Access mentor

  • 18 February 2021

Izaak Fairclough hopes his journey from state comprehensive and sixth form college to the University of Cambridge will become even more of a well-trodden path.

The second year Maths undergraduate attended Clayton Hall Academy in Newcastle-under-Lyme and City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College before matriculating at Caius in October 2019.

Izaak wants to help others follow in his footsteps. He is on the Caius Access Platform (, has helped with the Cambridge University Students’ Union Shadowing Scheme, and is also a mentor for access initiative Zero Gravity.

“I’m keen on encouraging more people from a similar educational background to apply to Cambridge,” Izaak says.

“People should apply – the biggest reason why people don’t get into Cambridge is that they don’t apply.

“Out of the handful of people who have ended up at Cambridge from my sixth form in the last couple of years, about half of them have ended up at Caius – three out of five or six. I’m hoping it will encourage people to apply.”

Izaak Fairclough, fourth from left, with friends prior to the Covid-19 pandemic

Izaak, pictured fourth from left, with friends at Caius (pictured prior to the Covid-19 pandemic)

Izaak admits he hesitated before submitting his own Cambridge application, prior misconceptions leading to fears he would not fit into the historic surroundings.

Still, he sometimes feels the need to pinch himself, but the coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted both of his years at Caius, has made him appreciate Cambridge and the opportunities which come with being a student here.

“I was reluctant to apply to Cambridge until very late on, and even after I did apply I wasn’t confident it would be right for me, until after interviews and getting an offer,” he adds.

“The big thing for me was going and experiencing it at interview. That academic environment is worth the mild discomfort I had when I first got there, when I was overwhelmed.

“It’s still a strange experience to be in Cambridge – you find yourself walking around sometimes thinking ‘where am I?’ It’s a very different place to be. However, it is something you learn to appreciate and it’s exciting to have these very different experiences.

“Over the last 11 months it’s made us all appreciate the experiences we can get, and I’m looking forward to spending time in Old Courts and eating in Hall again. It’s rare we’ve been able to do that.

“When you notice yourself missing those things, it shows it is the right place for you, even if it was strange at first.”

Izaak Fairclough, second left, with friends at Caius

Izaak Fairclough, second left, with friends at Caius (pictured prior to the Covid-19 pandemic)

Izaak’s involvement with Zero Gravity began in August 2020. He was paired with a student he knew through the Shadowing Scheme – not a pre-requisite – and mentored the student with weekly sessions, which included application and interview preparation, and general support. The student received an offer from another Cambridge College last month, and Izaak continues to mentor them.

“I would’ve liked to have had something like that myself, so it’s good to be able to give somebody else that opportunity,” Izaak adds.

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