Scarlet Rowe (HSPS 2019) recounts her experience of applying to Gonville & Caius College.
I’m from a state school in Leeds, and I was the only person in my year to go to Cambridge.
In some schools there’s an expectation you apply; in mine people didn’t really understand the process. It was harder for teachers to help me.
I wanted to ensure students in a similar position had the opportunity to talk to people who understand the process, have been through it themselves and are also from a similar background.
I’m really passionate about making sure everyone has the tools in place to apply and so everyone’s potential is reached. People always have such a diverse range of questions, and just want to learn about my lived experience of Cambridge; people are curious about what it’s like day in, day out.
You grow up always hearing about Oxford and Cambridge and they’re these mystical places and sound really magical. From being quite little I thought it would be really cool if I could go there, I could wear a gown, be like a wizard. That was the initial motivating factor.
Then as I got a bit older I thought ‘I’ve got the grades for this’. I’ve always struggled with confidence, so when a few teachers said to me ‘you should think about applying – you would be good enough’ that outside encouragement really helped.
I thought I might as well go, and if worst comes to the worst I won’t get in and I can just go to another uni. I had an attitude of ‘why not give it a try?’ which I think turned out to be quite good, because I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I treated the process as an experience more than anything.
There’s a lot of myths about the interview, so I went in expecting a traumatic, terrifying process, and it was actually really fun with two friendly interviewers who wanted to know more about me.
What helped me was that I put myself first, saying to myself that this should be a rewarding process to show how hard I had worked and could show them why I deserved to be there. I re-framed it as an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity to talk to cool people and learn some new things. They wouldn’t invite you to interview if they thought you weren’t good enough. Having that confidence to think you deserve to be there and there’s a reason why they want to talk to you definitely helps.
The Cambridge offers come quite late and I’d watched quite a lot of my friends get offers for their dream unis. I was happy for them, but thought ‘I’d quite like to have one now’. When I got the offer I remember jumping around the room with some friends who were there. After the initial excitement I realised I’d have to get the grades!
I was the only one in my school who had an offer for Cambridge, so people knew about it. They were excited for me and asked me about it, and mostly I just felt support from a lot of people. I wanted to make them proud and make me proud, so that motivated me further to work hard and get the grades.
Scarlet on the Backs, with King's College pictured behind on a view which Caius first year students see daily when moving between the West Road site and Old Courts