Homeless first year inspires desperate Oxbridge hopefuls like him
He’s overcome all the odds
A hard-working fresher slogged on just two hours sleep a day so he could bag himself a place at Cambridge.
Jacob Lewis –– who spent months sofa surfing while studying at college and working –– received four A*s and full marks in his History and Law A-levels.
The Welsh inspiration is now preparing to study Law at Hughes Hall, but he hasn’t been able to celebrate yet because he’s had to work every day since.
He told The Tab: “My ability to celebrate is, of course, limited, because I haven’t got any bloody money.”
Leaving his parent’s home at the age of 18, Jacob – now 22 – lived in his own place until this November and worked to support himself.
He said: “I was finishing my shift at four am and getting to college at nine, having to get up at six to do an essay I hadn’t been able to start.
“When I realised I might have got into Cambridge I thought: ‘It’s either the home or the college work.’ I chose the work.”
Unable to pay his bills, he lived with his dad for a week before getting kicked out.
Confessing he can be a “very difficult person to live with”, he then spent the remaining months sleeping on friends’ sofas.
Jacob, who is a “massive believer in renewable energy”, worked for a solar panel sales company for five weeks, which subsequently disappeared and now owes him £200 in unpaid wages.
He was then offered a job as a receptionist by his sixth-form college, who also paid for a B&B during his exams.
He made it very clear that while he was not –– as some publications made out –– “street” homeless, the lack of a fixed abode was extremely challenging and something most students take for granted.
He added: “Every day I was lugging four folders and my college stuff around Cardiff, along with all my other possessions.”
Most of his day was spent in the college library, where he frequently spent 12 hours at a time.
When I asked –– feeling quite inadequate –– how he managed it, he told me two things kept him motivated: “First, I’d lost everything. Had I not succeeded it would have all been for nothing.
“Second was the support from my college. At the start of the year I had no intention of going to Cambridge. Then one of my tutors, Ian Rees, looked through my grades and essays and said ‘do you fancy a challenge?'”
He said his college, Coleg y Cymoedd, had been extremely helpful, giving him money for transport, paying for a B&B during exam term and, most recently, offering full time employment as receptionist.
He spoke about how his story had caught the eye of the national press, and how his college had received several phone calls from individuals offering to donate money to help Jacob’s situation.
Instead of taking it for himself, Jacob set up a “Student Hardship Fund” on GoFundMe to help other students from the Welsh Valleys, a region with very few Oxbridge applicants and notoriously high levels of poverty, to apply.
“My story highlights the challenging situation of Welsh students in the Valleys”, also commenting on the lack of social mobility in the region.
He’s received a great deal of support for his campaign, notably from fund-generator Flendr, which has offered him use of their site and publicity completely free.
He talked about the cultural perceptions of Cambridge where he was from, saying how “most people see it as distant, aristocratic”.
“However, perceptions change. What I’m doing is about proving it can be done. My application proves Oxbridge is more about merit than money.”
When I asked what he planned to do with his Law degree, he told me how he saw a privileged education as “a really good opportunity to make the world a better place. I don’t have to take the first job I’m offered, I can wait for an opportunity and do something worthwhile”.