What to do if you think you’re failing your degree

Real or imagined- this fear strikes us all

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that by the time you reach week 7 in Cambridge, you feel like you’re failing your degree.

You’ve stopped going to lectures, you’ve stopped doing work for supervisions and you’ve abandoned that golden dream of a 2:1 (or a first if you were seriously deluded to begin with). Perhaps you don’t care, or you’re feeling a niggling anxiety, or even a full blown out panic meltdown. The time has well and truly come to think up some recourses for action.

As a lowly Fresher who’s got prelims (not even proper exams, so I’ve been told countless times) I am aware that I may not the most qualified to deal with this. I am also aware that a Fresher’s feelings of failure are in no way comparable to that of finalists, faced with exams that determine their overall grade and the impending doom of leaving the bubble once and for all. But still, since we have to endure our degrees for two more years at least, we may as well start considering our options too.

Actually do your work

Sometimes the most obvious answers are the most surprising and unexpected. But I’m sure we’ve all heard jaw dropping stories of people going from a third to a first purely by the dint of hard work. This is not a method tried and tested by many Cantabs, but I hear the results are indeed mind blowing. Maybe you don’t need to go to Christian Union to experience life changing miracles.

The path to getting a first


If you’re already so behind on work that there’s no hope of catching up, you might as well catch up on something else. It’s two weeks until the end of term and Cambridge is gripped by a sleep deprivation pandemic. How do you spot infected students? The telltale signs are being overly stressed, massive eye bags and irritability, but the most obvious victims are probably those dozing off in lectures or supervisions. Just sleep to forget the crushing sense of failure.


Have a back up plan

They say you should chase your dreams, but if they require you to have amazing grades, being the president of several societies and an effortless networker, it’s time to make use of your reserve options. Think back to the time before Cambridge offered you the poisoned chalice. Maybe you could be a michelin starred chef, a famous Youtuber or a sports star. The possibilities are endless.

The serenity of watching your dreams float down the Cam

Change your degree

Can’t handle your current degree? Maybe try downgrading to another one. My suggestions are Maths -> Phys Natsci, Engineering -> Chem Eng, Bio Natsci -> PBS, and everything else -> Land Ec? Because desperate times call for desperate measures.

Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the easiest degree of all?


Bit of a random idea, but could be worth a try. Perhaps failure is just a mindset, I don’t know, I don’t do PBS. If that doesn’t work there’s always mindfulness, meditation or the method that seems to be favoured by most Cantabs- VKs and Sunday Life- the most effective way to numb the pain.

Enjoy Cambridge

Cambridge is very much what you make of it. So go for walks along the Cam, meet friends for coffee, go to talks, plays, music concerts and even consider making use of that exorbitant Union membership you paid for. There’s more to Cambridge than just your degree. And hey, look on the bright side, you might be thinking you’re failing your Cambridge degree, but at least you’re actually at Cambridge.

Cambridge can be pretty lit…

After all, however much you think you’re messing up your degree, you’re definitely not the only one. And alas, remember it’s better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all.