Sam: “I wanted to feel like I was making the choice to accept Cambridge and that it was my autonomy"Tessa Mullen

Opening your email on Cambridge offer day evokes feelings of dread, excitement, and confusion. For some, uncertainty is heightened by information at the bottom of the email about applying for the August Reconsideration Pool. “I didn’t really have a moment of realisation, but I was like, yeah, I’ll give that a try,” recalls Ben, thinking back to the moment he read his email.

“I didn’t know it was a thing while I was applying”

The August Reconsideration Pool, known as adjustment prior to 2022, has allowed some students who did not receive an offer in January to have their application reconsidered after the release of A-Level results. According to the University of Cambridge website, the primary aim of the pool is to provide high-achieving students the opportunity for further consideration.

For many students, opening their email in January is their first time discovering the existence of the pool. Sam, a first-year student, says that he had little knowledge of what the pool entailed when he initially opened his email: “I didn’t know it was a thing while I was applying.” The pool is open only to UK domiciled applicants who fulfil certain eligibility criteria, including being in the bottom 40% Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) in their region or attending a maintained sector school post-16.

Upon receiving their final offer through the pool, applicants are given a few days to decide whether they want to accept. Sam and Ben both emphasise the importance of this provision, having mentally prepared themselves to attend a different university. “I had everything sorted to go to Durham so I needed to give it a few days and make sure I did want to go to Cambridge,” says Ben. Sam describes how he was initially unsure about whether he wanted to accept the offer: “I wanted to feel like I was making the choice to accept Cambridge and that it was my autonomy.”

Applicants are notified within their decision email in January that they are eligible to apply for the pool if the grades they receive later in the year meet a typical Cambridge offer. Statistics vary each year but in the 2022 cycle, out of 3591 acceptances into the university, 84 applicants were accepted through the reconsideration process.

“You are worried people will look down on you, but they don’t”

Both Ben and Sam discuss not feeling the pressure of having to achieve the grades to reach a typical Cambridge offer, as they did not consider the pool throughout their A-Level exams. This is attributed to the uncertainty of whether there would be space. “It felt like a numbers game,” explains Sam. “The [low] probability of them having spaces made it less stressful.”

Accessibility to spaces within the pool relies on January offer-holders missing their offers. When their course was available through the pool, students recalled feeling a sense of renewed hope, given that they had already achieved the required grades. “I was still thinking it wasn’t going to happen and then when it came up at that point I felt it was quite likely, as the biggest hurdle was there actually being places available,” says Sam.

Academic accomplishment underpinning Cambridge culture can catalyse feelings of anxiety and self doubt. Sam recalls a self-imposed fear of judgement prior to moving to university and was worried that people would look at him differently for having been accepted through the Reconsideration pool: “You are worried people will look down on you, but they don’t.”


Mountain View

‘I assumed you were stupid when I heard your voice’: does ‘accentism’ exist in Cambridge?

Students who have experienced the August Reconsideration Pool discuss feeling heightened imposter syndrome, with Sam feeling that the emphasis during college induction meetings on everyone being chosen for a reason did not apply to him. “You feel like you are competing against people who are the example of a Cambridge student whereas you are just below that Cambridge level,” explains Ben. “It puts more stress on you as you perceive everyone as better than you, rather than equal to you.”

Despite feeling that the transition to university was made more difficult, the students I spoke to were unanimous in their appreciation for the way that things panned out. They each expressed how they ended up in a college that they enjoy being in and felt that the August Reconsideration pool benefitted their experience of A-Level exams: “If I had gotten in in January, I would have been more stressed for exams. The August Reconsideration Pool was probably the better option for me out of the two.”