The six stages of collections grief

Image Description: Gru explains meme

As we  stagger into the start of term, we can once again try to forget the termly humiliation ritual that is the ‘collection’. Having gone through 8 weeks of blagging and waffling our way through tutorials, classes, seminars, conversations with elderly relatives, and our own crippling sense of self-doubt, we are confronted with the terrifying prospect that one day we’re going to have to convince a half-awake examiner with a stack of papers a mile high that we are worthy of at least a ‘Pass’, with the accompanying whipping through the streets of Oxford that entails. To help you understand the process known as ‘collections grief’, we have summarized the typical student’s response into six succinct stages.

1) Revision is for Cowards

As we all know, to revise before a collection is a futile gesture, like putting on a wooly hat before popping to the North Pole, or visiting a library in the vain hope that knowledge will osmose itself into your brain whilst you scroll through Instagram. It is much braver, and more honest, to accept your inevitable demise and face it with courage – so you did no revision. Anybody who did revision is cheating, therefore disqualified, and so technically did worse than you. The advantage of doing no revision is that you can tell yourself that had you done any revision, you of course would have remembered the volume of a parallelogram or the conjugation of ‘croque monsieur’.

If that fails, students comfort themselves with the knowledge that revising would have defeated the point of the collection – after all, it is supposed to simulate a real exam, and we all know you aren’t going to revise before the real exam either.

2) False Hope

In between the sitting of the collection and the receiving of the results, you experience a period of blissful ignorance known as ‘false hope’, where you can indulge to your heart’s content the fantasy that your skillful analysis of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code will bring a tear to your tutor’s eye, its beauty leaving them no choice but to frame the essay and hang it on the wall for all to see. This false hope can last anywhere from a week to several years depending on how much your tutor can be arsed to mark your worthless regurgitations, but once it is over, you are brought crashing down to the harsh reality of:

3) When everyone’s inadequate, no-one will be

As Albert Einstein posted on Facebook last week, everything is relative. If everyone else did as badly on their collections as you did, then it means you have nothing to worry about. You may find a brief moment of solace as your friend tells you: ‘oh yeah, that collection was a nightmare’, only to sink further into shame as they lament that they only got a 2:1, and get this, not even a high 2:1 – a middling 2:1. When asked how yours went, you can only respond with a mumbled “same” and change the subject quickly.

4) Excuses, excuses

You are thus confronted with the horror that you are not in fact an average gazelle, comfortable and safe in the middle of the herd, but a lame, abandoned creature, currently being circled by lions with red ink dripping from their fangs onto your paper. You seek to justify your situation by finding excuses. You’re doing a more difficult subject than all your friends – maths and engineering are just numbers, after all, whereas your Geography challenges you to do so much more, like keep on top of your crayon supply for colouring in maps. You felt ill on the day of the collection – that could have happened to anyone, regardless of when exactly they came back from Plush the night before, or more accurately the morning of. The right questions didn’t come up – why wouldn’t your tutor choose at least a couple of essay titles from the few you actually submitted during term? After searching for excuses, and finding that their glaring weaknesses break even the strongest of self-denials, you finally resort to:

5) Planning a heist

You gave a cursory glance at the most recent past paper the day before the collection, safe with the universal constant that the mock exam is always the most recent past paper. After being proven wrong and shown the grim reality of your performance in an unseen exam, only one course of action remains – a heist to rival Jake Peralta’s finest efforts. Research must be done to locate where the exam papers are printed; lockpicking must be learned in order to sneak into the trucks before they depart; you must become a master of stealth so you can slink into the night, a wad of papers under your arm and a degree glistening on the horizon. However, realising that all this would take effort, and after a few minutes of half-hearted Googling, you immediately give up and go back on TikTok.

6) Acceptance

You recall how you began this process, full of defiance and ready to face your doom without debasing yourself by revising beforehand. You find yourself there again, a strange calm settling over you. You can’t change the past, you say to yourself, so no point in worrying about it. The word ‘collection’, like the number of electrons in limestone and the regnal dates of Martin Luther King, drifts out of your mind. Well, it does until about 3 months later, when the cycle starts all over again.