Maddy Clifford

Geography Student from North London

Hi, my name is Maddy Clifford and I am a second-year Geographer, originally from Muswell Hill in North London. I attended the local state secondary school for both my GCSEs and A level studies, which was a massive school of about 1600 students. Though I do not come from a deprived part of North London it was immediately apparent that there was a huge disparity between the resources and teaching facilities at my school compared with some of my friends at the grammar and private schools across London. The teachers were generally pretty good but classes were massive, books and chairs were often lacking and though this did not affect me as I had always pushed myself to do well many other students could easily fall through the cracks unnoticed in such an environment.

Prior to my A levels I hadn’t given Cambridge much thought. I managed to achieve highly in my GCSE results and it was only then that I started thinking that maybe Oxbridge was something I should be looking at, even if just to see if I could get in. I have always liked to challenge myself so I got my Mum to take me round Oxford and Cambridge (on non-open days) so I could get a feel for the environment that I could possibly study in. I was lucky that some of the teachers at my school had some Oxbridge experience so could help me through writing UCAS and a little preparation for the interview.

To reflect the sentiments of some of the other Access Blog pieces, one of the things I wish I had known about Oxbridge is how varied the experience can be. I genuinely applied thinking that there were only two types of people at Cambridge: super geniuses who would just work all day and cripple under the lack of Vitamin D and public school kids who I could not relate to. How wrong was I. It turns out these make up just a tiny fraction of the students at Cambridge and in fact the majority are just regular, fun-loving, albeit very hard-working people who are very good at their subjects. There is such a large variety of people at Cambridge and you will always find people who you can hang out with, with similar interests, who like partying but also like chilling – whatever floats your boat. In contrast to what you may hear on the grape vine, students at Cambridge do participate in other activities outside of work (shock horror). Alongside being part of various sports societies within College, including being one of this year’s women’s football captains,

I am very involved in the green and sustainable activities at Emma. I currently sit on the Student Union as the Green and Ethical Officer and run the College’s Green Society. We have about 15-20 dedicated students who meet weekly-fortnightly and discuss ways to improve the sustainability of the college and increase student engagement through the organisation of posters and events throughout the year. This year, we embarked on the Green Impact Award scheme and managed to gain a Silver award for the college’s green credentials which has required a lot of work but has been so much fun to be a part of.

My advice is to challenge yourself and apply. Even just the application and interview process can be a real eye-opener and you should not be put off if your school is not Oxbridge-prone or you don’t feel like you’ll fit in here – everyone can find their niche at Cambridge you just have to look for it.

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