"There will always be another chance, another play to audition for, another committee to join"Eden Keily-Thurstain

“How can I find a balance between being involved in lots of societies, trying new things, and my degree; How do I deal with imposter syndrome within societies?”


Establishing balance is a constant process of trial and error: before I advise you on how to establish that balance, it is important to remember that you are not always going to get everything right the first time around, and to be at peace with that.

You learn the most about yourself from experiences, from making mistakes, and trying new things - love them or hate them. Avoiding seizing opportunities in fear of disrupting the balance between academics and additional commitments, or essay crises induced by compulsively saying yes to every society, are part of this learning process. You won’t find the limits of your time management skills until you meet them!

“Busying yourself with lots of commitments should be complemented with the ability to take a step back when things go awry, and to balance your yeses with nos”

The short Cambridge terms, crammed with academic and social activities and little time between each essay, cultivates the idea that we must rush to complete everything at its earliest opportunity. This is not a helpful idea to apply to commitments outside of our degree: over three or four years, nine or twelve terms, there is plenty of time to both foster long-term skills and to try something new for a term. One of the wonderful things about Cambridge is the wealth of opportunities, meaning you don’t need to say yes straight away, but can defer an opportunity to another term or year.

Conversely, it is important to leave space in your schedule for yourself, or to use as a buffer in the face of the unexpected. As important as it is to try new things, busying yourself with lots of commitments should be complemented with the ability to vocalise your need to take a step back when things go awry, and to balance your yeses with nos, too.


A little forward planning goes a long way. Your first encounter with the delectable assortment of societies and activities that Cambridge has to offer doesn’t have to be at the Freshers’ Fair. Why not do some research into the societies you think you might be interested in before term even begins and make a list of the things you’d like to try? Give yourself a clearer idea of the activities that you’re going to be balancing alongside your degree. You may have to be a little strict with yourself: ask yourself why you want to be involved in these societies, and whether there are any that you’d like to prioritise; it might even be a good idea to put a limit on the number of things that you’re going to get involved with each term.

Regular readers of AskVulture will know that I firmly subscribe to the carpe diem-mentality, and may be as shocked as I am to find myself telling you that there will always be another chance, another play to audition for, another committee to join. Each term can offer you fresh delights to sample and this is something that you can really make the most of in first year. Take the time to try different things and figure out the best way for you to create balance between your academic and extra-curricular pastimes. The most useful thing you can do for yourself is to create the possibility of involvement: join that Facebook group, sign up to that mailing list, go to that meeting. That way, when the right time to start a new activity comes along, you’ll know what options are available.

“Each term can offer you fresh delights to sample”

Of course, creating these opportunities for yourself is the easy part, then you have to summon up the courage to seize them. While this may seem daunting at first, you will grow in confidence with every attempt to put yourself out there, whether you feel able to do so in week one, week seven, or even second term. It can take a long time to realise the ambitions which we make for ourselves before experiencing the realities of university life, but I can assure you that your persistence and patience will pay off.


First off: don’t stress! You have worked incredibly hard to get here - you should be feeling proud and permit yourself to enjoy yourself before worrying about the after-effects of seizing opportunities.

Taking on too many extracurricular activities is a classic sign of a Cambridge student and you are certainly not alone; finding the right balance is something that everyone struggles with, especially given the number of opportunities here, and is also something very personal - comparison isn’t helpful here!


Mountain View

The importance of taking breaks

The best way to figure out the ideal balance of societies and work for you is to try it all! Whilst this may seem slightly crazy - just hear me out. Your first term at Cambridge is about adjusting to living here - use this time to work out how much you can realistically take on in the future and to find out which societies you actually enjoy. Then, in the future, you can spend your time on doing the things you know you really love rather than feeling like you might be missing out on something.

When faced with others’ talents and skills in a new environment, you’ve got to go in with a positive attitude. Even the most talented people were newbies once, and had to learn and make mistakes. Although it is difficult to not instantly be the best, patience is key.

Also, there are plenty of societies in Cambridge that welcome beginners (where you won’t be alone) so don’t let the imposter syndrome keep you from being a part of Cambridge’s incredible arts community. There are so many opportunities here and, in my experience, almost everyone is super supportive and will only help you to improve - go out and make the most of that!