The importance of making mistakes as a Fresher

In my first seminar of my first year of uni, the professor said to the class: “You’ve learned how to achieve, and now is the time to fail.”

You can imagine the confused silence of the class. We’d sweated so hard over our A-Levels and personal statements. We’d been encouraged to aim high our whole academic lives, just to arrive at uni and hear this rather demoralising statement. No matter how much you try to keep your head above water and survive you will make mistakes and fail form time to time.

The professor went on to explain that the first year of uni is the time to make mistakes. Well, it makes sense – for most students, first year amounts to a grand total of 0%. Also, writing essays at uni is a totally different ball game to at A-Level. It takes a year just to get into the flow of a new way of writing and thinking. What’s classed as ‘good’ A-Level work isn’t necessarily ‘good’ at uni standard. Especially if you write any of your essays drunk.

I know it can be crushing to receive negative feedback and to be told that you’re not clear enough, critical enough, or original enough (or anything enough!), especially when you’re a Fresher. Another professor disparagingly told me that one of my essays read like a “hangover from A-Level”, and another one talked me through my essay, pinpointing everything that was wrong with it. Ouch.

But then again, nobody is expecting you to write a great essay the first time! Uni is a learning curve – by third year, you will be reading over your fresher essays, amazed by how much your writing style and ideas have advanced. You won’t get to this point without making a few (or in my case, many!) mistakes first.

First year works on a ‘trial and error’ basis. It’s okay to fail because you’ll learn to achieve through doing so.

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