The Graduate

10 November 2012

Sophie Clarke encounters her first graduate essay deadline and promptly panics

How did we get here? It’s a question asked pertinently at this time in term as we sneak into week seven. Fresher’s week seems so far away. I feel now like I’ve never been away – as if Cambridge has played host to me forever. Yet we’re so close to the end of term, to my return to the north, that it’s difficult not to start thinking about all the celebrations of Cambridge Christmas, and ignore my first graduate essay which is unfortunately due in the same day as the Selwyn Snowball.

If one more undergraduate tells me that I should be grateful it’s just one essay, I will have to restrain myself from Hulk-smashing them into a table. Sure, I know if you’re an arts student it’s entirely possible that you’re writing over three thousand words a week, and so six thousand words for one little essay seems silly. I’ve been there, done that, and spilled coffee from the all-nighters down more t-shirts than I wish to count.

It seemed to be at undergraduate I never had enough to say, had never done enough to fill up the word limits, would quote endlessly and ramble incessantly in what appears, reading my essays back, to be an extension of last week’s column.

Yet now, I have too much to say. I barely know where to start. The books I’ve read and notes I’ve made are piled around me as I write this and I just don’t comprehend how I’m going to sort them out. Alright, I know six thousand words isn’t that much. But it’s six thousand words which are worth around 25% of my course.

Oh dear. Maybe I’ve got PPA (postgraduate performance anxiety). This isn’t like a supervision where I could just turn up and explain the slightly dodgier bits of my essay with a dash of charm and appropriate worry and see my supervisor comprehend that I am just a rambling fool rather than a rambling fool who has done no work to back her argument up.

I haven’t even located an argument yet for this essay. Or a title, come to think of it. I think it’s lost somewhere around the trip to formal last Thursday with my undergrad posse who returned for one night only. It led to me crouching over an A1 sheet on which is based my essay “plan” frantically trying to cram in different colours of sharpies and quotes from at least seven different authors before running to a supervision and trying not to sweat wine all over her sofa.

Actually, I don’t think I have got PPA. It’s definitely UD – undergraduate delusion. I just don’t have the appropriately charming smile to get away with that shit any more.