Is Oxbridge the ‘great social leveller’? We spoke to The 93% Club about imposter syndrome, admissions and Jack Edwards
The 93% Club aim to create a ‘supportive community for state-educated students’
The Oxbridge admissions process is without a doubt a daunting experience for any potential Oxbridge student. However, when constantly told that the odds are not in your favour; bombarded with the notorious myths that Oxbridge only accepts privately educated students, the process seems doubly as terrifying.
Luckily, networks like The 93% Club are tirelessly working to tackle this stigma and make Oxbridge accessible to state school students. The Tab Cambridge was lucky enough to speak to The 93% Club, here is what they had to say.
Who are The 93% Club?
The 93% Club is the UK’s first and largest network for state-educated students, made up of over 25 student-led societies across the UK. Named ‘The 93% Club” to represent the 93% of students in the UK that are state-educated, their central aim is to support state-school students during both their time at university and beyond.
Highlighting that only “75 per cent of students at top Russel Group universities are state-educated”, The 93% Club aims to provide its members with opportunities for professional development, networking, outreach and career guidance. They also aim to create a “supportive community for state-educated students” battling with the – all too well known – imposter syndrome experienced by many students.
Tackling imposter syndrome
One of the key areas The 93% Club aims to do is to continue access work post admissions. This is centered on the idea that the class divide “doesn’t simply disappear once you get into Cambridge, and the feelings of alienation or imposter syndrome seem to come almost part-and-parcel with the Cambridge experience”.
Sophie, The Club’s Publicity Officer, told us about her own experiences with imposter syndrome at Cambridge which she felt was especially common on her course. She explained she had been “exposed to subjects and knowledge I hadn’t even touched” on her History of Art course, and felt like she was “two steps behind” because of the presumed knowledge needed.
Sophie believes normalising that not everyone will have such knowledge is one of the many reasons why The 93% Club is so important, “especially in Cambridge.”
State school representation
Sophie also highlighted the disparities of state school representation between colleges. She explained how there is a “massive difference between how Cambridge advertises their admissions statistics and the reality of who those statistics represent.” For example, she pointed to the differences between grammar and comprehensive schools, noting that the “2019 Admissions statistics showed that the nine per cent of people who attended private or grammar schools in the UK make up 52 per cent of Cambridge’s applicants”.
The 93% Club’s work focuses on trying to overcome some of these class inequalities within education, by providing state-educated students with a platform to share their experiences and have their voices heard. Last term, The 93% Club hosted virtual socials as a great way for members to “get to know other students who have shared similar experiences to their own”.
The effects of the pandemic
In terms of wider efforts across the university to improve access, The 93% Club told the Tab Cambridge they “welcome the move from the university to implement a new Foundation Year for disadvantaged students from October 2022”. They said how this move has come at a “crucial time” where the “disruption to education caused by the pandemic has massively exacerbated the attainment gap for those from underprivileged backgrounds.”
The 93% Club also believe that this damage will be “long-term”, affecting not only the 2022 cohort, but “students for years to come.” They also hope to see the programme being opened up to STEM subjects in coming years.
As their secretary, Harry, said: “Our objective is not to resolve these challenges – that would be impossible – but to give people the chance to talk about their experiences with the benefit of others who might feel the same way.”
Another area where the 93% Club is keen to reduce disparities between private and state-school students relates to the nerve-wrecking question of “what on earth am I going to do when I graduate.” The disillusioning world of Spring Weeks, open days, internships and future careers can be incredibly overwhelming; especially when students are not familiar with this world.
The 93% Club told the Tab Cambridge that a “lack of information can be one of the major obstacles that state-educated students face when it comes to career options”, and so a lot of their work is focussed on trying to “plug the information gap” through”providing members with access to top graduate career opportunities across a range of industries.”
Last term, The 93% Club delivered a range of skills-based workshops with top employers like Goldman Sachs, P&G and Clifford and Chance in a bid to acquaint state-school students with this information. The network said “their favourite event in Michaelmas was the ‘Social Mobility in Media’ panel, in collaboration with CU Women in Media”.
The 93% Club in Lent term
This term, The 93% Club also have some exciting events in store, helping to fill those gloomy term-from-home evenings with some fun, including a special event lined up with studytuber and author Jack Edwards. You may lie about it now, but we know most of you would have *eagerly* watched his videos when deciding what universities to apply to; so why don’t you come full circle and sign up for a discussion with him this term!
One of their other upcoming events this term is a panel discussion on Financial Journalism with CAMWIB, with event details being published on their social media soon.
You can also join The 93% Club on Monday 25th January for ‘Building Your Brand with Dumi Senda’, an equality, diversity and inclusion expert. This event will focus on self-branding, networking, LinkedIn, and how to help individuals overcome limitations and maximise their career development.
Of course, despite Cambridge’s growing attempts to widen access and participation from state schools, there is, inevitably, still a lot to be done. However, it is networks like The 93% Club that are working to “level the playing field”, and encourage more state school students to attempt to defy the admissions odds.
If you also feel strongly about state-school intake, join The 93% Club and support their efforts to widen participation at Cambridge.
Featured image credit: Sophie Macdonald and The 93% Club Cambridge Instagram
All other image credits: The 93% Club Cambridge Instagram