The first semester of first year was, for many (myself included), a shock to the system. Everyone seems to know more than you, and modules seem ten times harder than that oh so hard Leaving Cert completed in June. Modules and expectations get easier to manage once settled into college. The second semester of first year was much more manageable and enjoyable, with the shocks of a new environment waning.
The quantity of work and quality expected ramps up significantly in second year. With it counting towards 30% of the degree, it was certainly a step up from the relative freedoms of first year. This is, of course, true of many courses. However, the competition and drive amongst Economics and Finance students created a heightened sense of importance for the year.
Third year is an optional internship. UCD organise fairs and applications with several employers from the Big 4 to smaller offices. The experience of my friends has certainly been mixed. Some have found themselves simply ignored and not given any (or at least substantial) work. On the other end, some were given real responsibility from employers who truly valued them. Looking past the gimmicks on offer from employers is important when choosing a position. Emphasizing your own professional development and learning can only bring rewards.
While there was a truly wide range of employers and internships partnered with UCD for this internship programme, there were notably no “economics” roles available the year I applied – a strange thought for an Economics and Finance degree. Credit where credit is due, the programme includes many companies at the top of their respective gains, who do put heavy importance on their internship programmes.
Final year (so far) has been reasonably okay. There are certainly peaks and troughs of busyness, with assignments overlapping as they always do. Lockdown and the general lack of a normal college experience have meant that there is little else to do other than college work. A sad state of affairs, and not how I imagined my formal education ending, but nonetheless more manageable.
The course is very competitive. With a small pool of students who all know each other, and a general will to succeed, competition is fierce. This can sometimes lead to going above and beyond to get the best grades, internships, and now jobs. In fact, it is often noted that the modules we complete solely as a course are tougher than those with a larger group. I find it hard not to attribute this to the perfectionism that exists.
The flip (and probably the more important) side of this is that there is a push to do better. The pace at which I have learned has accelerated greatly since starting the course, and credit must go to those around me. Spending all my time on campus (and even living with) people constantly trying to better themselves rubs off. The work ethic and commitment of many on the course is truly admirable.
The best way to think of the course is a hybrid, composed of aspects of Economics, Finance and Statistics/Mathematics. The economics in Economics and Finance is somewhat of a misnomer. Certainly, in first and second year, economics content is very light, with Introduction to Economics and Principles of Macroeconomics being the only core economics modules.
The amount of computer programming required to complete the degree has come as a shock to me. The programme has been tailored to include more and more coding, across several languages. While I do enjoy this aspect of the degree, and it is certainly a move with the times, the emphasis has probably gone overboard. Few, if any, of my friends on the course have used or been asked to use any of these skills on internships.
For a finance degree, there is also surprisingly little accounting. Financial Accounting I is the only core accounting module in the degree. This may come to the delight of some (and me, a bit), but I found I was chasing the pack on some of the accounting work on my placement (which was not even accounting-based).
The degree is not what I expected – this is both good and bad. The same can be said for the university experience in general (not least because of a certain virus). Finance is more abstract and complicated than I imagined as I left secondary school. On the other hand, it is probably more important than I gave it credit for. Despite one or two modules that I found of little use, the course is relatively well-tailored, building skills one would hope may be of use after leaving.
Conor Bergin – Business Correspondent