2nd November, 2023
I attended the Cambridge postgrad Sociology ‘open day’ online last week and have since made a slightly rash decision to apply for my PhD this year instead of next. I figure if I don’t get in or get funding, then I’ll be less disappointed, and I can give it another shot next year.
The open day was reassuring. I easily meet the entrance criteria, and it made the whole institution seem less opaque. Some friends have made getting in to do a PhD at Cambridge sound very reliant on connections and secret backroom conversations, but the impression I got from the open day was the opposite. The truth is, presumably, somewhere in the middle.
Someone at work asked me why on earth I wanted to do a PhD, and it was hard to rationalise something that is, for me, quite an emotional or gut decision. Primarily, I enjoy independent study and research, and the PhD will give me enough structure and impetus to do this. Additionally, teaching at a university will be an excellent way to round off my career before I retire! Working in tech and doing my PhD in my 40s, then switching to academia in my 50s sounds like a beautiful plan.
Returning to Cambridgeshire also makes me think about my family history and ancestry. My mum’s side of the family were rural workers in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk going back many generations. They were mostly servants or labourers on farms or country estates. I am the first generation to go to university, so to wind up doing my PhD at Cambridge seems monumental. I didn’t apply to Oxbridge at 18, despite my college encouraging me to, as I couldn’t imagine myself there. But now I can! I hope they let me in.