In the summer before Year 13, my family decided to take me university hopping around the UK. We’d go to different cities, stay at a local hotel, attend an open day, explore for a day or two and then move swiftly on to the next. Sometimes we’d visit 3-4 unis back to back – no stops, just songs blasting from the car speakers and my dog jumping up at every red light. I felt like a traveller (minus the caravan).
Back then I had no clue what I was going to do. I’d always wanted to study medicine, but I just wasn’t sure if I was passionate enough to dedicate 5-6 years of my life to one subject. I was also interested in maths and engineering but I couldn’t stray away from human biology and medical science enough to apply to the likes of EEE or Mechanical Engineering. Hours and hours of research (and tears) eventually led me to Bioengineering. I’d never heard of it before but it seemed like the perfect blend of engineering and medicine. I did my research into Molecular Bioengineering at Imperial and knew I was really interested in applying.
My only problem was that I’d never really wanted to go to uni in London in the first place.
I remember coming to visit Imperial with my dad. After a long and confusing journey on the tube and an even more confusing walk to the City and Guilds Building (our navigation skills aren’t the best!), I took one look at the empty campus and was not impressed. In all fairness, it was the middle of the summer holidays and no one was around.
When school started again in September, my friends all knew what they were doing. They finished their applications and I watched as they sent them off, one by one. Meanwhile, I was still in a dilemma. I’d missed the medical school deadlines so that was out of the question but with Imperial I was also scared of the interview process. I had no idea what they could ask me. Having not done Physics at A-Level, I was worried I’d be asked a completely standard “engineering-y” question and would look silly if I couldn’t answer.
Eventually I took the risk and decided to apply to not one, but TWO courses (shocking, I know) at Imperial. A few months later, I did my interviews and came out close to tears. I was sure that was it – I wouldn’t be hearing back with anything positive. I can definitely say it completely blew my mind when I received two conditional offers around a month later. You’d think I’d be happy but, in all honesty, I was still confused.
The night before the deadline for choosing my firm and insurance offers, I sat with my family for hours and hours. We made pie charts, pros and cons lists and drew schematic diagrams for hours but I just couldn’t bring myself to firm Imperial. I was so worried about how smart everyone was going to be, how expensive London is and how far away the uni was. However, around 10 minutes before the deadline, I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath and firmed it.
To this day I don’t know if I felt more relieved or nervous straight after my decision went through.
Results day came round the corner, I made the grades and was in. I remember being asked if I wanted to change my options and go to my insurance by my careers advisor and parents. I also remember feeling an immense surge of confidence – if I had the ability to make the grades, surely I was also worthy of a place? My fears about the workload at Imperial were, somewhat naively, put to rest but I was still worried about making friends. No one I was close with from my school had gotten in and I was terrified.
As fate would have it, that night I received a text from an old friend of mine I’d lost touch with. She’d also gotten in and had heard about me from family. She introduced me to the freshers chats on WhatsApp and, terrified, I clicked on the links and joined. In retrospect, this was probably the best thing to happen to me. I was introduced to so many lovely people. We’d spend hours talking and getting to know each other and by the time summer ended and term was about to start, I felt hopeful and I was excited to start. I’m happy to say I’m still friends with many of the people I came into contact with all those months ago.
To conclude, I’d like to say the one thing I loved about my experience with applying to Imperial is the fact that I was never once worried about the quality of teaching. After studying here I can say that Imperial is a place that does not fail to inspire me. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, you will definitely make friends. Yes, London is still expensive, but if you manage your finances wisely and get a part-time job, you a can have a social life. My advice to people who want to apply is to have faith and keep putting yourself out there. It may take some time but you will find people you connect with and your work and social life will fall into place.
Stay working hard, keep persevering and good luck!