Setting Yourself up for Potential Mediocrity – The 40% AttitudeJuly 13, 2012
“It’s okay…all I need to do is get 40%”: perhaps the single most ridiculous expression I ever heard uttered out of the mouths of 1st year students during my three years at University. The logic behind it is completely obscure, and the future ramifications of adopting such a mind-frame are unknowingly damaging to your final mark.
So what am I getting at exactly? The 40% attitude is what more and more students seem to be adopting each year. It is a realisation that to pass the 1st year of University all that is required is a percentage of or above 40%. Typically, the phrase is enunciated with resolute optimism around about March time, when the realisation of potential examination failure begins to take a grip. Astoundingly, though, I found that during my time at UWE, which is where I studied History, first year undergrads were more inclined to adopt this attitude even before the academic year had commenced. Maybe it was a trend specific to my particular University. Maybe it was a realisation during Freshers Week that spending the year bleary eyed and dressed as Batman was more appealing than waiting for the doors of the library to open at 8am. Or maybe it is a pure naivety to the fact that, despite 1st year being relatively insignificant (at least in terms of true grade values) when contrasted with second and third year; it is the fundamental building blocks of your University degree and the basis from which you begin your progression towards that elusive 2:1 or 1st.
If you get off to a bad start you will always be at an uneven kilter. You will be sucked in to a cyclical process of settling for a low mark because that is all you feel you can achieve. This will undoubtedly lead to a dramatically lowered level of effort put in to each piece of work because you feel that achieving a grade in the upper echelons will now be unrealistic. Perhaps more importantly, assuming that you scraped the 40% mark necessary to progress to your 2nd year, it is highly unlikely that you have developed any sort of relationship with the tutors in your faculty, which is vital if you want to be given the best and most honest academic advice.
Take my advice, please, start as you mean to finish. Aim for the highest mark possible as early as possible. Get to know your tutors. Get to know the library staff. Get to know everyone involved in the faculty of your subject. It is not all about what you know; building working relationships with your lecturers is a sure-fire way to propelling you to new academic territory. If they know that you are eager to learn and take on the knowledge and advice that they have at their disposal then they will work more closely with you with a view to grinding out a high-end grade. All of this begins in your 1st year.
If you like, 1st year is about networking and discovering what you have to do to get the best grade possible. If you aim for 40% from the outset then be prepared for a lonesome uphill struggle. A struggle that you will reach the end of after three years and think to yourself, “I should’ve tried harder in my 1st year.”