How to prepare for mediocrity

So you think you’re the shit

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You did it. Due to your supreme intelligence, engagement in a diverse range of extra-curricular activities and ability to paraphrase The Economist, you have landed your place at Cambridge. And with it, a hefty set of bragging rights (solely to be used when not at said university and surrounded by people with equal bragging rights). Knowing that Cambridge will be bursting with people equally intelligent and capable, you’re probably eager to get ahead and make sure you have an edge over your competition – I mean friends.

So full of dreams and hopes and mostly arrogance

But fear not fellow intellects, The Tab is here to help you get that edge. Take it from the bitter soon-to-be second year student, hands down the best way to get ahead is to accept your imminent mediocrity and accept it now. By the time you get to university, you want to be as far off your high horse as possible. Sell that horse. Give it away to charity (but for crying out loud don’t do it so you can add it to your CV as proof of your ‘generous spirit.’)

Simply put: you are average. You are not special. Most likely, you are not half as good as the person who will soon be sitting next to you in your first lecture.

Don’t stomp off, I’m helping you I swear!

I know it hurts. It’s difficult to hear after years of being cooed over by neighbours, classmates, teachers and randoms on the bus. It’s hard to go from the valedictorian (oh, you were also valedictorian?) to this. But this is your reality now and you’d better start getting used to the new you. Because once you do you can stop wasting your time at university colour-coding your notes and start living life basking in the glory of your inferiority (otherwise known as hanging out in the smoking section of Cindies).

Here’s The Tab‘s guide to preparing to be mediocre.

Step 1: Practice makes perfect

Being the exam-smasher you are, you already know that the way to do well is to cram cram cram. The same goes for mediocrity. When preparing to be mediocre the first thing to get used to is the criticism. After all the stroking your ego has received over the years, the sucker-punch Cambridge will land on it will be hard to bear without adequate preparation. So stand in front of the mirror and heckle yourself. Tell yourself your ideas are unoriginal, that your essays are formulaic and your political notions naive. Your supervisors will be doing it soon enough, better get used to fighting back the tears now.

Bottom left: you realising nobody cares about your gap year

Step 2: Get trashy 

After listening to the news every morning, podcasts every evening and reading cleverly disguised pop-*insert subject here* in preparation for your A-levels in order to appear well-read and intelligent, you now sound like a bit of a pretentious twat. You need to tone down the level of academia if you’re truly going to take on your role of average Joe. Watch some trashy TV. But don’t surrender to the temptation to sit there smugly in superiority. You’re probably not that different to Chris on Love Island when confronted with having to cook spaghetti bolognese for your mates.

Step 3: Leave things to the last minute

Making a fairly reasonable assumption here: you’re most likely the type that knew the syllabus inside-out before their exams. Did every past paper, wrote essays weeks in advance. Spent bus journeys doing extra reading. Sound familiar? Well that was the former you. Cambridge-you will be writing essays the hour they are due. Sometimes handing in bullet point answers. And going into your exams praying that the half of the syllabus you’ve revised is the half that comes up.

At Cambridge, there is no time for perfection. Your workload won’t permit it. So it’s time to get comfortable with winging it. Get into the habit of leaving things to the last minute: run to the bus station with 30 seconds to spare, pack for university 3 hours before your flight is due, put off taking a shower for a week (maybe not the last one, but you get the gist).

This is probably the best piece of writing I will ever produce (aged 6)

Step 4: Lighten up

If you can’t take a gently derisive article in The Tab about how truly insignificant you are, you’re guaranteed to find uni quite stressful (plus how will you survive England without being able to recognise sarcasm?). Cambridge is intellectually very challenging, yes, but it is absolutely manageable as long as you can learn not to be too harsh on yourself. See the lighter side of life and your time at Cambridge is guaranteed to be equal parts funny, memorable and academic.

Turtle-y serious

All jokes aside, you have done incredibly well to get to where you are. Now sit down and be humble, Fresher.