5 Top Tips for making the most of your degree -

By Kerrie Watson

Hi! I’m Kerrie. I’m a second year Social Work student. I’m currently on placement working with young people. I really enjoy working with young people and would love to continue this in my third year and in my future career, which hopefully will be in Youth Offending.

University can be daunting. At fresher’s fair, an event in which you can meet all the Student Union societies, you may find yourself spammed with all the extra things to get involved with to boost your CV. It might worry you about what is the best decision for you. I know it worried me. There are extra-curricular things you can take part in whilst at university to help develop and learn new skills, but you can also learn and develop through your degree. I’ll be giving you my top tips for making the most out of your degree!

1. Guest speakers

The Social Work department provides guest speakers. They come from all different areas and jobs in social work. It can be really interesting to listen to and learn from the speakers. They come from areas such as child protection, adult social work, youth offending, and the police.

Service users of social work were also invited to speak to us. These events were great in helping us recognise the experiences of both professionals and the service users, with whom we could be working with in the future. I really enjoyed it when we had guest speakers from Youth Offending Teams, and we learned about first-hand experiences and the different assessments they use to manage their caseloads. The talks made me want to work in Youth Offending even more.

2. Make the most of what your degree offers

In Social Work the assessment process is broad. There are chances to write blogs, reports, complete assessments, essays, and work together to complete presentations. The range of assessment types is great for your future career as it means the experience of completing assessments is not repetitive, giving you the chance to gain experience in presenting your knowledge in different ways and gaining new skills in the process.

My degree helps me to develop the skills that are important for my future career as a social worker. Different modules are dedicated to preparing and developing everyone to be successful in practice. The modules help develop skills in active listening, professional integrity, reflection, and how to communicate effectively with both professionals and service users. These skills are crucial when working in social work. The placements we complete allow us to practice these skills, develop them further and become more confident over time.

3. Part-time work

Part-time work is great for developing new skills, gaining experience, and progressing further. I have a part-time job with the university as a Sociology Ambassador. I have been given opportunities to be involved in virtual interview days, work on projects aimed at prospective students and create blogs for the department. All of this has given me the opportunity to develop my team-working skills, communication skills, and organisational skills. Having a job on top of university work can be challenging but it can help develop your time-management skills even further, which is great when preparing for your future career. You can find part-time work on the Lancaster University employment site or you may be emailed opportunities by your department.

4. Societies

Not only are societies fun and a great way to make friends but they can help develop and learn new skills which can be useful for your future career. I am a fundraising co-ordinator for SKIP Lancaster. SKIP Lancaster is a student volunteer-led charity that promotes global health and education to communities in Sri-Lanka. Joining societies like SKIP Lancaster is a great way to develop professionally. They help with your time-management, communication, and effective team-working skills. When organising fundraising events, we have to work together and critically think about the best and most effective ways to fundraise.

SKIP helps students develop professionally constantly. They provide training days and ‘Big Weekends’ where we get up-to-date training on how to train others, team-working, child protection, safeguarding policies and procedures. This training helps branches work better together to reach more effective outcomes.

5. Lancaster Award

The Lancaster Award is a programme organised by the University. It is run in partnership with employers and rewards students for making the most of their time at Lancaster and participating in extra-curricular activities. Completing the Lancaster Award enhances future job opportunities and helps you to acquire new skills that are wanted by employers.

I am currently completing the Lancaster Award. There are different levels of the award (Bronze, Silver, and Gold). The award you receive depend on how many extra-curricular activities you are involved in. I am aiming for the Gold award. Working towards the Gold award has encouraged me to try new things and develop my skills further. For example, I joined workshops on how to create an effective CV and cover letter, this is something I struggled with before completing this workshop.

Work Experience, Campus Activities, Volunteering, and Workshops are all examples of activities through which you can acquire points to achieve the Lancaster Award. For example, I have been building my award through the experiences of being in SKIP Lancaster, my placement through my degree, my role as a Sociology Ambassador and through participating in workshops hosted by the University.

If you have questions about what you can get involved in, then email your department and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help. If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Social Work student, then check out my Day in the Life blog.


Kerrie is a second year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying Social Work.

Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.

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