Cambridge Winter Pool Guide

The Cambridge winter pool is a possibility for all applicants. It can be quite a daunting process, so Melinda kindly shares her experience of it to help answer your questions.

Last Updated: 12th July 2018

Author: Melinda Shepherd

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At Cambridge, a common part of the admissions process is the Winter Pool, and one that I personally went through.

This is where there isn’t a place for you at the college you applied to, but another college is interested in taking you. I originally applied for Law at Queens’; I was interviewed and did the Cambridge Law Test but was pooled, re-interviewed by Magdalene and then made an offer by Magdalene.

I knew very little about the Winter Pool, so it was quite a daunting prospect. I hope that by explaining my experience, it may help you feel less nervous about the process.

What is the Cambridge winter pool?

Students may be notified at their Interview that they have been entered into the ‘winter pool’ (also referred to as the ‘inter-college pool’). If this is the case, then it could mean a few things. It might mean that the person who has entered the winter pool will be called back to Cambridge for an additional Interview at a different college to that which handled their application at the start. This additional Interview is in January.

Or, it might mean that the person who has been entered into the winter pool will be given an offer to study at a different college to that which handled their application, without a further Interview.

Finally, students may just be notified of entrance into the winter pool, and then the outcome of their application will eventually be handled by the original college of application – successful or unsuccessful. To summarise, this is the result of being placed in the winter pool:

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When will you know you have been pooled?

In terms of the process, I received an email about a week before all the usual offers were due to come out. The email was from the Magdalene Admissions Tutor stating that I had been pooled and was to be re-interviewed at Magdalene. I was given only five days’ notice for the Interview, but did not have to retake the Cambridge Law Test or submit any essays. Re-interviewing is quite unusual, and the normal process is for another college simply to make an offer.

After this second Interview, it was about two weeks later that I heard back and received an offer, so it wasn’t too long after the usual offer date. I should also note that they upped my offer from the usual A*AA for Law at Magdalene to A*A*A.

Dealing with the emotions

When I was pooled, I felt like I had gotten in by the skin of my teeth. I felt that having been re-interviewed and made an offer higher than the normal entrance requirements that I was at the bottom of the pile and would clearly be out of my depth at Cambridge (a similar feeling felt by those applying from state schools P.S. they’re wrong!).

These feelings were completely incorrect and having spoken to many other people at Cambridge, I wasn’t alone in feeling like this. In truth, so many people are pooled, and it rarely even comes up as a topic of conversation. Honestly, nobody cares whether you were pooled or not and supervisors won’t even know.

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You Can Be Pooled more than once

Students can be pooled twice. Once in the winter pool and once in the summer pool, as they missed the grades of their conditional offer. There is really no embarrassment in being pooled and it has been made clear from both my own observations, and from what Admissions Tutors have told me, that there really is no correlation between being pooled and struggling at Cambridge.

People who are pooled perform just as well. Often the reason why you were pooled is totally random, for example, it might just happen to be that in that particular year the college you applied to received a significant number of applications, or there was a high number of strong applicants for that college. The key thing to remember is that:

If the university didn’t want you, they wouldn’t make you an offer.

It’s as simple as that, so don’t feel unworthy just because you were pooled.

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