Dear creative writing students in their final year of university,
Last year I was in the same position as you. It was my third year of studying Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at university. And it was supposed to be my final year. However, I failed to realise I overlooked an internship unit. I had the mindset of it being my final year and I was mentally prepared, only to get thrown back in.
In that time, I learnt a few things such as what I should and shouldn’t have done. Here are the main lessons I learnt:
1. Accept the fact you’re not going to get your dream job right away
This was the hardest thing for me to learn. For ages, I had the dream I was going to graduate and go straight into my dream job of an assistant editor role at a big publishing house. When I couldn’t even secure an internship at a publishing house, I realised my entire life had been a lie.
You’re not Kelsey from Younger, you’re not going to get a role at a big publishing agency straight away.
If you do get your dream job, props to you! But don’t be disappointed. You may have to work your way from the bottom to the top for a few years before you get there.
2. Cherish the friendships
I loved my classes because everyone was in the same boat as me. In our third and final year, we accepted the fact that we were never going to live off being an author alone and our degree was nicknamed ‘the toilet paper degree’ because it was useless in the job industry. It immediately made me feel better because we had each other’s backs. It sucks to fail alone, but realising you’re failing together, it makes it that much better. You’re not alone.
Cherish the friendships, the people who love the same things as you, who know exactly what a writing rejection feels like and will be there for you, and who will help you celebrate when a short story has been accepted, or you’ve achieved your word count for the day, because they’re so, so important.
3. Enjoy the year
This was another hard thing for me to do. It’s your final year of university (unless you go on to do Honours or Masters or another course) and you realise you need to get a job ASAP.
The first trimester I enjoyed it a little, but there was that niggling feeling at the back of my mind that my course was ending and I needed a job and I wouldn’t see these people or tutors in classes anymore.
The second trimester I was full on stressed because I didn’t have a plan for next year and I thought I’d have the perfect job lined up and I’d have everything together.
Go to all of your classes, laugh and joke around with everyone, and soak in your tutors’ knowledge. And celebrate the benefits of uni – concession prices, eating on campus, and campus events.
4. Build up your portfolio
Yes, you should enjoy your final year, but you also need to work towards your future. It’s all about finding the right balance between the two. The breaks are perfect for this (especially the long summer ones).
Write short stories/poems/reviews and submit them to literary journals and competitions.
And try submitting them to the less popular literary journals so you have a stronger chance of getting published.
5. Start a web presence
This is another task perfect for the summer break. You don’t need to be a professionally published author in order to have a website. Start one now and secure a domain name.
Have a blog page on your website so you can have a place to express your opinions – whether it be book reviews, news reports or just musings so future employers can see some of your work.
Make a couple of social media accounts too as it’s the easiest way to interact and reach out to professionals and other like-minded people. Choose the sites you use the most, such as Twitter or Instagram.
6. Look for volunteer and internship opportunities
Finding an internship was super hard for me. I wanted to get a publishing/editing internship which was hard because there aren’t that many publishing places around and all of the other creative writing students from all of the other universities are applying for them too. Keep applying! Thanks, SOCIETY19!
Find out when the writing/literature festivals are on in your area. They’re usually looking for volunteers to help them out. It’s a great opportunity to try and network with people in the industry and get some customer service experience.
What pieces of advice do you have for creative writing students in their third year (or in any other year?) What are some life lessons you’ve learnt at uni in general?
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Julie is currently studying s Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at Deakin University in Australia. She's a hardcover book and journal collector, she owns way too many planners, and she keeps telling herself that one day she will go to Paris.