"Your time at Cambridge is not actually three years at all - it's 72 weeks."Holly Platt-Higgins

It is a largely accepted premise that most people spend three years at university, but your time at Cambridge is actually not three years at all - it's 72 weeks. A year and a half is really all you get. Unsurprisingly, this time seems to evaporate rather quickly.

In your first year, you’re so inundated with new people and experiences that you barely notice the terms flash before you. During your second, you’re so preoccupied with enjoying the fact that you’re no longer the bottom of the social hierarchy and that you’ve finally managed to get the hang of this place that, again, the terms are gone before you really notice they’ve begun. And in your final year, you are just busy all the time. And suddenly, it's week five and you’ve forgotten that you were even supposed to have the blues, because it feels like you’ve only been in town for half a minute.

Your final year is accompanied by an immense amount of pressure, not in just in an academic sense, or even really an occupational sense, but in a very bizarre social sense. You’re suddenly very aware that everything you do could be the last time you do it.

The inevitable ‘next year’, in which you always have time to do all the things and go to all the events you didn’t make this time around, is no longer present. There is no next year, there is only now.

And while sometimes this can be a lovely thing, because it encourages you to appreciate an early morning cycle to Sidge, the view from Clare Bridge or, just walking through market square in the sunshine, it can also be incredibly stressful.

I recently went for a drink with a friend who summed it up perfectly when he said, ‘It’s my final year, I want to do everything: I want to go to all the formals, boss my degree, write for Varsity, get a blue, do more pub nights, go out-out, go to the union, I just want it all.’

And while we both agreed that, just in a realistic sense, we would probably have to cross getting a blue off the ‘to-do-list’ for our final year, based purely on laziness and lack of sporting ability, there was very little else we were willing to give up.

Regrettably, in my attempt to become both an academic and social sensation, my life has slightly fallen apart. I’m hungover. My room is a mess. All I have in my fridge is 3 eggs and a slightly rotten leek. My bank balance is 81p. I forgot to call my mum this week. My dissertation work is due tomorrow at 9am and I haven’t got a single word to show for myself. I think both of the plants in my room are now dying. (Which quite frankly makes me feel inadequate, how hard is it to look after plants?) I had a bag of Tangfastics for breakfast. I’ve lost my bike lights and I’ve broken my shower door. Not exactly the height of sophistication or success by anyone’s standard.

In my attempt to become both an academic and social sensation, my life has slightly fallen apart

The issue is, if you say yes to everything: yes, let’s grab a cup of coffee; yeah, I’ll organise that; yes, I’d love to go to formal; yep, I’ll message them about it; yes, I can play in the match this weekend; yeah, why not? I’ll come to Cindies; yes, I am going to that lecture; yes, I am doing the extra reading, yes, of course I can send you my essay… Well, you don’t really have any time left to breathe or function or sleep.

It turns out there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything and certainly not enough hours to do everything well. You can’t have it all. You can try, but somewhere down the line, something’s got to give. You cannot be on top of your degree and your social life and your washing and your relationship and your sleep schedule, all at the same time, because, it just doesn’t work.

"In my attempt to embrace every aspect of Cambridge in my final year, I've realised that trying to do it all isn't the point.Holly Platt-Higgins

Even those highly revered people, who seem to be doing an amazing job of Cambridge, achieving the ultimate: getting a first while going out all the time – are really only ticking two boxes. It’s likely they’re incredibly under slept. Maybe their room is a mess and they haven’t kept in contact with their home friends or they’re living on a diet of coffee and bacon sandwiches and taking study drugs every fifth minute. What you see isn’t necessarily what you get behind closed doors.

In my attempt to embrace every aspect of Cambridge in my final year, I have realised that, trying to do it all is not the point. In fact, trying to do it all is actually a really rather bad idea. The best thing you can do during your final year, is be true to yourself in view of your priorities.

It’s the last time you get to do this, so don’t succumb to any pressure or be pushed in any direction by external forces. If you don’t want to do something, don’t. Don’t go to the party, don’t write an essay on material you aren’t enjoying, don’t miss opportunities or events because other people aren’t going or it’s not considered cool.

Your time now becomes incredibly precious because it is incredibly limited, so you have to make sure you’re spending it wisely.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean always making the sensible choice. When you’re 38 and looking back on these ‘golden years’, you probably won’t regret handing in an essay a day late or missing that 4pm Tuesday lecture, but you might regret not going for a drink with that boy you quite liked or taking an opportunity you were offered or even, stopping to enjoy how beautiful Market Square is in the sunshine.


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You can’t have it all, but what you can have, and should have, is the confidence to be certain about your priorities. Figure out what is important to you – what do you want to achieve in your last 24 weeks here? And then, go with that. This is your final year; your, as a possessive pronoun, so own it.

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