I had a fully-funded Masters offer from Cambridge, but I had to achieve a certain score in my History finals in order to get in.
I didn’t hit the required mark (missed by 2%). So I rang around the other universities on my list, and managed to get into Nottingham – a fantastic place in its own right, and in many ways a more suitable place for me at that time.
A year later, I bumped into the guy who would have been my supervisor at Cambridge and told him this story.
He was shocked: “Why on earth didn’t you call and ask if you could come anyway?”.
Good question. Back then it seemed obvious – someone else set the rules, so I played by them…
Ten years later, I don’t really believe in accepting parameters set by other people. I was told directly by senior colleagues that I had no chance of success when considering my last two jobs. I’m ten years older and maybe twenty years more bloody-minded :)
I may not have gone to Cambridge, but I did learn an awful lot.