Over 2,000 offers to Russell Group universities have been received by mentees of the schemeZero Gravity

151 low-income students, with the support of Zero Gravity, have been made offers to Oxford and Cambridge for entry in October 2021. 

Zero Gravity, which was launched during the first UK lockdown in March, digitally connects undergraduate mentors with state-educated, low-income students to provide guidance with applications for UK universities. This guidance takes the form of hour-long weekly mentoring sessions to discuss applications, interview skills and subject content. 

Joe Seddon, Founder and CEO of Zero Gravity, said in a press release to Varsity: “Whilst traditional institutions failed to get to grips with the educational disruption wrought by the pandemic, Cambridge undergrads got behind their laptops and made a difference.”

Seddon, himself an Oxford graduate from West Yorkshire, founded Zero Gravity in order to “level the playing field.” The app began as a pilot in his bedroom with the final £200 of his student loan, which has since developed into a full-time team based in London with funding from both HSBC and Facebook to expand the programme. 

The company is on course to become the UK’s largest social mobility organisation by the end of 2021, the press release states. 

As part of this, Seddon expressed his plans for “investing thousands of pounds into developing our digital platform and deploying hyper-targeted social media campaigns in areas of the country with the worst access stats.”

One of the beneficiaries of the company, Zak Denucci Diarrasouba, from Croydon, received an offer to study Computer Science at St John’s College last month, having been mentored by Gonville and Caius student Izaak Fairclough, whom Zak credits as “the single biggest help to [his] application!” Zak will be the first member of his family to attend university.

Fairclough was “so happy” when Zak received his offer, and stated that the company is “essential in helping close the knowledge and attainment gap between the state and private sectors.” 

Since its launch, Zero Gravity has helped over 1,000 Year 13 students, and one in ten undergraduates at Oxbridge have signed up to mentor on the platform. 

Recent evaluation by UCAS has suggested that Zero Gravity almost doubles the chances of receiving an Oxbridge offer for low-income students, the press release continues. Over 2,000 offers from Russell Group universities have been received by mentees of the scheme.

Another mentor, George Baker, an undergraduate in Law at Cambridge, said: “It is a really fulfilling experience to assist a student from the very start of the process, considering subjects and universities, to the very end of that process, hopefully getting an offer. 

“It is a relatively small amount of your time to make a potentially large impact on someone’s chance to study at Oxbridge.

“When I found out that Rosie had an offer I shouted to everyone else in my house that my mentee had got in [...] It was exciting to know I might have helped to play a very small part in her success story.”

Rosie, who has an offer to study Law at Clare College, lives in Doncaster in South Yorkshire, where only 0.3% of university applicants successfully applied to Oxbridge in 2019. She likened to the opportunity to work with Zero Gravity as a “golden ticket.”


Mountain View

Trinity’s academic outreach scheme is an example to follow and to further

She added that “the biggest challenge I had to overcome was Imposter syndrome. I did not believe I would be able to get into Cambridge, let alone fit in with the other people. My mentor has helped me to realise that the stereotypes are not at all true and that it is a great place to live and learn.”

The achievement of the Zero Gravity programme follows other recent outreach success in Cambridge. 

Target Oxbridge announced last month (26/01) that it had supported 71 Black students in earning an Oxbridge offer for the 2021/22 academic year, with 37 of those offers for places at Cambridge. This statistic saw Target Oxbridge equal its record from the 2019/20 admissions cycle despite moving all of its services online due to the pandemic, by hosting a series of webinars including Q&A sessions with current Oxbridge alumni, lectures, seminars and information sessions from admissions and outreach teams. The initiative is now maximising its online presence by launching Target Oxbridge Digital, which aims to double the support currently offered by the program to Year 12 students applying in the 2021/22 admissions cycle, by helping an additional 160 students.

Meanwhile Trinity College also recently established a new outreach scheme which will provide online academic mentoring for Year 12 students whose studies have been adversely impacted by the pandemic from March until December 2021, and will support 20 students through their UCAS applications and interviews at Cambridge.The scheme will be run monthly on Zoom by outreach practitioners outside of school hours, prioritising students from state schools, who are eligible for free school meals, and who are in local authority care.