A letter of thanks to the Winter Pool

Violet columnist Lily Ford takes a moment to discuss the positives of the Winter Pool

Lily Ford

So young, innocent, and yet to be wounded by the stairs at Revs lily ford

It was a bittersweet moment when, on a frosty Thursday morning last January, I rolled over in bed, grabbed at my phone and opened the single item in my inbox. Eyes still blurry, I squinted to read it: "Dear Lily, thank you for applying... we had many more well-qualified applicants than we had places... and the competition was so strong that we were not able to make you an offer at King's."

My first feeling was a mixture of relief and resentment: ah, yes, now I can go to a real uni and get pissed every night of the week on Co-op Pinot Grigio like I was meant to. An unconditional offer was waiting for me – the University of Birmingham and I had exchanged some emails and I was ready to make it UCAS official. I read on with fierce antipathy because I'm bitter and my ego bruises like a peach: "...may I take this opportunity to thank you for your application and congratulate you on your offer via the Winter Pool."

"As a fair few students at Hom are pooled from other colleges, there's a silent solidarity among us that revives your faith in your ability"

The issue with the Winter Pool is that it warps your expectations of your approaching university experience. Applying to a specific college, for most, requires a certain amount of research and consideration of your compatibility with that college. Attending an interview and speaking with your potential DoS creates a familiarity and, perhaps, a premature patriotism for that college too. Cambridge, for me, was King's, until one day I woke up and it wasn't – I'm still passing through King's most days, but only because it's the quickest route to Itsu.

I didn't want to be that person who still moaned despite getting an offer from the University of Cambridge, when so many would have killed to have been fished from the pool. With this in mind, I was actually super excited. Having to wipe a single tear off a post-interview muffin is not what one would describe as confident, anyway. It was one of those situations where the whole family agreed: It's Cambridge, take what you can get. So I did. I spent the rest of the summer cheerily searching #HomertonCollege on Instagram and repeatedly reading the entirety of Olivia Coleman's Wikipedia page. I bought a Bible from Waterstones and considered this single purchase the extent of my pre-uni reading.

Arriving at Hom (previous Google searches include: what is Homerton lol), I was obviously a little apprehensive. Yes, fine, I could just about handle having to buy and actually regularly use a bike. But the rumour mill spreads daft things about the stereotypical Oxbridge student – and this could not have been less accurate. I honestly could not sum up my first term better than by saying it was just so much fun. It felt like the proper uni experience that people so frequently like to refuse Cambridge: drunkenly crying with laughter at 3am on the kitchen floor; racing to finish 2 for £12 pitchers when Amy Winehouse came on at Spoons. I had bruises from literally falling down a flight of stairs at Revs and was well into my overdraft by November (very aware of how much of a mess this makes me appear and won't even deny it). Yet there were also those surreal moments that reminded me just where I was: sipping from the huge, toddler-sized Homerton horn and speaking in Anglo-Saxon at matriculation; spending my Saturday morning punting on the River Cam.


Mountain View

In search of lost terms

Being at Homerton every day reminds me of how fortunate I am to be here. It's a near-loss that fills you with gratitude for the admissions tutor who picked you up and put you on a 'yes' pile.

Being pooled is simply down to the number of places a college can offer for your subject. The assumption of inadequacy attached to the process needs to be butchered – I am in awe at some of the people I have met here. The friends I've made have completely justified my quick dip in the water – a sort of 'oh, so that's why I'm here' feeling. I was meant to meet these amazing people. I was so desperate to fall in love with my college that I really did just that. And the irony is that I'm still getting pissed on Co-op Pinot Grigio multiple nights of the week.

I can't help but wonder if I would love Cambridge as much had it not been for the pool. I didn't know where to begin writing this column, because I wanted to do my surroundings and the people I've met justice. I asked others on their thoughts, and the discussion was similar. In fact, the exact response from one of my friends as to why she loves Hom so much after being pooled was: 'Because we have all the fit boys.' So... there's also that, I guess?