Debate: First year should count towards your degree

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‘Final year’ has become synonymous with dread, insurmountable pressure, and endless deadlines. Despite having spent (at least) two years slaving away, churning out essay after essay, it all comes down to the final year. Those previous Easter terms spent stressing in the UL mean nothing; that 71% you got in that piece of coursework is nothing more than a token gesture that maybe the admissions tutor didn’t make a mistake accepting you; those late-night caffeine, sugar fuelled essays were just a reminder that sleep is an unaffordable luxury.

It is clear from this, that us Cantabs naturally work hard. We all have that friend who ‘missed an essay’, but let’s face it, we’re here because of our passion for academia and studying. These efforts should thus be rewarded throughout the duration of our degree, not just in the infamous Part II.

But does this not mean that those extra-curricular activities that ‘employers love’ will be swept aside as we all stress towards those – now important – summer exams? Of course not. Firstly, finalists – as stressed as you may be – do not all live in a state of perpetual hibernation. Despite the fact 100% of their degree is based on the result they achieve at the end of this year, they still embrace the many societies Cambridge has to offer. We cannot thus assume that just because it ‘matters’ students will suddenly decide to lay off these non-academic pursuits. And secondly, and more crucially, meaning your degree now counts does not mean incessantly more work. This, in many cases, is not possible nor desirable. Rather, just the hard work we are already putting in, is recognised.

To argue that first year should count towards your degree does not mean that it will become a life-changing, first or nothing result. Significantly, potential schemes look to make each year hold increasing weighting. Consequently, first year would never be worth more than 20%. It would matter but any lost ground could easily be compensated for in successive years. Surely this is much fairer than putting it all to chance in third year?

Arguably by our final year those skills have been so fine-tuned, they show us at our best, at the top of our game. In this peak condition, is this not the best time to test our abilities? Undoubtedly; and this is recognised in the fact that third year would, in all likelihood, have the majority of the weighting. But this development and progress is in relation to our peers. Examiners marking first year scripts know not to expect the same work as a finalist would produce. Exams in first year would become a measure of progress rather than a mark of the finished product.

So, in recognition of our constant work load, first year should count. The toils and struggles we put in week after week, should count for something more than ‘transferable skills.’ First year should count not least because we want to take some pressure off that final year.

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