Application

 Cambridge

 Churchill

 Computer Science

 1999

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (3 A*,8 A)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

Other universities

N/A

Decisions about the application

Well my school had a meeting in the middle of Year 12 for people who were vaguely thinking about Oxbridge, so I went along to that. There they told us about the admissions procedure, interviews, etc and I was turned off Oxbridge completely and decided not to apply.
About a month later, my Head of Year tracked me down and persuaded me to think about Oxbridge again, so I went on an Open Day for Computer Science at Churchill, Cambridge. I really liked the town & the college seemed nice.
The CompSci department was quite intimidating, but exciting at the same time. However, I was put off when I found out about the amount of work expected from you each week (you have lectures on Saturdays!). I felt that I just wouldn’t be good enough for such an intense course.
After having another ‘chat’ with my Head of Year at school though, she convinced me that Cambridge was the perfect environment for me and eventually I decided that I had nothing to lose by applying!
Reasons that I put on my application form then:

– I liked the collegiate structure – I’m not a very confident person, so I thought belonging to a small college would give me the opportunity to get involved in events and societies.
– The fact that I would get a degree from the top Uni in the country, which was a very appealing factor.
– Being around other students & tutors who are all so intelligent would be a great experience & I thought I would learn a lot from them.

Never really considered Oxford, as I liked the sound of Cambridge (from what other people & teachers told me.) Also when I went round Cambridge, I totally loved the town and felt that I’d like to study in such a place.

Went round it on an Open Day, so it was the only one I really knew about!
On a more ‘serious’ note, I liked the fact that Churchill was modern – you could actually walk on the grass. 🙂 I thought it would be good for me as Cambridge’s CompSci department is gradually moving itself out towards Churchill. The college had a friendly atmosphere. I think that about sums it up

Preparation

no

My Head of Year made sure I filled out all the forms properly & helped with the personal statement, but then everyone at my school gets that sort of help with their UCAS application anyway. I had two practice interviews. One with my head teacher, which was really good in that she knew what she was talking about and gave me some useful advice. The other practice interview was supposedly a subject interview with the Head of IT. He didn’t really ask me any CompSci-related questions though, so it wasn’t much use in that respect

Well try and get at least one practice interview with someone, just so you get to experience having to make reasonably intelligent and coherent conversation on the spot. If you have relevant work experience then be prepared to discuss what you learnt from it. Expect to be asked some sort of Maths-related question/problem – you can’t really revise for this, but remember to take your time and think about it and if you don’t understand it, ask the interviewer to explain it more thoroughly. It’s better to work it out eventually with help, rather than trying to bluff your way through it!

Interview

no

no

no

I had two interviews. The first was with the Admissions Tutor and was about why Cambridge, etc. The second was a subject interview with two CompSci tutors and focussed on why CompSci & my work experience, etc

In the Admissions tutor interview, he asked me about how my A-levels were going, what I enjoyed about them and why. Then the conversation went on to what I hoped to achieve while at Cambridge and I basically had to tell him about 3 ‘extra-curricular’ activities that I intended to take part in. I told him I was interested in joining the choir, orienteering club and photography club. In the subject interview, they asked me about my work experience and any experience I’d had with computers already. Then they tried to get me to work through a Maths problem, which I didn’t understand a word of! (I now know it was a proof-by-induction problem)

Impressions

Seemed friendly

The rooms were a fair size, with an atmospheric breeze going through the room in the middle of the night. I liked it, I managed to find my way around reasonably quickly. There were lots of people staring at us from the wall (portraits to normal people 🙂 ) whilst we were eating

Good

Well the ones who interviewed me were quite friendly and were obviously trying to put me at ease. One of them did seem to get a bit bored by me though, so he seemed to be impatient.

Final stage

I knew as soon as the interviews were over that I hadn’t got in, so the rejection did not come as a surprise. That didn’t make it any easier though. Through my & a friend’s similar experience, I believe there are several ‘stages’ you go through after being rejected. The first is denial – for two or three days after getting the letter I honestly believed that a phone call or another letter would come. The college would have made a terrible mistake and would be very apologetic, and I would actually have an offer after all.
Eventually the foolish hope fades and then comes anger. I stomped around thinking ‘How can they reject me? How can they put me through all this hassle and worry and then turn around and reject me?? What makes them think they’re so great???’ It continued like this for a day or so.
Then comes depression. The pain of rejection just wouldn’t leave. I believed I must be a total failure, I felt so stupid and incompetent. Fortunately, this only lasted for about a day.
Next it was bitterness mixed with motivation. I was determined that I would ‘show them’. I would get four As and be totally brilliant at my course at another Uni – then Cambridge would be sorry, they’d regret the day they rejected me!
Finally there’s revenge… er… I mean acceptance. 🙂 I realised it was all for the best. I probably wouldn’t do well at Cambridge – the workload would be too much and I wouldn’t benefit from the course. If the tutor’s didn’t feel I would be suited to that environment and cope with the work, then they are the best people to judge out of everyone

Looking back

Yes I would still apply – I did like Cambridge and really wanted to go, so if I had never applied I would always have wondered what might have happened

Try and get some help with the interview – ie have some practice, anyone who can ask sensible questions will do! Make sure you have got some work experience, this shows how serious you are about your chosen subject/career. Go on at least one Open Day to get a feel for the Uni and to help choose a college. Be careful when choosing a college – there are lots of factors to consider and if possible, talk to someone who knows a bit about the colleges as they may have some idea which would be the best to apply to.