October Babies: The Oxbridge Expose

KATIE ZINSER exposes disgusting new revelations of bias in the Oxbridge application system.

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Some of you may have heard the shocking news of late, regarding Oxbridge access. You may have heard it from the Independent. I heard it from my disgusted, tearful, yet proud mother. I, for one, was glad that a problem I’d struggled through to win my place here had finally been factually acknowledged. October-born babies are 30% more likely to get into Oxbridge than July ones. Thirty per cent: a slap in the baby face. But I think this prejudice is something we knew about all along, deep down. When I first decided to apply to Oxbridge, my teachers were reluctant. “You may go to a private school”, they sniped, “but you’re a February baby? Maybe just apply to Murray Edwards.” Deep down, I knew they were right. Yet I fought on. I wanted to prove them all wrong.

I recklessly applied to Caius, thinking that their tendency to serve baby food might play in my advantage. The interview was hard, as I saw October-baby after October-baby swan into the room confidently as I waited with my pencil-case and rucksack. Those golden four months they had on me had translated into four months of intense scholarly preparation. When my turn came, I swallowed my childish nerves, and I thought it was all going okay. Some questions about Henry VIII, some more about slavery. I deserve to be here, I told myself. Alas, so naïve. As they asked the final question, I began to crumble: “Date of birth, please?” A cold sweat broke out my wrinkle-free brow, as I struggled to say the words: “February 19th”. The don’s eyebrows rose, maybe with admiration for the balls I had in applying, maybe with a new scepticism about the ability of a February-baby to cope at this prestigious institution.

John Cleese: born 27th October, he breezed into Downing.

Ageism is a prejudice that demands our attention as students. Luckily, we now know that things are moving away from the old times. Oxbridge is beginning to look more at potential rather than outright knowledge. In theory, it no longer matters so much whether you were the product of a saucy new year’s shag or some kinky may-day rumpy-pumpy: all that matters is ‘how you think’. This didn’t use to be the case, and we are lucky. However, the recent statistics demonstrate there is still a problem.

Perhaps the most difficult thing is the October-baby culture here. Drinking societies, the Pitt Club, sports teams…they are all full of confident October-babies, who just don’t accept our kind. The prejudice isn’t explicit, but it’s there. People say it’s no longer a problem: “half my friends here are spring or summer babies” is a common justification. Yet they still make digs at us, or jokes on our expense. ‘Banter’ isn’t banter when it pierces through your young soul like a cold knife.

But, ladies and gentlemen, more and more of us are beginning to overcome the odds. My boyfriend’s story serves as an inspiration to us all. He, poor soul, was a July baby. I can imagine your gasps of admiration, as you think how he must have struggled his way through his friends’, teachers’ and family’s disbelief at his decision to apply to Cambridge. But he did it. Indeed, our shared experiences of access ageism drew us together. Our kind have to stick together to prove that you can beat that 30% disadvantage. It’s not been easy for either of us, and I try to support him. He managed to get a first last year, proving that Oxbridge needs to continue making allowances for the inexperience that comes with a monumental nine-month handicap.

So this is a message to all you fighters born between the months of January and July: soldier on, and keep your heads high. It may be hard, but times are changing. Don’t let the odds get you down.