Essay Envy: Stop Making Me Feel Guilty About My Essay-Based Course

The last few weeks, as I’m sure many of you will agree, haven’t been the most pleasant. Deadlines stressed me out to a whole new level: it’s hard to write one academic essay, never mind juggle three at the same time. After I handed in my final essay I literally went straight to Mooch and drank a pitcher of a cocktail. The worst/best part was that I’m pretty sure the barmaid knew I wasn’t sharing.

If the actual work wasn’t stressing me out enough, every day I was dealing with the battle of telling people I had no exams – ‘just’ essays.  I say ‘just’ because daily comments were thrown at me like, "Oh my god you’re so lucky", "God, your course is so chilled", "Why are you in the library?". I HAVE DEADLINES YOU IDIOT.

For some reason, people seem to think that essay-based subjects are easier than exam-based subjects. If you are reading this and happen to study English, Philosophy or any degree that is primarily essay based, then you probably get a little angry. I don’t blame you.

Here are a few things that really, really frustrate me.

"You literally don't understand how hard it is"

Firstly, I have actually done exams before. I wouldn’t be in the library of a top ten university if I hadn’t sat exams. I have definitely heard "You literally don’t understand how hard it is" when I tell people that I have none this term. I did an exam last semester ON TOP of two essays – try that! These comments are normally coupled with a condescending look that suggests that you are not as smart as this wonderful person who has five exams.

"We do maths and essays in the same exam so it's obviously harder for us"

I know a lot of people who study Economics – in their exam they have to write ‘essays’. I appreciate this is not easy, but please don’t suggest that the essays in your exam are on par with the 3500-word bad boys we cope with. Also, you’d be surprised at how many people have no idea how to reference. I mean no idea. But my favourite ever comment was probably "we do maths and essays in the same exam so it's obviously harder for us". I kind of just didn’t answer that one.

"You could literally just do it the night before, right?"

Okay, yes we could and I’m sure people do. Realistically, the majority of us are striving for a decent grade and we don’t want to fail by starting the night before. I’m not even sure how people genuinely think this is possible – I start reading my secondary material months before I start typing. Those are my top pet hates. I like to think of these people as simple creatures who struggle to string sentences together. Don’t be afraid of them. Arts students have the basic ability to compose a grammatically correct email, plus an advantage when it comes to cover letters and job applications, among other employable talents that certain exam-heavy courses simply don't cultivate.

People who criticise you are just jealous: we finish earlier, gain life skills and can get involved in excessive drinking and celebration whilst they are still stuck in Hallward doing past papers.

Sorry for the rant… I just have a lot of feelings (quote Mean Girls).



Edited by Naomi Upton

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