Meg Byrom

Meg Byrom is a first-year HSPS student at Queens’ College Cambridge. Originally from a town in the North West, Meg attended comprehensive state schools prior to Cambridge and is now committed to widening participation and access to Oxbridge.

1. How did your experiences shape your application to Cambridge?

How did your experiences shape your application to Cambridge/Oxford?
At Cambridge, Class Act is a student union campaign committed to representing students who have faced any kind of social, educational, cultural or economic disadvantage. I recognise myself as one of these students, as I was state comprehensively educated in a working-class area and I’m a first-generation university student, meaning no one in my family had attended university before.

I was hesitant to apply to Cambridge. Sadly like many students from my background, I had lots of concerns that made me wary to apply. I worried about what Cambridge would be likely socially, whether it would fulfil the negative stereotypes I’d seen in the media. As a state school student, I was concerned that my educational background would be a disadvantage. Even before I went for my interview, surrounded by southern students, I was anxious that my northern accent wasn’t ‘right’ for Cambridge.

2. How has life been at university? Is it what you expected?

Cambridge, fortunately, didn’t fulfil these worries. Whilst representation at Cambridge still needs to improve and with that, greater awareness of the concerns students face, Cambridge wasn’t what I expected. On arrival, I was surprised by how many people shared similar experiences to me, from their educational background to their worries about going to Cambridge. I am still outnumbered in most spaces, and sometimes that can feel quite isolating when I have concerns that other people don’t have, from economic worries, to those about my future, or even in my first term, how Cambridge actually worked. However, there are large networks at Cambridge here to support these issues.

As I’m in my first year, my freshers week was sadly disrupted by covid, so this year social media has been fantastic to connect with people from a similar background to me and learn from their experiences. Societies such as The 93% Club at Cambridge have lots of resources and networks for people from backgrounds like mine. Most colleges have access and welfare officers, who are great to speak to if you face any issues due to your background or have any concerns.

3. What would you say to someone like yourself applying for entry this year?

I would definitely encourage students from a similar background to me to apply. Whilst it can feel daunting putting yourself forward for a university like Cambridge, where you will compete for a place against people with a fantastic education, experiences and abilities, you are not lacking because you don’t have those things. Students at state comprehensives, like mine, aren’t taught to aim high, but they should. Oxbridge are looking for potential, and students with the aspiration to apply to Cambridge have it.