I’m genuinely glad I’m at Leeds instead of Oxbridge

Am I still a bit bitter? Probably

About this time last year, I got an email inviting me to interviews at Newnham College, Cambridge. I cried with happiness. I’d wanted to go my whole life. I was born there, and I thought there was a sort of neat poetic symmetry in returning to my roots. I just had to go. I had to.

I got my rejection letter at 9:09am on January 12th 2016. I didn’t even read it – I don’t think I’ve read it to this day – I only saw the words “regret” and “unsuccessful” and knew it wasn’t good news. I knew beforehand that I hadn’t got in, of course, having been made to tell my interviewer my “writing blog” was, in reality, a Harry Potter fan Tumblr.

But in hindsight, I genuinely think getting rejected was the best thing to have ever happened to me. Am I still a bit bitter? Probably. Would I have written this if I’d got in? Probably not. But in all honesty, getting rejected wasn’t as big a travesty as I thought it would be.

Leeds has a better Freshers’ Week

I am aware that Oxford and Cambridge aren’t dead, and there are pubs and clubs and college bops and whatnot, but I’m doubtful it topped my two weeks of madness in Leeds. Okay, I didn’t get a cool matriculation photo in a cute little gown, but can you get 80p shots in Fez Club? Yeah, didn’t think so.

It made revising easier

Some people perform well under pressure – and I do at times – but that kind of pressure would have been way too much. I likely would have sat at my desk, tearfully slaving over textbooks with a picture of some college or other tacked to the wall like a donkey traipsing after a carrot. My offer would have been A*A*A. Not exactly a breeze. Rejection was almost liberating – with the pressure lifted, I got the grades I wanted: ironically, grades surpassing their requirements. If anything, the pent-up bitterness spurred me on and made me more determined to exceed their would-have-been offer in revenge.

It’s boosted my confidence

It might sound mad to say a brutal rejection from Oxbridge actually boosted my confidence, but it has. My interview made me feel stupid. Had I got in, no doubt I would have felt even more stupid amongst everyone else. Having been rejected by Cambridge and now accepted by Leeds, I feel confident again. I don’t get stuff right all the time – I hardly get anything right half of the time – but my seminar tutors here will kindly say “that’s a… unique angle” before swiftly moving on, whereas in my interview I got some severe, questionable looks.

Just the application process in general

The process was enough to put me off. From September, right through to the day I got my rejection letter, I felt like I was in a meat grinder. Could you blame me for feeling relieved when it was over?

The people in Leeds are more fun

The only other applicant that spoke to me at my interview was weirdly obsessed with Star Wars and apparently physically unable to talk about anything else. Did I want to spend three years with people like that? My best friend in Leeds once literally pissed herself laughing in the middle of her room – what a legend, right? I wouldn’t change her for all the Star Wars trivia in the world.



















The tourists

I’ve been to Cambridge a lot, be it for open days, masterclasses, my interview. And no matter the time of year, it was always swarming with tourists. I can stride up Woodhouse Lane, two minutes to go before my seminar starts, and not be greeted by about three screaming school trips and an army of sightseers waving around Nikon SLRs. As someone who likes to prioritise sleep, I am glad that I do not have to factor in time for dodging tourists when it comes to my journey to uni.


Really, who has time for all that work?

I’m not lazy, but I’m an undergrad. I’ll work hard but play even harder for now. Realistically, I wouldn’t want to work as intensely as Cambridge demands. Maybe I’ll give it another go at postgrad level, when I’m older and less susceptible to ditching an essay for a drink (or seven) at The Library.