Application

 Cambridge

 Trinity

 Economics

 2005

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 Russia

 Independent – selective

 yes (11 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

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

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

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

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained NA)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics

AA

yes

Cambridge was my first choice all along… how could I not?

no

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

They’re the best universities in Britain; I loved Cambridge when I visited it. I thought I had a good chance of getting in, and thought Cambridge would suit me.

I like the city of Cambridge more than I like Oxford. It’s smaller, everything’s close together and everything’s really beautiful. Besides, Oxford only offered PPE or E&M and I wanted to do Economics; anything else means you only get to do the basic modules (ie Macro/Micro and maybe a bit more) and I really wanted to do the more interesting stuff we get to in 3rd year.

Umm… straight Econ vs E&M etc – see above. I wanted to do Economics because it combined mathematical methods with the study of people, which I find very interesting. Besides, the Cambridge course offers elements of history and politics, which appeals aswell!

I walked around all the central colleges – they all looked beautiful, had a nice atmosphere, etc… but then when I walked into Trinity I just fell in love with the place!

Preparation

yes

Oxbridge classes discussing Economics topics and taking the discussion further than A level usually does. Then a practice interview with a teacher from another school.

Read a lot. If you do Economics, make sure you know all the bits of the syllabus – you will look silly if they ask about something you forgot. If you don’t, make sure you have something to say about all the various topics – if you want to study Economics for 3 years, you’d better at least have an idea of what inflation is, even if you’re not expected to know about it in much detail. And make sure that there’s one or two areas you’re particularly interested in; highlight those in your personal statement and prepare for a potential 20 min in-depth discussion.

Interview

no

no

no

Terrifying at the time, fun in retrospect: though I was sure I’d done horribly. The first interview went a bit like a question-answer session, so was a bit stilted and slightly uncomfortable. The second one was more like a lively interviewer-led discussion, so I enjoyed it a lot more.

The first interview was all about the article they’d given me to study for an hour: comment from the Economist on bankruptcy and its effect on entrepreneurship in the USA. The second one focussed on the subject of an essay I’d mentioned in my personal statement: the rise of crime in Russia during Transition.

First interview: Summarise the article; do you think the article is right in saying that the different states provide a perfect experiment (I said no; a perfectly controlled experiment implies that only one factor changes, ie bankruptcy law – but since law reflects the attitudes of people within the state, surely differing laws implies differing attitudes, thus the test is not perfect). Why is bankruptcy law necessary? (It’s state-provided insurance; this would not be provided privately, due to adverse selection: those who would apply for it are bad risks). Do you think this is a good way of encouraging entrepreneurship? How else might entrepreneurship be encouraged?

Second interview: Explain the thesis of your essay. To what extent do you think the government was at fault? What do you think could have been done better? What do you think is the way forward for Russia now? – ie some discussion of what the essay was talking about and further questions that led off it naturally.

Smart trousers and a smart-casual top: I compromised between looking formal and being more comfortable than I’d have been in a shirt/suit.

Impressions

See above. I loved the place! It’s big, spacious, beautiful, but made up of enough little nooks that it’s not really overwhelming.

I didn’t stay in the accomodation, but looked at a room at open day. Seemed fine – not exactly 5 star, but a nice size, fits a bed, desk, wardrobe, sink, dresser, couple of chairs and plenty of room left over so you don’t feel cramped… Quality of room depends on price though, obviously!

Seemed good to me! But then I’m used to reasonably low-budget school meals…

Friendly and helpful. Trying hard to interview without intimidating 🙂

They were great! All the ones around at interview day were trying to calm us all down, offer tea/coffee in the JCR…it helped! Though I think I was too nervous to pay attention to most of what they were saying.

Final stage

Terrified, absolutely terrified! With each passing day I thought of more potential ways in which I’d messed up in interview and kept thinking I’d never get in… And when the letter didn’t come for several days after the official date (31st), I was in a total panic…

The letter wouldn’t come… and then I lost all patience and decided to call the college. The lady on the line asked for my name and then made me wait for two of the longest minutes of my life while she checked… and I was so happy when she said ‘we will be making you an offer’ that I barely heard what the conditions were! So had to ask again! Oh, and I went around being incredibly hyperactively happy for the next week!

Looking back

Absolutely. Firstly, I got in, so what else would I say? But secondly, even if I hadn’t got in, all the work I did in preparation for the interview – reading, thinking about economics, being particularly careful about my personal statement – I think helped me with my application in general. And I enjoyed being stretched, both with the preparation and the interviews themselves.

Make sure you prepare (see above). But don’t overprepare, and don’t panic. The interviewers aren’t looking for what you know – you will fall flat on your face if you don’t know what they consider is basic – but you don’t have to know all there is to know about economics – they’re there to teach you that! What they care about is how well you think. So make sure you think carefully about economics issues (rather than learning opinions off by heart) and be prepared to be adventurous in interview – do produce an opinion! And do be prepared to justify it. But enjoy it! We all know its scary – but it’s probably the first time in your life to be well and truly stretched to the limits of your academic capabilities. If you have what it takes to go to Oxbridge, you’ll find that fun!