The Student Room Group

Is a Cambridge degree really worth it?

I have completed a year at Cambridge doing Modern and Medieval Languages and I absolutely hated it. It was so literature heavy, and workload was so constant that I didn't have time to rest or socialise and I was essentially doing a 7 day week. I am sure that lots of people on the studentroom forums will tell me that many would kill to be in my position and that a Cambridge degree would make my life, but my experience at Cambridge has been so awful that it badly triggered a chronic condition and I am still trying to recover my health. Cambridge is an incredibly intense place, and only people that have been through it know how soul-destroying it can be. Whilst I know that a degree from this uni would possibly open doors for me, I really don't think I can stick it. I am now taking a year out to consider my options. I can either return to Cambridge and risk my health for a shiny piece of paper, or transfer elsewhere to a good, but not as prestigious uni. I have unconditional offers for languages from Bristol and Southampton, have been rejected from Surrey, and am awaiting decisions from Bath and UCL. I know that a Cambridge degree would give me a leg-up, at least that's what I've been told. I feel like a languages degree from these other unis I've applied to are worthless in comparison. Would an employer really care that much if I have a degree from Bristol vs one from Cambridge?
Reply 1
Original post by zoepoeole
I have completed a year at Cambridge doing Modern and Medieval Languages and I absolutely hated it. It was so literature heavy, and workload was so constant that I didn't have time to rest or socialise and I was essentially doing a 7 day week. I am sure that lots of people on the studentroom forums will tell me that many would kill to be in my position and that a Cambridge degree would make my life, but my experience at Cambridge has been so awful that it badly triggered a chronic condition and I am still trying to recover my health. Cambridge is an incredibly intense place, and only people that have been through it know how soul-destroying it can be. Whilst I know that a degree from this uni would possibly open doors for me, I really don't think I can stick it. I am now taking a year out to consider my options. I can either return to Cambridge and risk my health for a shiny piece of paper, or transfer elsewhere to a good, but not as prestigious uni. I have unconditional offers for languages from Bristol and Southampton, have been rejected from Surrey, and am awaiting decisions from Bath and UCL. I know that a Cambridge degree would give me a leg-up, at least that's what I've been told. I feel like a languages degree from these other unis I've applied to are worthless in comparison. Would an employer really care that much if I have a degree from Bristol vs one from Cambridge?

What is the purpose of you going to university and specifically to study Modern and Medieval Languages? Are you doing it for education's sake or to achieve a goal or because you thought it was the thing you needed to do?

If the later I think you need a drastic rethink. I never really understand why we encourage young people to go to university without and end goal in mind. University is an enabler these days but it needs to be a strategic on. Long gone are the days when simply having a degree was enough for the route ahead. So what is your goal and how is a degree going to help achieve the goal? If the answer is "I don't know", then perhaps it would be wise to take some time out and consider what your goal is. You only get one shot at university to use it wisely.

Good luck!
Reply 2
Does it make a difference? Yes. Is it worth your health? Only you can answer that.

Education doesn't always have to have an end goal. Going to university especially somewhere like Cambridge and coming out with a 1 or 2:1 says something about you. I would expect as an employer that any Cambridge grad with a 2:1 or better has learnt to think critically and effectively plan. That's a definite leg up and helps you get interviews and potentially move up the career ladder faster.

You have to decide how significant the impact is on your health. If the fallout is too severe then somewhere else doing something else would be indicated. The converse too is true.

Life and work is stressful. Learning to cope with stress/adversity is a part of building success. The question is whether this current stress might make you a more resilient person in the longer term. I'd suggest discussing it with your parents if you have a good relationship with them. They are likely the people that know you best.
(edited 3 months ago)
Reply 3
Original post by hotpud
What is the purpose of you going to university and specifically to study Modern and Medieval Languages? Are you doing it for education's sake or to achieve a goal or because you thought it was the thing you needed to do?
If the later I think you need a drastic rethink. I never really understand why we encourage young people to go to university without and end goal in mind. University is an enabler these days but it needs to be a strategic on. Long gone are the days when simply having a degree was enough for the route ahead. So what is your goal and how is a degree going to help achieve the goal? If the answer is "I don't know", then perhaps it would be wise to take some time out and consider what your goal is. You only get one shot at university to use it wisely.
Good luck!

I agree that what you choose to study at uni should be chosen wisely. I chose MML because I love languages and it is my ultimate goal to be a polyglot. I realise now that I don't need to go to a prestigious university in order to learn all the languages I'd like to; in fact, my language skills seem to have deteriorated since starting my degree because Cambridge shifts the focus from actual language acquisition to literature. I feel like I'm doing a degree in foreign literature rather than in language and it's not helping me achieve my goals at all. I think that's part of why I felt so disillusioned and demotivated with Cambridge. My goal when I started uni was not career-driven but rather passion-driven. Now I feel like my passion has deflated because Cambridge has beat it out of me, and I am left with no energy and no career goal in sight.
Reply 4
Original post by AriTem
Does it make a difference? Yes. Is it worth your health? Only you can answer that.
Education doesn't always have to have an end goal. Going to university especially somewhere like Cambridge and coming out with a 1 or 2:1 says something about you. I would expect as an employer that any Cambridge grad with a 2:1 or better has learnt to think critically and effectively plan. That's a definite leg up and helps you get interviews and potentially move up the career ladder faster.
You have to decide how significant the impact is on your health. If the fallout is too severe then somewhere else doing something else would be indicated. The converse too is true.
Life and work is stressful. Learning to cope with stress/adversity is a part of building success. The question is whether this current stress might make you a more resilient person in the longer term. I'd suggest discussing it with your parents if you have a good relationship with them. They are likely the people that know you best.

Thing is, I’m not sure I’d even come out with a 1 or a 2:1 because my body shuts down to the point of being unable to write an essay. I did manage to pull it together for exams last year and got a 1 but I don’t know if I can do that every year. I don’t even feel like I’m learning anything apart from how to pretend I know what I’m talking about. It’s made me think I don’t think my body would be able to cope with a highly stressful job in the future and has led me to rethink everything I thought I knew about what I wanted to do with my life. Thank you for your advice, it’s really good to have an objective voice.
Reply 5
Original post by zoepoeole
I agree that what you choose to study at uni should be chosen wisely. I chose MML because I love languages and it is my ultimate goal to be a polyglot. I realise now that I don't need to go to a prestigious university in order to learn all the languages I'd like to; in fact, my language skills seem to have deteriorated since starting my degree because Cambridge shifts the focus from actual language acquisition to literature. I feel like I'm doing a degree in foreign literature rather than in language and it's not helping me achieve my goals at all. I think that's part of why I felt so disillusioned and demotivated with Cambridge. My goal when I started uni was not career-driven but rather passion-driven. Now I feel like my passion has deflated because Cambridge has beat it out of me, and I am left with no energy and no career goal in sight.

What a brilliant reflection. It seems to me like you have a clear pathway and you know what you need to do to achieve those goals. So go for it!

Good luck!
Reply 6
Original post by zoepoeole
I have completed a year at Cambridge doing Modern and Medieval Languages and I absolutely hated it. It was so literature heavy, and workload was so constant that I didn't have time to rest or socialise and I was essentially doing a 7 day week. I am sure that lots of people on the studentroom forums will tell me that many would kill to be in my position and that a Cambridge degree would make my life, but my experience at Cambridge has been so awful that it badly triggered a chronic condition and I am still trying to recover my health. Cambridge is an incredibly intense place, and only people that have been through it know how soul-destroying it can be. Whilst I know that a degree from this uni would possibly open doors for me, I really don't think I can stick it. I am now taking a year out to consider my options. I can either return to Cambridge and risk my health for a shiny piece of paper, or transfer elsewhere to a good, but not as prestigious uni. I have unconditional offers for languages from Bristol and Southampton, have been rejected from Surrey, and am awaiting decisions from Bath and UCL. I know that a Cambridge degree would give me a leg-up, at least that's what I've been told. I feel like a languages degree from these other unis I've applied to are worthless in comparison. Would an employer really care that much if I have a degree from Bristol vs one from Cambridge?

In the long run, after you get your first job, your degree doesn't really matter - it becomes about experience in the field. My mum is the head of careers at a university and consistently tells me the above ^. Its not worth risking your health and spending thousands just for something that will help you initially in the job market but won't really do anything else. Employers love Bristol too. Ultimately your mental health is most important for sure.
As someone who had a really hard time at Oxford, kept going anyway, and crashed and burnt spectacularly, I would say cut your losses and run. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health for! I don't necessarily regret staying but I can't recommend it to most people with health conditions tbh.

A languages degree from any of the unis you've mentioned wouldn't be worthless. Afaik, sticking with Cambridge only gives you a significant leg up in areas like IB and law.

Always prioritise health and happiness where possible. I hope your chronic conditions fades down a bit in time to come :hugs:
Reply 8
Original post by hotpud
What a brilliant reflection. It seems to me like you have a clear pathway and you know what you need to do to achieve those goals. So go for it!
Good luck!

Thank you!

Quick Reply