Managing Expectations

By Keir Goode a current MSc Molecular Microbiology NTU student

Something that I have recently struggled with when getting back into education is the expectations I put upon myself. I would not necessarily say I was a perfectionist, but I have noticed my expectations can be unrealistically high and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this. I always remind myself of the quote below.

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist.”

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking – Discovery Channel, 2010

There is the expectation that after you finish your degree you immediately secure a placement or that dream job, or you secure a PhD that you have always wanted to do. I think it is important to allow yourself breathing room and set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. The anxiety associated with job/placement/PhD searching is not often talked about, but it is something that we all will face at some point in our lives. I have created a short list of activities you can do to put things into perspective:

Create a 1-year plan

This can really help you to visualise your goals for the year no matter how big or small such as finishing assignments, secure a placement etc. It may not even have to be academic it can include giving up a vice, getting in touch with a friend, volunteering or even go to a restaurant you have always wanted to go to.

Note: It is important to be realistic here there. There is no problem with being optimistic but just remember if you do not achieve a goal there is no need to beat yourself up about it.

Personal Mind Map


I recently used this technique to facilitate writing my CV, however the personal benefits of doing this is tremendous. I usually do this on a blank PowerPoint slide, (Please see picture of the template below). Firstly, add branches including Education, Work Experience and Personal Life and whatever else you would like to include and then build upon those branches by adding a achievements and experiences from those. I like to break mine down further into specific jobs or educational courses etc.

Note: The beauty of doing this on a PC is that whenever you have a new experience or achievement you can simply add it on to the diagram.

Talking to peers … or anyone!

This may be the simplest thing you can do you might not realise until you have done it how much this can help you. Speaking to someone else who is in or has been in a similar position to you can do the world of good. The most valuable thing to your growth as a person and as an academic is taking on-board advice.

Note: Speak to someone on your course, your lecturer, a mental health champion, a helpline or even family members and/or friends!

Final Note: If it all gets too much just make sure that you reach out to someone. It is the first and most important step in getting help. There are many useful links and people you can talk to at NTU and they are there to be used.

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.


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