Application

 Cambridge

 Churchill

 Archaeology & Anthropology

 2003

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (12 A*)

A-levels

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA

yes

yes

yes

Not sure yet. It depends on whether I want to do purely SocAnth, or just BioAnth&SocAnth as opposed to Arch+Anth. Also have been toying with the idea of a joint honours degree combining Anth with Psychology. Choice is a curse in disguise for a person like me. Also stupidly fell in love with the city of EdinburghÂ…

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I guess in a way my teachers and family had always expected me to apply. This wouldn’t have been reason enough, but I found an exceptional course and I figured I had nothing to lose.

It was a decision based almost entirely on the course. I really liked the Cambridge emphasis on a first year broad base after which you can specialise; I felt this made for a very individual and independent learning structure. Furthermore, I think that the freedom Cambridge allows in your last year, whichever of the three disciplines you pick, is very unique. Also very few colleges in Oxford offer Arch&Anth and none of them really inspired me. However I will say that I think Oxford as a city has more life to itÂ…
Okay – People may violently disagree with me on this but when I was trying to decide between the two I really wanted to know about the differences in terms of the city’s atmosphere. From my (albeit limited) experience of the two places, I feel that my personal take in the case of Oxford vs. Cambridge it’s a bit like Colour vs. Character.

They really encourage deferred entry and I liked the idea of a College with a ‘gap-year’ ethos. Also I liked the idea that a lot of the people I would end up living with would also have taken a year out. I liked being out of the city meaning absolutely huge grounds. Finally, it’s a modern college and it shows; it seemed a lot less formal and more laid back than any of the other Colleges I visited. The fact that *allowing* you to walk on the grass in Churchill is an unusual privilege in Cambridge pretty much says it all.

Preparation

yes

Not really, our head of year gave us a few pep talks and random men from the Rotary club conducted a practise interview (it was open to anyone and fashioned like a job interview) in which they mostly asked me about my hobbies, also Cambridge weren’t quite so keen to hear all about my part-time job mopping floorsÂ…

The form: Even though almost everything is just a matter of filling out information – Doublecheck. You see I *actually* filled in the College Code wrong on my UCAS form [why they have to make it so complex with single character codes when UCAS write out all the Universities in the country (in full) and the individual courses (in full) in ‘easy2use’ drop down menus – I donÂ’t know] BUT was quite embarrassing getting a phone call from Clare College and having to say ‘umm, yes didnÂ’t *actually* apply to your collegeÂ… would you mind shimmying my UCAS application over to ChurchillÂ… ahem’

The interview: Don’t overdo it, you will have done some relevant reading, you will have done some research – otherwise I trust you wouldn’t even have been bothered enough to read this – you’ll be fine. Maybe try to relate in your head what you do in your life (even if it’s just school subjects) with Arch&Anth, you are very free to lead the interview into subjects you want to talk about and so having something you want to say is quite effective, not a pre-rehearsed speech mindyou, but something general you want to express.

Interview

no

yes

I had to send THREE essays by November 15th. So I sent my History AS coursework, English Lit AS Coursework, proceeded to panic that I had absolutely nothing else to send, considered GCSE coursework, got a severe look of disapproval from my teacher and shoved an English Lit timed essay into the envelope and left it at that. Three seemed a bit excessive and they didnÂ’t even mention them in interview so it was a bit of an anticlimaxÂ…

yes

The ethnography extract I mentioned [below] was a sort-of test I suppose, and I did no specific preparation for it; I hadn’t even read a piece of ethnographic text before and I donÂ’t think it made much of a difference, they’re looking for your interpretations not actual anthropological knowledge

I had only one half-hour interview, which is quite strange in the Cambridge system. I had mixed feelings about this because on the one hand it meant that I would get it over and done with all in go (like an MMR jab) but on the other hand if I had two and I cocked up the first one, I would have a second chance (maybe like the BCG but not really). In fact, Cambridge interviews are quite like injectionsÂ… you get very nervous about them, they can be uncomfortable verging on painful, but they really are over with before you know it. Oh and the after effects vary from person to person, possible symptoms range from no adverse reaction at all to endless sleepless nights with continuous emotional turmoil. Heh.

I had an unseen ethnography extract I had to read through on my own for a half-hour, I was allowed to make notes and was told to be prepared to discuss it. I then walked into my interview. I think it started with talking about my current subjects and studies followed by a bit of ‘why Arch&Anth’ leading to a very general discussion about the ethnography extract and finally a little round up about my suitability to life in Cambridge. Things that stand out are how I related my current subjects with my interest in Anthropology; this provided a bit of original conversation. And also the way they really played off my own thoughts in relation to discussion about the extract. Anyway, before I knew it, it was all over and I didnÂ’t feel too great or intelligent. I had been nervous and felt I had waffled exhaustively and I’d lost my direction of thought a few times. To learn from my mistakes I would have listened a lot more carefully and paused longer to think through what I wanted to say. I felt slightly let down by myself and even now, even though I have an offer, I would quite like to go back and do it again.

I wore a suit jacket with a skirt, and with hindsight I would have dressed more casually. Not because I donÂ’t think a suit is suitable (no pun intended) but because I personally didnÂ’t feel 100% comfortable constrained in a suit-jacket. Also the girl who had an interview after me was wearing a sloganed fitted-T, Roxy sweatpants, trainers and neon pink barbed-wire braceletsÂ… I found this mildly disconcertingÂ… and in a way I actually think she had the right idea, I really would recommend just going in something you feel comfortable inÂ…

Impressions

I think I’ve summed up my general impression in my answer to ‘why I picked Churchill’. Immediate and quite possibly irrational impressions I had of other colleges was that King’s seemed daunting, Emma seemed sweet, Christ’s seemed stuffy and Queen’s seemed vibrant.

The actual building is nasty on the outside but very nice on the inside. The rooms are more spacious and newer in comparison with any other University accommodation I’ve seen. Plus big giant fat windows which lets in lots of light.

Good

Better than anything I could make.

They were very friendly and slightly eccentric.

Because it was one of the first interviews of the year it was still during term time, Arch&Anth isn’t a big subject so they had no runners/helpers type of thing, in fact I doubt any students actually knew that there were interviews happening that day. So I milled around hiding my suit in my big coat and saw them walking around, chatting, and being normal. Oh and quite a few smiled at me as I walked past which was niceÂ…

Final stage

Well, it was very strange as I didnÂ’t expect to receive anything until January, but on New Year’s Eve my friend texted me and said ‘Have you heard?’ I mused over this cryptic message as I wandered downstairs and finally realised what he (also a Cambridge applicant) meant, so I had a look at the post and saw the envelope stamped with Churchill’s logo. Now for some crazy reason (probably a combination of the cute stocking stamp saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and my subconscious suppressing the obvious truth) I actually thought it was a Christmas cardÂ… It wasn’t until I was halfway through opening it that I finally realised what it was; all of a sudden I became ridiculously nervous and went all warm and shaky. This went on for about two seconds until I realised I had an offer. This made me feel quite nice inside, a bit like relief actuallyÂ…

Looking back

Yes, because the only thing that might have held be back was the fear that I would fail – and I think for a lot of possible applicants who are used to being an academic success story, this might be a very real apprehension. However I soon realised that it really would be completely moronic to let an absurd thing like pride get in my way. So take my advice – donÂ’t be a moron.

Don’t get worked up about it, I was sh*tting frisbees during the actual interview, before and after it I simply resolved not to think and worry about it. Get it into perspective, it helps to realise that Oxbridge isn’t everything – I promise you it really it isn’t. Be prepared to think, remember to smile, listen carefully and just be genuine – even if it’s genuinely nervous. Remind yourself that if they’re going to give you an offer they’re going to give *you* an offer, not a [insert desired subject here] spouting persona you’ve created especially for the occasion.