I’ve had one common goal throughout my time in education. Ever since I could read and write, count up to ten and recite my 3 times table, I’ve been desperate to enter a high level, high ranking university.
When I was five, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, and had my sights set on Oxford – which is one of the biggest, most famous and most difficult universities in the United Kingdom. It’s viciously tricky to even get an interview, and it’s even harder to get a place. But still, five year old me aimed high.
And, nearly twelve years on, I’m still aiming high, even though my goals have changed. I want to go into languages, not education, and my first choice university is Cambridge, not Oxford. But the preliminary values remain the same.
Why I put all this extra stress on myself to perform well and get those amazing grades that I need, I don’t know. I really don’t know why I’ve been set on this one thing for most of my life, even though the idea of having to sit an entrance essay and talk to strangers fills me with dread. In a way, I love to hurt myself. I love pushing myself, because if what I’m doing isn’t hard then it holds no meaning.
The concept that I have been ‘clever’ all my life must be at least a partial reason, though. Constantly being told that I’m a brilliant linguist, that I’m top of the class in English, that I should be looking to study physics and maths rather than what my true passions are because ‘we need more female scientists’.
I’m not even really that clever, really. I just can’t stand being wrong, so I force myself to be right. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be smart, because being smart has always been my defining characteristic to so many of my peers. I have to be clever, I have to get those top grades.
In a way, when I got my grades for my GCSEs (which are a set of exams taken by 16 year olds in the UK), I was incredibly disappointed in myself. My sixth form requires 7 A* and A grades to enter their ‘fast track’ course (which helps people get into the high ranking universities), and I only got 6. I only got an A in my French course, because my coursework was a B even when I got full marks on my reading paper. I got a C in my Music course, which was my lowest grade of them all, even though it was still a really good pass.
I have been allowed to enter the fast track course, after sending a very pleading email to the person that runs it, explaining my situation and how desperate I am to get into Cambridge.
Maybe I’m scared too. Scared of where I’ll have to go if I don’t get in. My first choice has to work out, it always has to, otherwise I’ll be stuck in a mass of panic and terror and confusion. And, most important of all, it will be my fault. I’ll blame myself, because I can’t blame anyone else.
This was a mess of a post, I’m sorry, it’s horrifically self-indulgent. But I needed to get this out there, before I start the whole application process. I’m looking to get onto Cambridge’s ‘Modern and Medieval Languages’ course, which requires A*AA, and will enable me to learn up two extra languages as part of my studies alongside my French and German. I have my heart set on this now, and I won’t be letting myself slack off. I will get in, no matter how futile it seems. I will.
I’ll do five year old me proud, for once.