both exciting and stressful. On the one hand, you’re about to embark on a journey that you’ve been preparing for most of your life. You’ll have the opportunity to carve out a career for yourself and to put into practice what you’ve invested so much time to learn and you can finally have a steady flow of income to fund a more independent life for yourself. On the other hand, you’ve been in education for most of your life. You’ve gone from one educational institution to another, generally knowing what the next step is going to be. Now you’re about to start a career that will likely encompass change, opportunity and challenges across many decades.

It’s reasonable to feel overwhelmed when facing the next step after college. There is a seemingly endless number of possibilities for your career, and you might be unsure of what you want to do next.

However, as always, things will be easier if you plan ahead. Most people will do one of the following three things immediately after college: continue their education, take a gap year, start a job or continue searching for a job. Your college Careers Service should always be your first port of call for discussing what you want to do next, they have the resources and experience to help you.

If you want to take a gap year

Taking a well-planned gap year can help you learn more about yourself and figure out what you want to do. A lot of planning goes into a productive gap year. If you don’t have the money saved up for it, you’ll need to find a way to fund it! You also need to take the time to research what you want to be doing during your gap year. Do you need to make travel plans? Apply for a volunteering experience? Book language classes?

Gap years can be a great way to develop transferrable skills. Plan to take the time to reflect about what you’re learning as you go along and how you’re developing as a person. You may be developing skills such as planning and organisation, teamwork and leadership if you’re with a group and problem solving. These are all skills that will be valued by employers further down the line.

If you’re interested in postgraduate education

Before you start applying for post-graduate courses, consider why you want to do so. A postgraduate course should fill in gaps in your knowledge and provide you with new skills. Never do a postgraduate course when you are not sure what you want to do next, you need to have a clear objective in mind, and as we have already said, make sure you discuss it with your Careers Service.

If you’re sure that you do not wish to pursue a career relating to what you studied in undergraduate, you might want to consider doing a conversion courses. Many colleges in Ireland offered conversion courses in subjects such as computer science, law and business. Read our article about conversion courses to learn more.

If you’re keen to kick-start your career

If you want to go into a full-time job after you graduate, take the time to think about what it is you want to do. Do some research. Find out who’s hiring graduates in your field and what kind of job you want to do.

If you’re not certain about what you want to do, a rotational graduate programme might be a good path for you.

Your final year timeline:

If you’re interested in furthering your education, or going into fulltime work, here is our suggested timeline to make the most of your final year of college.


  1. Start applying for graduate jobs as early as you can. Some employers will start assessment centres as early as November. Even if deadlines are as late as Christmas, employers may not wait until the deadline to start filling positions.

  2. If you are looking into postgraduate study, starting applications in Autumn is ideal. Popular courses will fill up quickly and often you will need to have applied for a course before you can apply for funding. Remember applications are almost all centralised now through the Postgraduate Applications Centre .


  1. Keep applying for graduate jobs and schemes. Some applications will be accepted into the new year. View the jobs and organisation profiles on

  2. Finish off any remaining applications for postgraduate courses and funding.

  3. Ensure you make time for interviews and assessment centres alongside your university or college work.


  1. Focus on your studies and preparation for exams. A 2.1 degree will be eligible for a lot more positions than a 2.2 degree. But don't worry, a 2.2 degree isn’t the end of the road .

  2. Keep an eye out for any schemes or graduate jobs that have not yet closed their applications.


  1. Look out for vacancies in smaller firms who don’t run graduate programmes.

  2. Find graduate jobs on

  3. Keep a look out for openings in graduate jobs from companies who struggled to fill places or who had graduates drop out last minute.

  4. And remember, your Careers Service can help you up to three years after graduation, make sure to avail of their professional help while you can.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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