With the education of a generation of young people thrown into disarray, many universities are rethinking their strategies as to how they admit students and best accommodate their needs. However, even in spite of the constant strain and dramatic onslaught that the pandemic has placed upon them, they still continue to actively respond to prospective students and ensure that they, as potential candidates, are equipped enough to submit a competitive application.
This is no different with Cambridge University. As part of an academically rigorous scheme with intentions of engaging with students, particularly those affected adversely by COVID-19, Trinity College have been proud to offer an online mentorship programme for Year 12 students up and down the country, all in order to help their progression, enhance subject knowledge, add something extra to current study and encourage future applications. Assuredly, this entailed a most fastidious process; candidates were selected on a 1 in 30 basis, but successful application would mean 1-to-1 pairing with a student mentor, personalised sessions on subject material of your choice and the invaluable experience of sifting through the all-dreaded interview with someone who’s already been through the process. I, much to my astonishment, was given the honour of a place and I believe I have benefited hugely from taking part.
I, unabashedly, was worried that, when the first lockdown set its teeth into the national being, that I wouldn’t ever be able to talk to a university staff member, let alone a student there to ask about the general student experience. To further add to my woes, from being from a less privileged background than your average Cambridge crop, my chances of applying to Oxbridge or to a Russell Group were well and truly off: in short, my dreams were dashed. Arguably, if there’s anything that the COVID pandemic has taught us, it’s the highlighting of inequalities, expressly financial ones, both here and overseas.
Therefore, to be accepted onto the mentoring scheme really was a sheer joy, and more than anything, a sigh of relief. Naturally, in the throes of a Covidified world, each component of the course would be held directly on Zoom, where I would get to meet the liaison officer and eventually my mentor, a third-year English student who has a love for E.M. Forster (she’s amazing!). So far we have met three times, the first getting to know one another and sharing our literary tastes, the second exploring Frank O’Hara and art in poetry, and the third an analysis of how Charles Dickens and Toni Morrison of Beloved fame present tragedy in respective texts, albeit in different ways. Each discussion was so productive, yet so refreshing and I cannot thank Trinity College enough, and all of those schools, colleges and universities that are offering such schemes to help their students, because without you, we’d be lost!
– Faith Singh, former St Bedes Student