I didn’t pass my university interview – and it was the best thing to ever happen to me

As students hear back from university or college applications, what if you don’t get into your first choice? Source intern Olivia McCann says it’s only positive.

In November 2016, I had two interviews to read Classics at Newham College and Murray Edwards College in Cambridge.

I had been prepping for the interviews and entrance exam for almost two years, I had visited Cambridge numerous times since the age of 15 to select which college I felt suited me best and I had even spent a fortnight during the previous August at a summer school to work on the languages required for my course.

It’s no surprise then, when I found out in the following January that I had not been selected for a place at Cambridge, that I felt my world had fallen apart.

Looking back, there was no reason to be distraught – I was yet to hear back from my other universities. But, for me, my dreams of going to Oxbridge had been crushed and, admittedly, for a brief period, I felt like a complete failure and that I wouldn’t achieve anything.


A few weeks later, I received an offer for St Chad’s College at Durham University. Honestly, I hadn’t done much research for Durham University at all.

I think I had chosen my Durham college during a free period or lunchtime at school – I certainly didn’t give it as much careful consideration as I had devoted to selecting my dream college at Cambridge.

I didn’t even visit Durham University for an open day; I’m not even sure I knew exactly where it was.

The email with my offer invited me to a Post Offer Holders Day in Durham, and although I was still disheartened by my recent Cambridge rejection, I decided to attend.


Fast-forward two years, and I’m entering my third year at Durham University and I absolute love it.

My course suits me just perfectly, I’ve met so many like-minded people, found plenty of clubs and societies to join and quite frankly, I can’t imagine going to another university.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed a place at my first-choice university – I know several people who are studying at Cambridge and have had a positive experience – and I’m sure I would have made plenty friends there, too.

On reflection, failing to pass my interview didn’t make me a failure. Instead, it taught me that it’s okay if plans don’t work out.

With Results Day coming up, it’s worth keeping this in mind: Everything happens for a reason (we know it’s probably not what you want to hear right now, but), it’s quite likely not getting into your first-choice university which will open up doors you may have not previously considered.

No matter the outcome on Results Day, there’s no right or wrong path. Failing an interview or not getting the right results isn’t a disaster, it’s an opportunity to consider another route. It could lead you down a fantastic path.

Words: Olivia McCann

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