Letting go of the notion that everything you do should be nothing less than perfection is a difficult concept to grasp, but one that you will most likely have to face. Everyone at Durham University is incredibly intelligent, and probably achieved top marks all throughout their academic journey prior to university. The adjustment to being a big fish in a small pond to an average fish in a big pond can be really difficult. Nobody prepares you for this transition from sixth form/college to university, but I hope in writing this article to reassure you that not being the best at something is perfectly okay, and there are even some things that you can do in order to make this feeling of adequacy less uncomfortable.
Most people you speak to at Durham achieved all grade 9s at GCSEs and all A* at A-levels and this academic success can make you ill-prepared for the 2:2 grade on your first essay because you did not understand the university format. Learning to deal with grades that are not consistently first-class is difficult, but it is one that everyone is likely to experience in at least one piece of work. If this has been you, I promise that you are still intelligent and deserve to be at Durham; the format at university is completely different to any prior academic experience, and every university year gets harder so grades will inevitably drop at the beginning of each year, but this does not determine your worthiness.
My advice to you if you are struggling with discomfort within yourself is to fully embrace this feeling and actually push yourself to join a club, sport, or society that you know nothing about and try to learn a new skill. I personally did this at the beginning of university and joined pole dance – a sport I had no experience in and knew absolutely nothing about. It has been over a year of my doing pole dance now, and I am humbled in every single class that I attend because there are always a plethora of moves that I cannot do. But there is something so enriching in this too. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in an area that is not academic can help you experience not being perfect at something else, which is crucial if you have been deemed as perfect your entire life until university. Learning to lean into this discomfort at being bad at something allows you to acknowledge that you are here to learn and grow and develop your academic skills – something you would not need to do if you were already getting full marks from the start of university. You may not be the absolute best in your classes anymore, but you are on your own individual academic journey and with growth comes discomfort. Embrace this challenge and remember that you deserve to be at this university.