Former Tory MP and Oxbridge graduate Lousie Mensch has encouraged aspirational teenagers to pursue their dreams and apply to top-tier universities in the face of adversity or lack of support from teachers.
The 44-year-old author detailed the inspiring story of how her own sister had become the "first undegraduate ever to arrive at Cambridge with a baby", going on to achieve a 2:1 and becoming the youngest partner to hold a position at her graduate headhunter firm.
She called on both boys and girls to defy their critics, and rallied young women in particular to apply for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, where female representation in both study and professional fields is lacking.
In a series of tweets posted on Tuesday, Mensch told her almost 100,000 followers to "never ever listen to a teacher who tells you NOT to apply for Oxbridge. Try. Apply."
I do hope any girls reading me in STEM apply to Oxbridge. If about to start that school year. Apply. try. It's worth it. Try.— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Loads of my teachers told me not to bother to try for Oxbridge entry as I wasn't clever enough. Disappointing O levels. I didn't listen— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Girls (and boys) never ever listen to a teacher who tells you NOT to apply for Oxbridge. Try. Apply. I got in and had time of my life there.— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
She added that those who did not make it to one of the top two universities in the UK should not feel disheartened, as they could still "have a wonderful university experience elsewhere", but advised aspiring students to "try and get in to the best university you can".
PS this does not mean you can't have a wonderful university experience elsewhere, but try to get in to the best university you can.— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
She went on to explain the story of her sister, Milly, who faced hardship after being expelled from school because she became pregnant and was rejected from Oxford University.
My sister Tilly did not get into Oxford. She waited applied to Cambridge. Was pregnant & expelled from our school. St. John's accepted her— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Thank you Cambridge. My sister was first undergraduate ever to arrive at Cambridge with baby. St. John's were wonderful. Apply— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
When she was 25 my sister was the youngest ever partner at Heidrick & Struggles. Thank you Cambridge. Apply there.— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Cambridge i/v-er opened letter from school in my sister's interview. 'Wow, they really don't like you do they,' she said. Gave her place— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Mensch also gave other examples of famous women who had graduated from STEM fields, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Ameenah Gurib, President of Mauritius.
Also girls studying STEM: Angela Merkel: Chemist. Margaret Thatcher: Chemist. Pres of Mauritius now: Chemist. Go for it :)— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) September 1, 2015
Her series of supportive message prompted many other Twitter users to post their own experiences, in a bid to encourage others to defy unsupportive superiors.
The teacher for the subject I got accepted for told me not to apply. https://t.co/CTQ7DT2T9H— Peter Johnstone (@peterwdj) September 1, 2015
@LouiseMensch my roommate at Oxford was told not to apply because 'people from our school don't get into oxford'. She did.— Anna Sabine (@msannasabine) September 1, 2015
Ha! Yup... never tell a teenager what they can't do... they're just getting started... https://t.co/u4nrLpQQXG— Lukwesa Burak (@LukwesaBurak) September 1, 2015