Levia and her friends matriculating: 'Academics may be a strong point, coordination less so'Levia Yee

A common question asked during my first week at Cambridge was: “Did you apply to this college or were you pooled?” Unfortunately for me, I was neither. A lot of my peers talk fondly about the day they received their offer to study at Cambridge and yet, I could never relate, having been rejected from my dream course at my dream university. I clearly remember opening my email to see the sentence “Unfortunately, we have not been able to make you an offer.” It was fair to say that I was devastated. Yet here I am, having made it to Cambridge after all.

Having finally come to terms with my rejection, I received another email a couple months later. It explained that the University of Cambridge was commencing an Adjustment scheme for the first time and that I was eligible, providing I exceed the conditions of my firm and meet the typical Cambridge offer. Fast forward to results day in August. I remember a frantic sleepless night where I worried about meeting my firm offer, let alone the intimidatingly high expectations of Cambridge. Opening the envelope to see that I had secured the required results was an instant relief. Whilst my friends were either celebrating or mourning their results, I frantically sent my application to the Admissions office and spent the whole day anxiously awaiting a phone call that would determine my future. Later that night, my phone rang, and my place was confirmed. A college had seen my application and deemed me to be worthy of studying there. I remember sitting down on the sofa alongside my mum, sobbing as my dream had finally come true. The feeling of security came when I then received an email that began with “I am delighted to write to offer you a place via Adjustment”. It felt like everything had come to full circle.

I admire how efficient and organised the entire process was. I knew which university I was going to be attending by the end of the day. Student finance, accommodation and other details followed quickly after; my previous firm choice was already a distant memory by the time a week had passed. I was swept up in a whirlwind of stash, gowns and googling what ‘matriculation’ actually meant.

“I was petrified at the thought of joining as an ‘outsider’ in October”

However, after the elation had worn off, I was petrified at the thought of joining as an ‘outsider’ in October. I was the only one from my state school to make it to Oxbridge in the last three years and technically didn’t even get an offer. Did I actually deserve to attend?

Michaelmas term was a tentative one for me. The step up from A Levels was immense and I struggled to adjust (excuse the pun). Impostor syndrome hit particularly hard when I realised just how clever everyone was, and how mediocre I felt in comparison. Concepts that I used to breeze through suddenly become foreign and alien. I felt inferior to my peers who went to prestigious schools that could trace back their alumni to the 1600s and jealous of my friends that already had friends from their previous school. My supervision partners felt miles ahead academically and I, extremely inept at running.

“Everyone had earned their place, but did that really include Adjustment pupils?”

Questions about my application process were always a touchy subject and I would often tiptoe around my answers. A few of my friends already knew that I had gotten in through Adjustment and some of them even went through the same process as I did. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t completely alone. In fact, I already vaguely knew one of the Adjustment students going to the college that I was also going to attend. I think one of the things that united us was the slight insecurity that lingered in the back of our minds; everyone had earned their place, but did that really include Adjustment pupils? Some of us believed that we may have taken someone else’s place, someone more deserving. Others were more open in admitting their identity as an Adjustment student.

Being a student with the epithet of Adjustment, there may be an expectation to feel inferior to others that received an offer the first time round. It’s easy to see the parallels between Adjustment and being pooled, where some may find it difficult to admit they were pooled whilst others disclose it pretty early on so it wouldn’t become something that they were ‘hiding’. Perhaps this is just our perception and the divide isn’t as distinct as we think.

“Perhaps... the divide isn’t as distinct as we think”

For me, it was at the end of term when I finally admitted to an acquaintance that I actually didn’t get an offer. Their nonchalant response of “Oh, cool! What is Adjustment exactly?” made me realise that no one actually cared how I got here. I felt more confident and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to desperately keep up with people that scored firsts in their essay, and who managed to complete every single question on a problem sheet.


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Mountain View

Cambridge was not the time of my life

Becoming friends with incredible people of all backgrounds, reconciling with the fact that I was never going to successfully complete that maths question sheet and meeting other Adjustment students allowed me to become happier with the journey I took to get to Cambridge. Lent was a much more enjoyable term, where I realised that how I got here was not important at all and to just appreciate the limited time that I have. I am more than grateful to have made such welcoming and supportive friends, who have eased insecurities I once had. Seeing other students become more comfortable with admitting they Adjusted or were pooled allowed me to fully embrace who I was.

Do I regret my decision to Adjust? To move from the safety of a university where multiple of my school friends would be attending and instead, to somewhere that I would be going alone? No. I thoroughly believe that I could not have been any happier with my choice. I came to realise that it doesn’t matter which school I went to, or that I didn’t even get picked the first time round, because I still made it, and I, along with all other Adjustment students, deserve my place as much as anyone else.

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