Why is St Andrews so obsessed with firsts?

A 2:1 is suddenly unacceptable

It's that time of year again when we've all received our exam results and have started the first week of classes again. What does this mean?

Everyone asking you how you did, what you got, if you're happy (probably not in most cases).

For some of people, their grades are satisfactory. However, for many people a 2:1 or lower is a disappointment that cannot be expressed in words.

And therin lies the problem.

At St Andrews we seem to have an unhealthy obsession with Firsts. At any other university a 14, or 2:1, is a good grade, approved of by many. Yet here in the bubble anything less than a 16 is 'not great'.

We feel inferior, judged, sub-standard, and beneath our peers who have achieved the coveted First. Often, people brag about how much revision they're not doing whilst holing themselves up in their room for a month cramming, purely to make it seem like their achievement was effortless.

Granted, St Andrews has a certain allure to it, a certain competitiveness, that breeds a culture of needing to succeed and be superior to others. The name of this age-old university attracts people from far and wide of all abilities as the name St Andrews holds a gold-standard unachieved by other institutions. However, only those managing a 16 or higher are held in good esteem it seems.

As a student populaiton we re obsessed, needy and irrational when it comes to this highest of degree classifications. At any other university we'd be pleased with our achievements but, due to our competitiveness, we feel the sense of anguish and disappointment wash over us everytime we repeat "I got a 14" to our classmates.

This unhealthy culture of wanting and not attaining a First is detrimental. We are focussed more on testing well than on actual learning. More interested in beating our peers than our past achievements. More anxious than ever to step into the exam hall.

Realistically, we know deep down that not everyone can achieve a First, but by God it is not going to stop us from trying – and telling everyone about it when we do.

Fear not friends – if you get a 2:1 – you are perfectly, distinctly average. That is, after all, the best place to be.