Doing the 50: I would do anything to finish this list... but I won't hand an essay in on time

Sheffield third-year James Ashford is determined to do all 50 things The Independent once witlessly suggested all students should do before they leave uni. The results are... just as you might imagine

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The Independent Online

A few months ago, I stumbled across a list of 50 things to do before you leave university. The list was utterly bland and entirely patronising, but it finally gave me some direction in my life. In that moment, I decided to complete all fifty things, write about them, and in the process have some 'life-changing experiences'.

I'm 20 things down so far and looking forward to the next five as much as a cattle prod to the nipple. And yet, here they here.

4. Hand in an essay early
9. Study in every library that exists at your university (like you're ‘on tour' - but studying)

Handing in an essay early is very unfamiliar territory for the majority of students. Finishing (and starting) your work the night before a deadline is common practice even amongst the most distinguished of scholars.

Though last-ditch effort has traditionally been frowned upon by tutors, secondary school teachers and parents, in reality I believe it is the best method for 'all-round development'. University is meant to be character-building.

In my opinion there is nothing more character-building than shambling to the departmental office, the morning after an all-nighter, with four thousand words and bloodshot eyes.

That said, it’s hard to read that bracketed section of task nine without experiencing a feeling of genuine revulsion. Visitng our various university libraries is about as convincing a ‘tour’ as performing to Welsh school children with your village percussion band. You can tell as many girls as you like that you ‘went on the road’ but you’ll only end up lying to yourself as much as them.

To satisfy requirement nine, I managed to visit a number of pretty intensely studious libraries, before deciding that Sheffield's 'Information Commons' would become my headquarters. The IC is home to some of the most fascinating specimens in human evolutionary history. You can’t spell diversity without library, and that is the making, and also the downfall, of the IC.

All are welcome, which means all do flock. People will come into the library for shelter from the rain, for warmth, for a chat. The only time you can sort the wheat from the inanely chattering chaff is the middle of the night. Come witching hour, only truly zealous or pitifully desperate students remain. It was amongst these people that I found my home while starting my essay early.

The pros and cons of handing in an essay early are as follows:


  • You have to worry about it for less time.
  • It’s probably not as rubbish because you have longer to think about it.
  • You don’t feel like such a slacking [chap - ed.].



Despite completing the bulk of the work about a week early, due to my commitments as the Prince of Parties, I was only able to hand in the essay one day early.

I later realised that ‘hand an essay in early’ is a ridiculous task, because unless you hand it in on the very second of the deadline, it's always going to be a bit early.

And that is how I will justify it forevermore.

32. If you think a lecture was particularly good, try and instigate a standing ovation

Luckily, around essay hand-in time, no one actually attends lectures. I was able to use this to my advantage by reducing the audience to as small a number as possible for my next stunt.

I decided the best time to strike would be following a lecture on sexual perversion, because in a room of people debating the merits of bestiality, one young man clapping at the back is hardly going to cause an uproar.

As the lecture drew to a close, I stood up and began applauding. Not only did nobody join in, not a single person seemed to show the slightest bit of interest. Though I was disappointed that my appreciation had gone unnoticed, the overriding feeling was that of relief. I’m not a judgmental person, but if I saw someone clapping at the end of a lecture my first thought wouldn’t be ‘they’re probably doing it for an article’, it would be ‘what a sarcastic little cockwomble.’

22. Go to a play put on by the drama department or a uni society

I went to go and see Sheffield University Theatre Company’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I was disappointed to discover that there would be no musical numbers but decided to stick it out nonetheless.

The performances were mixed. The key players performed their roles commendably; Frankenstein and his monster led well from the front.

The refreshments were mediocre but I didn’t let it spoil a pleasant evening’s entertainment.

50. Get loads of discounts, free things and cool stuff by joining the UK's largest student money saving club, of course!

Not only was this the easiest thing on the list for me to do, it's also a pretty good way of saving money. Recommended.

James Ashford is a sweetheart really. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjamesashford