Photo: Holabird Sports


Pema I’Anson advises against taking academia too seriously.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article detailing why it’s okay to stay in. Today, I’m here to let you know why academic work isn’t as important as you think. Phrased differently, these two articles might seem contradictory, but bear with me. We don’t live in a black-and-white world where you’re either working or partying. I’m arguing for enjoying yourself.

It can seem like academic work is the focus of your life. You’re at university, after all; one of the best universities in the country! You’ve travelled hundreds – thousands? – of miles to be here, your parents have spent ridiculous amounts of money on fees (unless you’re Scottish), and you’ve worked really hard to get here. You’re taking subjects you supposedly like, your parents expect you to do well, and you have high standards for yourself, too. Who will you be if you’re not getting consistently high grades like you always have? Essays are learning experiences – imagine the horrors of reaching honours and realising you don’t know how to write!


 You need to relax.

Trust me on this one. You’ve got many, many reasons to do academic work. Those listed above are a few of mine; yours may be similar, or very different. Either way, these things aren’t as important as you think.

University doesn’t, and shouldn’t, define the rest of your life. If you’re in Honours, you may be worried about the level of degree you’ll end up with – but you’re still going to be perfectly capable of getting a job no matter what your degree is. If you’re in sub-Honours, you still have at least two years to worry about these things. You’ve got ages left to learn how to do things properly, to figure out how to write a first class essay in a night, to figure out what subject you actually want to do. Don’t stress yourself out about things that aren’t relevant yet. You’ll have time for that later.

Next: you don’t want to burn out before you’ve reached the ripe old age of 23. Honestly. Stress will give you grey hairs, and wrinkles, and I can guarantee, when you graduate, you’ll look back and think, why did I worry so much about that? I could have done less work and still come out with grades I’m happy with. So pre-empt your future regrets, and have fun now. Just think – these are supposed to be the best years of our lives. Do you think that’s because we spent all their time in the library? No. Go out for £3.50 margaritas in Mammacita’s (Mon – Wed), go to the cheesiest-themed Bop of the year, play board games until 3 am with your friends, sneak back into your old halls and eat a meal there. Or don’t, actually, because hall food is crap, but you get the gist. 

Do things for the fun of it, not because you have a looming deadline and you’re terrified of what will happen if you don’t meet it. You get a mark deducted? Who cares? Your grade goes from a 12 to an 11, because you’ve already taken my advice and haven’t been aiming for 18s anyway, so you’re fine. There’s not a whole lot of difference between those numbers, and you’ll know that you enjoyed the movie you stayed up all night watching instead of writing your essay. Who cares if every essay you write is better than the last one? Not me, not your tutor, and not you, I hope. In twenty years, you’ll look back, and remember the times you spent enjoying yourself and bonding with your friends- not the time you wrote a pretty decent essay and got a pretty decent mark and felt pretty decent for about a day afterwards.

I could go on for days, but I’d bore you. You already know all the reasons not to work. Just access them. Justify it to yourself. Work when you feel like working, because likely if you’re here you have a decent work ethic anyway. But try to have fun, too. Don’t stress. Besides, If you’re in a good mental health state, caused by having fun and not stressing out too much, you’ll be much more productive. So in the end – by not working, you’ll actually improve your grades. Trust me, it’s science.



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