When it came to me applying to Cambridge, I quickly learnt that for me a successful application would be based on having enriching educational experiences to extend me beyond my A-level classes.
I read Biological Natural Sciences at Cambridge, with keen interests in Evolutionary Genetics and Psychology. I was offered the opportunity after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome to take part in an auditory research placement at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Cambridge, which was the catalyst to me wanting to apply to the University. I was particularly fascinated having been diagnosed with Asperger’s as to its effects on other individuals within populations from different backgrounds across the planet. I therefore went about looking into this in more detail across Scientific literature.
I remember one particular experience which happened three months before my Cambridge interview. I was reading the core first year materials for Natural Sciences, including ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ by Richard Dawkins, which details the path of human evolution from where we are now back to the dawn of life. It was a long and complex read, however as I got more into the journey, I became more confident exploring new Biological material without the guidance of a teacher.
I took particular interest in the evolutionary challenges early man faced in order to survive. I was inspired to write to translate my understanding of the theories of early man’s evolutionary struggle to a new population such as modern people with Asperger’s. I considered what factors kept the population increasing and I asked whether this was entirely to do with genetic factors?
Little did I know these questions were similar to those asked of you in second and third year exams at Cambridge. I believe that because I was not afraid to take the time to explore my passions at my own pace and depth I was able to attempt answering questions without fear of their difficulty or plausibility. This, I have found, has been key to success in Science at University and beyond. You must have the will to pursue something difficult regardless of others’ standards.
What lessons did I learn based upon this experience? Your academic time within your University is dramatically improved by having a clear sense of purpose and identity, which is organic and respects your triumphs and insights for what they are, not what they should be. Always be looking for opportunities, even in adversity, and see these opportunities as steps on your journey rather than a means to an end. This does not mean that you will have to manage every single minute of the day to be doing something you deem productive, or be thinking will what I am doing be of any use to me in the future. The trick is to think more broadly about the transferrable skills you gain from your time at University and most of all, enjoy it! That which you enjoy will stick in your mind for longer, so look for pleasure in your hard work.
As a consequence of Joshua’s hard work and perseverance, Joshua attained unconditional offers to five of the top universities in the U.K., including Cambridge, despite not having the required grades for any of the courses he applied to. After graduating from Cambridge in 2014 with a BA in Zoology, Joshua has worked as a mentor for students with Asperger’s syndrome around the Cambridgeshire community, helping them to attain their potential both academically and pastorally. He has a unique insight into special needs applications to Cambridge University. Joshua is particularly interested in taking his knowledge and experience to helping others on the national and international level.
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