I’ve Gone From Assumed Failure to a Cambridge Student
My Journey from believing that I had ruined my chances at school, to being accepted at the University of Cambridge.
Five years ago, I was still at school and faced with an extremely traumatic personal situation, which found me involved as a witness in an ongoing court case.
Where I had previously been a top student at school, with high prospects for my future, I found myself struggling to concentrate and find the motivation to revise for my exams. At the age of sixteen in the UK, I was completing my GCSE exams, and I managed to do well despite my situation, as I had already put in a lot of work prior.
However, after this, I had to move on to my A level exams, which provide you with the opportunities for a career or entrance into university.
I was sixteen, and used friendship, socialising and having fun to cope with my struggling mental health as a consequence of trauma. Whilst these two years of freedom and friendship were vital to my wellbeing and healing process, they had a detrimental effect on my studies.
I was no longer focussed on revising, completing homework and attending my classes, and I even had to have a few months off from school to cope with my personal issues.
I knew barely any of the content that I needed for my exams, and I did the bare minimum to get by.
After the first year, we had mock exams, which proved my lack of effort, as I barely passed. This gave me a huge reality check, and in the second and last year before my final exams, I began to try harder.
I spent the last year attending lessons and revising the content, yet I had missed out on vital education in my first year which was still hindering me. I believed I was trying my hardest, but looking back, I was barely scraping the surface.
I sat my exams and believed that my work had paid off. I had conditional offers to a few universities and awaited my results to confirm my place. When my results came in and I saw that I had achieved a B, a C and a D, I was devastated. I didn't get the grades to get into the university that I wanted to and I believed I had ruined the chances for my future.
Luckily my chosen university let me in despite not getting what I should have, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Once I arrived, I really knew that I needed to try hard if I was to have any chance of pursuing my dreams.
I spent the next three years researching, writing essays and reading an endless amount of books. I finally saw a return on my efforts, as I was receiving good grades.
I grew not only academically, but as a person, as I finally grew up and realised that only I was in control of my future, and it was my responsibility to work hard.
In my final year, I had a module in children’s literature and the lecturer of that module was vital to my current successes. She was so passionate about what she was teaching, and this allowed me to explore my own passion for the same subject. As my degree was pulling to a close, I began to think about what I wanted to do next. I wasn't entirely ready to leave education, and my lecturer suggested that I pursue a masters degree in children’s literature.
I did my research and found the perfect course, yet the only issue was that it was at the University of Cambridge. This seemed completely out of my reach, as only three years ago I had received grades which barely got me into university. My lecturer persuaded me to apply, as she told me I had nothing to lose.
I applied, with no expectation of ever being accepted, as I still felt inadequate.
A month later, I received an email inviting me to interview with two professors from Cambridge. I was utterly shocked.
I spent the next week panicking and researching and revising any knowledge that I had in order to avoid making a fool of myself. I still didn’t think that I had a chance, but I didn't want to look stupid in front of these academics.
The interview was very relaxed and friendly and luckily, the questions that they asked me where on topics that I was both knowledgeable and passionate on.
I waited for the next three months to hear an answer, and as time went on I had accepted that I wasn't successful. It didn't matter, as Cambridge still seemed out of my reach- yet I wanted this opportunity so badly.
Then came the email that changed my life, I had been offered a place.
The lesson from my experience that I can provide for others, is that you have never ruined your opportunities. Bad exam results or rejection is not the end of the road and is not the decider of your life.
The problem is, that dejection and the feeling of failure can often make you give up. The way to turn your life around is by using your failures to fuel your drive to carry on. The opportunities in life are endless, so accept your failures and try again.
I someone would’ve told me that I would be offered a place to study at Cambridge five years ago I would’ve believed it was a cruel joke.
My story is an example that you never know what is around the corner in life, and things that seem entirely out of your reach, are accessible if you try hard enough. I am by no means a genius or exceptional, but I can say that I have achieved my successes by hours of hard work and perseverance. The only thing you can do in life is try, so do not limit your opportunities by giving up.