"Oxbridge session focusing on raising our aspirations and pushing us to aim high, was central to sparking this"

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February 17th 2021

Jezz has been offered a place to study Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge.

I have always been ambitious when it comes to my education, and so a place at Cambridge felt like the ultimate ambition. I remember having an early Oxbridge session at East Point Academy, focusing on raising our aspirations and pushing us to aim high, which was central to sparking this aim. The school always encouraged us to be ambitious and not to let our circumstances define us.

There is certainly a particular demographic that most commonly applies to Cambridge. I know some schools have a rich tradition of sending students to Oxbridge, with dedicated members of staff mentoring the chosen candidates, but that was not an option for us.

The session we had was with a member of the academy trust who had been to Oxbridge and had experience in the application process. Despite being more limited than the opportunities available to some students, the session gave us a small but inspiring insight into the opportunity available to us.  

It was at Sixth Form that I truly knew that I wanted to apply to Cambridge. The liberty of being able to tailor your subjects really allows you to find your feet as an academic and envisage a future in your desired field or craft.

When applying I had to do a great deal of research on my own and, although it's not quite the same as a private tutor, the internet was such a useful tool – even if it is mostly just riddled with Oxbridge interview horror stories! The application is stressful, and it is rigorous, but this should absolutely not deter anyone from taking on the challenge and giving it a go.

The pandemic certainly altered the application experience for those of us that applied this year. Although I know some people preferred doing their interviews over a video call, having the comfort of doing the call at home, for me, this was one of the hardest parts of the process.

Without being able to read their body language, or pick up those little details that you spot in person, I had no idea how well I was answering their questions. The interviewers are intentionally quite stoic and try their best not to give anything away which adds a whole new layer of complexity to the process.

The interview itself was not the only thing that the pandemic changed.

The entire day of my interview felt quite anti-climactic, instead of taking the train to Cambridge, re-reading my notes on the train, and practicing answers to every question I could think of, I just logged onto my computer and sat staring at my screen.

Clicking ‘leave’ at the end of the interview definitely lacks the gravitas of walking out of those imposing halls filled with intellectuals.

After the interviews were finished there was nothing to do but wait until late January. It was a long and thought-provoking few months that all came to an end on the 25th of January. The 25th, or what some of us were referring to as ‘Cambridge Day’, was the day we received the outcome of our application.

Although we knew the email would come on that day, there was an 8-hour window in which the response could be sent. Luckily for me, the email came quite early on and I was told that the University would be offering me a place!

Even then, it took some time to sink in. I probably read the email ten times before I started to feel slightly confident about my chances, and even then, I checked the email address to make sure it wasn’t a scam. It was not until I saw the official confirmation on the UCAS website that I was totally convinced and could start looking forward to taking up my place in October.

It's such a shame that people from working-class and unprivileged backgrounds are deterred by the prospect of applying to Oxbridge due to the view that it is not ‘for people like them’. People have to keep fighting the stereotype and give it their best shot as if not it results in a vicious cycle where people don’t know anyone who has been, and so they don’t apply themselves.

Ultimately, the worst thing that can happen is that you can be rejected. The idea of rejection alone is enough to deter some people but it’s important that people realise that rejection in no way reflects anyone’s capability or their potential. Everyone always says they love the university they end up at so it's not all doom and gloom! Even if I hadn’t been accepted, I would like to have thought I would have been thankful to have had the opportunity to go through the experience as it truly does help to build your character and your resilience.

I would honestly recommend it to all those that are considering it and have the motivation, ambition, and determination to succeed to apply. It was without a doubt one of the hardest experiences of my life, but unequivocally the most rewarding.