Surprisingly, I found the first year of my English Literature degree easier than my whole two years of A-levels. I only had one exam at the end of first year that didn’t count towards my overall degree, whereas one thing I particularly despised about English Literature A-level specifically was how your entire grade rested on an exam at the end of the two years that was worth 80%. There was also a huge number and variety of books studied on each module; I really enjoyed studying plays and novels I wouldn’t have normally picked up. Studying the same poetry, prose and plays at A-level wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as by the end of the course you knew the texts inside out. However, being introduced to new genres meant that any I was particularly interested in I could read into further and extend my knowledge of them.
I also think that the stigma attached around an English Literature degree is that you are constantly reading, which is true, but some weeks are lighter than others. Some weeks I was reading a 200 page novel and an 120 page play along with some critical theory passages, but other weeks it would have been two poems and a short story. Even concerning the heavier reading weeks, it was quicker to get used to them than I thought, especially if you do have a genuine passion for literature. I also didn’t realise how much I would enjoy lectures and seminars with lecturers who are extremely knowledgeable in their field. They made my love of literature increase even more, which I didn’t think was possible.
One thing I did find difficult about the degree was the clustering of essays at Christmas and in May. It was quite overwhelming to have 3 or 4 essays due in within a few days of each other, as at A-level I was used to being able to focus on two or three pieces of coursework for months on end. However, after the experience of essay writing in December, I knew that I needed to start preparing earlier for the assessment period in May and I felt a lot more relaxed and confident in submitting essays by this point. I’m hoping that this will continue throughout second year. However, I would choose this any day over multiple, long exams.
If you’re hoping to start an English Literature degree in September, don’t worry about whether you will struggle with the jump between A-levels and University, as I honestly think that is unnecessarily exaggerated. The one huge tip I would give is to make sure you give yourself time to prepare for assessments from the offset, as although first year marks don’t count towards your final degree, it is beneficial to obtain the most useful feedback possible, which you will do if you know you have tried your best in every single essay.