Being a student is all about balance: You want to make the most of the time you have at university, while striving for the grade you’re hoping to leave with in the end.
But if you’re a final year student in particular, there’s another thing you need to be adding to that equation: sorting out what you’re going to do when you graduate. If you’re considering applying for grad schemes, the time to do so is right now.
Grad schemes are one of the most popular career routes for graduates to take, and it’s not difficult to understand why. They’re ideal if you’re looking for a structured programme, on-the-job training and a clear progression ladder laid out in front of you. Landing a grad scheme opens up a lot of opportunities to develop your skills, and many offer you the chance to rotate round the company and try out different aspects of the business to see where you fit. Plus, who doesn’t want to leave university knowing they’ve got something lined up for the end of the summer that pays pretty well?
With all the benefits of grad schemes, however, come some drawbacks. They can be incredibly competitive and, as a result, they typically have long, rigorous application processes. You’ll need a bespoke CV and cover letter for each one you apply for and, if your application progresses further, you’ll undertake psychometric testing and attend assessment centres and interviews.
The best thing you can do to set yourself in good stead amongst this competition is to apply as soon as possible, so you leave yourself enough time to perfect each of your applications.
So when do you actually need to apply?
They key thing to remember is that grad scheme applications start opening from September of your final year of university.
Though close dates vary, most application windows end early next year - January and February are common deadline months. Unfortunately there is not a single rule for all grad schemes and some close as early as November, meaning you really need to be on it if you don't want to miss out. It is also worth noting that some graduate programmes may even close early if they receive too many applications.
This can all feel like a lot of pressure – what if you’ve missed the deadline for the one that interests you most already? What if you’re not on track for a 2:1? What if you still don’t really know what you want to do or which you should apply for? Don’t panic. The best thing you can do is start exploring your options and narrowing down what it is you want to do now. You will find there are schemes that accept applicants with 2:2s, as well as an increasing number that are open for applications on a rolling basis – all year round.
A lot of students go through their final year without realising that application deadlines are passing - don't be one of them. Do your research now, maybe even apply now, and you'll thank yourself for it when you come to graduate.