In the past few days, hopeful students who went through the draining and overwhelming application and interview process for Cambridge experienced their own, preliminary results day.
I remember this day and those leading up to it so vividly – refreshing the Twitter feed of my college to see if emails for my course had been sent out yet, telling myself if I don’t get an offer, it would be okay, this offer is only part of my journey – it is not the defining moment.
I had got an opportunity to be interviewed, I had enjoyed the interview and performed well. I would have to try and forget it and focus on my exams.
But in the back of my mind, coming from a comprehensive state school I felt I owed it to everyone that had supported and believed in me to get an offer, and that the offer wasn’t just for me.
In fact, it felt like it was a defining moment for my school, my sixth form, for the people who supported and believed in me. I had to receive an offer for them, to undermine, break and revolutionise barriers to access.
I put so much weight on this offer that I forgot to be proud of myself. I forgot how far I had come, my achievements beside this offer. I forgot that this – Cambridge, Oxford, was not the be all and end all. I forgot what really mattered – what was best for me. And almost immediately, the joy that came from the interview, or with receiving an offer, became diluted with stress, anxiety, isolation and a lot of tears.
I didn’t realise the pressure I placed on one decision, one offer from one institution. It was only making Cambridge seem even more unachievable than I had believed.
In fact, when I did receive confirmation of my offer, I did not know how to react. It was only when my teacher jumped in joy and congratulated me that I could smile and I could replicate his reaction.
And even then, the worry of not achieving the grades needed for the offer consumed me and the sense of achievement that came with the offer left. I never went to offer holders events or sleepovers at my college because I was too worried to enjoy the moment.
But the truth is those worries and feelings of not doing your best, or of owing and making people proud never go away. Those feelings remain as long as we place pressure on our achievements, forgetting that they are all only as important as we allow them to be.
To those who have received offers – enjoy the moment and what is to come. Do not consume yourself with worries and self-doubt – you will get wherever you want to be by continuing the very work ethic that led you here – not by allowing yourself to be restricted in a bubble of self-doubt and worry.