Let’s take it back to the beginning, shall we?
Hi, I’m Olivia and I was the first in my family to move away to University. Along with that came with a lot of confusion and questions. How do I apply for accommodation? What is student finance? How will I budget so I can buy branded Heinz tomato sauce? All valid questions.
I was part of a widening participation programme called Next Step York, where many of my questions about university were answered. But there I am, sitting in a lecture theatre, and the words ‘Contextual Offer’ appear on the screen. More questions were spinning around in my head. What is it? And what does it mean for me?
After asking these fresh questions, I found out that it meant I was eligible for a reduced offer when applying to the University of York for my chosen degree – English Language and Linguistics. Instant relief. Or so I thought it was.
Receiving my offer
Fast forward to my application. The dreaded scenes of the UCAS page. I had pressed the submit button and the waiting game had begun. The message “Something has changed on your application” popped up on my emails. My offer from York had come through. My contextual offer was BBB and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, my chances of getting in were higher.
But then my friends’ offers were coming in. “Why have you got a lower offer? That’s an easy route. Cheating the system.” These were all thoughts circling around my mind as I compared my offers to theirs. Why am I not happy? Had I received this offer because I wasn’t good enough? Imposter syndrome kicked in.
After thinking about my offer and speaking to my teachers, I realised that it wasn’t because I needed an easy route to progress to higher education. I had received this offer because the university wanted me as a member of their community. They recognised my potential and they wanted me! It was something to celebrate and it pushed me to work even harder because for the first time I could see myself at York.
September 2018 came around and the car was packed. I was on my way to York. Funnily enough outside the lectures halls, the topic of conversation wasn’t my contextual offer. People weren’t asking “Why is she here?” We all deserved to be there, we had all earned our place.
My journey to York may not have been the typical one…
… However, it is one that I wouldn’t change. I am part of a community where my achievements and potential are celebrated. I am pushed to be the best version of myself.
Those two words, ‘contextual offer’ – what do they mean? Yes, they mean a reduced offer. But they also mean that YOU deserve a place at university and that YOU have the potential. It wasn’t my offer that got me to York but realising that this journey was possible for me certainly did.