Charlotte Owens (Selwyn 2014) is an undergraduate Philosophy student. She is from Brighouse in West Yorkshire and is the first student from her sixth-form college to go to Cambridge University. She was encouraged to apply after participating in the HE+ programme in 2013.
“I definitely would not have applied to Cambridge if I hadn’t done HE+. I was extremely nervous and unsure about applying, because Cambridge appeared to me as something scary and intimidating,” she said.
The HE+ project is part of the University’s widening participation programme. It is a collaborative project being run by the University of Cambridge and some of the Cambridge Colleges, with a range of schools and colleges in different regions of the UK. Launched and piloted with donation funding, HE+ allows high-achieving Year 12 students from state schools and colleges to come to Cambridge, develop their academic skills, meet academics and tutors, and receive advice and guidance about applying to the university.
Charlotte was one of 1,600 Year 12 students from 48 schools and colleges who participated in the HE+ project in 2012-13. The project was instrumental in giving her the confidence to submit an application to Cambridge, a university that had previously felt out of her league.
Ultimately, it was the organised day trip to Selwyn College which persuaded me to apply, as I fell in love with both Cambridge and Selwyn. Listening to the advice of an admissions tutor at a HE+ meeting gave me the confidence to apply, as he stressed that it was only one out of five university choices, and I had nothing to lose, but potentially something to gain.
Charlotte is the first student from her sixth-form college to study at Oxford or Cambridge and she says it still occasionally feels surreal that she has made it to Cambridge.
"I continuously have ‘pinch me’ moments, where I cannot believe I live and study here, such as matriculation, walking through King’s College, and watching the ‘Theory of Everything’ [the biopic about Stephen Hawking’s life, which is largely set in Cambridge] before cycling home through the streets you’ve just watched on the big screen," she said.
To those thinking of donating money to programmes such as HE+, I would like to stress the real, personal impact it has on individual lives. I think it’s so important that the most academically able have the confidence and necessary preparation to apply to the best universities, no matter what his or her background.
It never crossed my mind that Cambridge was a possibility until I ventured on the HE+ programme, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Charlotte enjoys tap dancing, reading and spending time with friends and family. She is not sure what she will do after completing her degree and is currently deciding between training to become a barrister or a teacher, or going into the charity sector.
To give more students like Charlotte the encouragement and support they need to study at Cambridge, support our widening participation and outreach programmes.
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