An accepted social stereotype of students can be that we are self-centred, middle class loafers; time wasters who are a drain on the economy, our parents, and anyone else who has the misfortune to come into contact with us. Which is why the question I’m about to ask may seem a little unusual: are students under too much pressure?
Although my degree is not particularly demanding in terms of contact hours, I have more than enough ‘suggested’ reading to keep me entertained for several decades, essays to write and authors to criticise. But it seems that this isn’t enough. In order to be at all attractive to any future employer, the majority of people would agree that I also need relevant work experience, preferably an internship or two under my belt, evidence of multiple and varied extra-curricular activities and some indication that I’m not a hermit. All this work on top of sustaining the hedonistic student lifestyle I’m supposed to be leading is exhausting.
Students are now expected to have it all, and these three years are far from a casual fling with academia interspersed with binge drinking. As well as all the extra-curricular expectations on top of a decent degree classification, the ever important issue of financing our studies is piled on top of our increasing concerns. And with all this to consider, we’re forced to prioritise. This summer, for example, I have chosen to work full-time so that I can afford to eat next year. This has meant that almost all career-enhancing projects have been put on hold until term-time, when instead of focussing on my degree, I’ll bury myself in projects, voluntary work and societies galore. But it’s worrying that CV-bolstering is becoming a full-time occupation for most students; forget the university ‘degree-factory’, is it becoming more of a CV boosting production line?
We hear it everywhere – media scare stories, casual conversations, advice from parents and tutors alike: a degree seemingly isn’t enough anymore. In order to land that dream job – or any job- we need to surpass our peers somehow, and therefore seem required to spend our free time scouting out internships, work experience and the like, as well as somehow financing our increasingly expensive degrees.
Now, I should point out that I love student activities, all the societies and sub-committees and things to be involved in. But everyone needs a break, and it is one thing being super-busy and involved during term time, but surely our summer holiday is a time to relax and unwind, rather than becoming a three month slog of full-time work? And are there real gains to be made by ensuring that we cover all bases: academic, social, voluntary, extra-curricular? Do those terrifyingly suave executives sitting in their ivory towers, disdainfully flipping through a pile of CVs, really care whether we spent our summers getting drunk with our friends in Turkey, or volunteering at a homeless shelter? Ultimately, yes.
What you put on your CV is your life on a piece of paper. You have to ensure the correct balance of professionalism and personality. It seems that, although it may be a clichéd, it is just best to be yourself. If you don’t enjoy volunteer work, don’t fake it just for your CV. Passion is evident, it always shines through. Sure, we have to face facts; particularly in certain industries, the pressure is on for us to get those coveted internship spots in order to prove our worth and determination for the job at hand. A degree just isn’t quite enough any more. It may not be fair, and it may not be easy, but that’s life. The stress of it all is enough to drive a person to Ziggy’s…