Application

 Cambridge

 Pembroke

 Computer Science

 2000

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (7 A*,3 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

Other universities

N/A

Decisions about the application

I wanted the experience of an Oxbridge interview. I wanted to see what it was really like, having heard so many amusing horror stories, I liked the thought that maybe I could have one of my own to tell one day. I sort of wanted to do the course, and it seemed like a very nice place to study in the summer, but when I visited for the interview in term time I was put off quite a lot by the fact that all a lot of the students did was work their asses off, and none of them seemed to actually have lives outside of work.

I don’t know really. We’d been to Cambridge in the summer and it looked quite nice. And I knew someone at the college I was applying to, so I thought ‘why not’

I knew someone at Pembroke, so I thought ‘why not’, even though it has some of the highest apps/place ratio in the university. Couple that with the fact that Computer Science is one of the most competitive subjects meant that I hadn’t exactly made things easy for myself. But I don’t think I ever took going to Cambridge particularly seriously. And after I visited I made up my mind that whether I got an offer or not, I didn’t want to go there.

Preparation

no

Interview

no

no

no

I arrived and it was cold. Mum and Dad dropped me off on the street which i seemed to recall being vaguely near the college. I asked an american girl outside for directions and she pointed to the door behind me, which i felt a bit silly about.

‘Are you here for interview?’ she said
‘Yes…’
‘Good luck…if they’re anything like mine were you’ll certainly need it…’

Yay.

I got in, found my room etc and went to meet a friend for dinner in Cambridge which relaxed me a bit. Then I met up with friends who I knew in the college who told me a bit about the college, the fellows who were to interview me and such. I felt ok, and went to bed fairly early. And got up fairly early too. I’d had visions of sleeping in and missing them altogether,which would’ve been fun…

Many. The first interview was mainly programming stuff. I think the guy interviewing me was quite religious because he asked me questions about searching a database whose entries consisted mainly of ‘abraham’ and ‘isaac’…a bit weird. I didn’t do very well because I think I was looking for there to be more in the questions than there in fact was. Having no experience of programming anything like that didn’t exactly go in my favour, either, and I needed a lot of help. He then asked me to look at a piece of paper which had on it a scalene triangle. In it was a square; flush along the bottom and touching one of the sides. He asked me if, without measuring, I could draw another perfect square which was also flush against the bottom but touched both sides. By some strange divine intervention I managed to realise that if you joined up the corner of the triangle with the top corner of the first square and extend the line to the other side you could then draw it. He seemed fairly pleased about that, and then we had a chat about my UCAS form and about his website and stuff. My second interview was a bit different. It was with the general admissions tutor so I didn’t really expect so much of an intellectual grilling as much as a ‘Why Cambridge?’ sort of thing. But no, she queried my UCAS form, asking why I’d applied for both Computer Science and Music Technology. I explained my reasoning and she seemed to be ok with it. She asked me, if I were to study there, what natural sciences option I would select. I told her Physics, which sparked her up because it’s her field. She started asking me all sorts of physics questions like ‘Why are there tides on both sides of the Earth at the same time?’ After a lot of prompting and such like, I realised that a lot of water is dispaced because of the earth’s rotation about the centre of mass of the earth/moon system, and the other half of the water is just being pulled on by the moon’s gravity. She also asked me what potential energy was, where potential energy is 0, where potential energy can be negative, why your voice sounds higher when you suck helium, why a violin sounds different to a piano or a saxophone… We also discussed relativity, and such like. It was pretty terrifying because it wasn’t what i was expecting at all. And at the end she said ‘Well whatever happens, I’m sure you’ll get plenty of offers’. It sounded to me like she was reading an excerpt of my rejection letter already. But I shook her hand and left. Shaking. And that was it. Da whool thing was over.

A suit. I wanted to show some respect for the situation, but I did feel like a prat all day and in hindsight i should have worn something maybe a little bit more casual/comfortable.

Impressions

The buildings were magnificent and the atmosphere was friendly, but it didn’t seem much fun. And yes, whilst the principle reason for going to university in the first place is to study, I want to go somewhere where i’ll be able to enjoy myself. I dont really think I could have done that at Cambridge.

The room I had was fairly pleasant, bit of a 60’s theme going on with a tasteful (erm…not) Gillian Anderson poster on the wall.

good

They were, on the whole, friendly.

Very hard working…scarily so.

Final stage

I haven’t had that particular letter yet. I received news that I had been pooled on December 29th. I wasn’t bothered either way to be honest, as I’d already made up my mind that I didn’t want to go there. It’s January 10th and I haven’t heard anything, so I assume my rejection letter is coming soon. By being pooled, it’s okay to know that you’re Cambridge standard. Even if none of the colleges want you. And it’s even better if you don’t want them back 🙂 Mutuality is always a good thing. Is that actually a word?

Looking back

Definitely. It’s an experience worth having. If you’re predicted AAB or AAA then go for it.

Know at least basic programming. Also know a good deal of maths; i was scheduled to have another interview with a maths tutor but he couldn’t make it in the end. And know what NatSci option you’d want to take, because that’s probably quite important. Have some questions ready, think logically, ask for paper if you need it. Tell them what you know and they will help you with the rest. Show that you can be flexible in your way of thinking; debate is fine as long as you dont become stubborn – chances are they know a hell of a lot more than you.

find out as much as you can from other applicants about their interviews before you have yours 😛