Spend time celebrating your accomplishments with your family and friendsjulien haler

The definition of ‘a rollercoaster of emotions’ must certainly include a reference to the trials and tribulations that come with being placed in the University of Cambridge Summer Pool. Crushing disappointment, rekindled hope, unrelenting nerves – you go through them all.

It is difficult to take: after months of anticipation and anxiety, A-Level results day should be one of relief and understanding, as the blueprint for the next few years of your life finally begins to take shape.

For most sixth-formers across the country – even those who miss their offers – the next 24 hours delivers some long-awaited clarity: they can start to envisage their new life; rolling up to their accommodation in their new home city, meeting new friends, and trying to avoid that weirdly keen kid off the Freshers’ Facebook page.

But for Summer Pool ‘victims’, the next few days are awash with tension. Hearts are in mouths every time the phone rings or an email notification comes through – either of which could signal that the Cambridge dream is not over. The uncertainty can leave you feeling in limbo, unsure of what to do and how to cope with the crippling sense of the unknown.

It was quite simply the hardest couple of days of my life, an ordeal that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. As a result, I have turned back the clock and revisited my experience to compile a guide that should help ensure that this tough period is manageable.

Know What Is Happening

The trouble with the Summer Pool is that the feeling of unknown has been heightened. The process – devoid of any real explanation from the University’s official channels – can appear to be revolve around being lucky when it comes to the arbitrary judgement of some distant and faceless academics.

Knowledge of the process therefore can add a degree of relief. According to reports, and conversation I have had with officials at my college, the process perversely resembles scenes from The X-Factor or the NFL Draft: the applications of those in the Summer Pool are placed on a table and are briefly discussed by the Directors of Studies (those scary people who interviewed you) present. Recommendations may be made and individuals may be traded, but it is firmly stressed that those who will thrive at Cambridge will never slip through the net.

Go Celebrate Your Achievements

Fact: you are only placed in the Summer Pool if you only just missed your offer. So, with the majority of offers from Cambridge colleges requiring some combination of A*’s and A’s, you can rest assured that your A-Level results are among some of the best in the country. Do not, therefore, let anything undermine the deserved sense of achievement you should feel right now.  

Every minute sat gazing longingly at the phone will increase your anxiety; it makes sense to spend time celebrating your accomplishments with your family and friends. It will be hard to do, but try – if nothing else, it will help to pass the time.

Succumb to the Clichés

Who knows, you could even end up hereHuangcjz

Consoling friends and relatives will undoubtedly fall back on the clichés, with “everything happens for a reason” a particular favourite. Annoying and cheesy they may be, do not overlook them. Missing out on the college of your dreams is not always the worst thing in the world. For example, from my own personal experience, being pooled from Churchill – the college I had set my heart on – to Selwyn was the best thing that could have happened to me, if only for the fact that they, unlike Churchill, needed a goalkeeper for their football team – a position I was happy to fill.

Be Realistic

The Summer Pool is a numbers game. Around a quarter of those placed in it will receive offers from other colleges, and logic dictates that the better your grades, the greater your chances. It may seem like a hard truth but this situation calls for a degree of pragmatism; keep an eye out for any outstanding tasks required by your insurance university, especially where getting in early is important, such as applying for accommodation.

Focus on the Positives

It is hard to deny that missing out on a place at the university of your choice is not a disappointment. But it’s certainly not the end of the world, and a testament to your talents and abilities that you’ve gotten this far in the race for a place at the most prestigious university in the country.

Your insurance university is undoubtedly of exceptional quality, and, should you not be one of the lucky 25 per cent to get picked up from the Summer Pool, will not hold you back in your future career aspirations. For example, many Cambridge students applying for internships at law and accountancy firms will confirm that the majority of their co-interviewees are non-Oxbridge. And, there are not-so-glamorous elements of Cambridge life you have managed to escape too: like the notoriously heavy workload, disappointing nightlife and at times frustrating student politics. Be kind to yourself – the chances are you missed out on grades by mere marks and you still secured fantastic results. Wherever you end up, you'll be glad.