Evie Cottrell

Pursuing an undergraduate degree
639Oxford, UKJoined Nov 2021



Hey, I'm Evie! I'm eighteen, I’m currently living in Oxford, where I study Physics and Philosophy at uni.

At the start of 2022, I left high school early to self-study maths and physics. Before that, I did work experience at the Future of Humanity Institute, interned at Charity Entrepreneurship, and attended a rationality camp. I'm an Atlas Fellow and was awarded the Open Phil Undergrad Scholarship in Nov 2021. 

Outside of that, I really enjoy cold water swimming (some of my best memories are swimming in the sea with my mum, near where I grew up), writing blog posts, and conversations with people who are very enthusiastic about a particular subject — whether that be economics, feminism, or Hamilton the musical :P


I’ve been considering writing a post about my experience of receiving a grant, and the downsides I didn’t anticipate beforehand. It would probably look similar to this comment but with more info.

General encouragement for having done something risky (a wacky title) and then deciding against it and changing it. The first sentence of the changed post made me laugh.

I strong upvoted because I am still very confused about this as well (but for a slightly different reason).

I received EA funding earlier this year and many people in my hometown found it confusing at best, and that I was “stealing from a charity” at worst. I still find it very anxiety provoking and stressful to talk about the grant. I’m not really sure how to present it or explain it to people outside the community. The impression that some people in my hometown had was kinda like “why should a privileged white girl get money to do something so unnecessary as move to Oxford a few months early?? There are people who struggle to make ends meet here. There’s a war in Ukraine goddamn it! And this money is to “make the world better”? Who are these people? Who does Evie think she is?” (I realise that this sounds exaggerated but its unfortunately not. I received quite a lot of online hate from people from my hometown, which was pretty upsetting).

My grant wasn’t for a specific project, which makes it harder to explain. It was primarily so that I could leave my school and move to Oxford (to self-study the remainder of high school and take the exams independently in Oxford). I’ve used it to pay exam fees, living expenses in oxford (eg rent and food), buy textbooks, get a tutor. I guess the grant was kind of like an individual version of the Atlas scholarship. There were a number of reasons why I wanted to leave my school (which I won’t discuss here), but I was not doing well there at the time.

I honestly sometimes feel pretty uncertain about whether this was a good use of money for EAIF. At times, I have definitely felt deep shame and guilt for having applied for and taken the money.

When I was living in Oxford, I think I was less willing to socialise with non-EAs, because I felt so anxious about explaining why I was living away from my family to do my A-Levels. As a result, my whole social circle consisted of EAs (not ideal for diversity/ development/ self-growth/ life-robustness).

I’m going to uni soon and I’m again not sure how to explain to people why I’ve lived in Oxford before and why I self-studied my A-Levels (which is very unconventional in the UK).

Anyway, I appreciate that you posted this, and think it raises some valid concerns.

“Better” could mean lots of things here. Including: more entertaining; higher quality discussion; more engagement; it’s surpassed a ‘critical mass’ of people to sustain a regular group of posters and a community; better memes; more intellectually diverse; higher frequency of high quality takes; the best takes are higher quality; more welcoming and accessible conversations etc.

The aims of EA Twitter are different to the forum. But I think the most important metrics are the “quantity of discussion” ones.

My impression is that:

  • There are more “high quality takes” on EA Twitter now than a year ago (mostly due to more people being on it and people posting more frequently).
  • The “noise:quality ratio” is pretty bad on EA Twitter. Most of the space seems dominated by shit posting and in-group memes to me.

Obvs, shit posting is fine if that’s what you want. But I think it’s useful to be clear what you mean when you say “better”. If someone was looking for high quality discussion about important ideas in the world, I would personally not recommend them EA Twitter.

Thanks for sharing! That's useful to know.

I'll look into adding to the post later today.

If I was going to spend longer on this post, I'd make it more empirical and talk through evidence for/against the effectiveness of ACT. 

As it is, I didn't want to spend significantly longer writing it, so I've gone for a summary of the core ideas -- so that readers can assess the vibe and see if it's something that sounds interesting to them.

This might have been the wrong call though.

I also wanna give general encouragement for sharing a difficult rejection story.

Sorry that your experience of this has been rough. 

Some quick thoughts I had whilst reading:

  • There was a vague tone of "the goal is to get accepted to EAG" instead of "the goal is to make the world better," which I felt a bit uneasy about when reading the post. EAGs are only useful in so far as they let community members to better work in the real world. 
    • Because of this, I don't feel strongly about the EAG team providing feedback to people on why they were rejected. The EAG team's goals isn't to advise on how applicants can fill up their "EA resume." It's to facilitate impactful work in the world. 
  • I remembered a comment that I really liked from Eli: "EAG exists to make the world a better place, rather than serve the EA community or make EAs happy."
  • [EDIT after 24hrs: I now think this is probably wrong, and that responses have raised valid points.] You say"[others] rely on EA grants for their projects or EA organizations for obtaining jobs and therefore may be more hesitant to directly and publicly criticize authoritative organizations like CEA."  I could be wrong, but I have a pretty strong sense that nearly everyone I know with EA funding would be willing to criticise CEA if they had a good reason to. I'd be surprised if {being EA funded} decreased willingness to criticise EA orgs. I even expect the opposite to be true.
    • (Disclaimer that I've received funding from EA orgs)


Sorry that the tone of the above is harsh -- I'm unsure if it's too harsh or whether this is the appropriate space for this comment. 

I've err-ed on the side of posting because it feels relevant and important.

(Currently reading the post and noticing that many of the links go to the top of the same google doc. I assume this isn’t supposed to be the case. This could be because I’m on mobile, but also could be an error with the links.)

(Also congrats on your first forum post! Go you :) )

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