At Cambridge, a common part of the admissions process is the Winter Pool.
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.
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.
Oxbridge interviews require you to THINK – read this post which explains how you should think.
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.
I have friends who were pooled twice
Once in the Winter Pool and once in the Summer Pool, as the missed they 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.
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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