Application

 Cambridge

 Trinity

 Economics

 2004

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (9 A*,1 A)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Economics, A in Mathematics

yes

yes

yes

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Wanted to study at THE best university in the world!!

Oxford, did not offer straight Economics. That was the main reason really, I have no problem with Oxford and was considering applying to Merton for a bit. Also my Head of Sixth Form said that I would be “better suited to Cambridge.”

Well it was one of the few that did not require a Thinking Skills Assessment or written work. The history surrounding the college also greatly appealed to me…Newton, Byron, Marvell, Nehru…what more could one look for?! Also, Trinity admits a large number of students (around 15) for Economics. Students in the past have performed very well there, and I saw that as a reflection of the College’s high standards.

Preparation

yes

Had a mock interview in school which was moderately helpful. I also had a couple outside school, one which left me in tears, but it made me realise well in advance what ‘grilling’ meant!!

DON’T MAKE SPELLING ERRORS!! WHEN YOU DO, BELIEVE ME, YOU WILL WORRY LIKE MAD!!! Read lots! be able to think on your feet…

Interview

no

no

no

I had two interviews for Economics. The first one involved reading and analysing an article which I received an hour prior to my interview. The article was largely concerned with an analysis of the impact of price listing websites e.g. Kelkoo on consumption patterns. The article contained a screen shot of a list of prices and a graph. Although no prior knowledge was assumed, the questions did give you the opportunity to use any economic knowledge that you might have had.

However, the questions that my interviewer posed were very searching. One of the questions I was initially asked was “What factors do you think influence consumption patterns?” I began by listing the typical factors which affect demand e.g. income, tastes and fashions and the prices of substitute and complementary goods. However, my interviewer, a PhD student, did not appear particularly interested and so I decided to move away from the mundane and discuss some other factors that perhaps would not appear on the first page of a textbook. At this point I received several vigorous nods. At numerous points, my interviewer threw maths questions at me which were related to the article, but which required a more novel approach. I was asked at one point “How much do you think that consumers would save by using such websites?” My initial response was “200 pounds”, since this was the difference between the highest and lowest prices listed. I argued that consumers, who would now have access to such websites, would be aware of the high prices that some firms placed upon identical products. I went on to say that price-listing websites would provide consumers with greater knowledge, thereby helping to reduced market imperfections. However, I also stated that perhaps the figure consumers could save would be even higher since they would no longer have to pay for transport, e.g. from the high street shop to their home, and would instead be able to carry out their purchases online. This led my interviewer to comment very favourably, which set an enormous grin on my face!!

I was then asked a question about whether or not I felt it would be correct to state that the existence of such websites led to greater competition in the market. I replied in the negative, citing the article which stated that only 7% of consumers used such websites. I commented that 93% of the market either had no access to such websites or were not interested in using them. By the end of the interview, my interviewer was grinning like a Cheshire Cat, and appeared pleased!!

The interview concluded with an opportunity for me to ask questions. I declined. However, there was a VERY embarrassing final moment, when I failed miserably to open the door, and succeeded in locking myself in!! Nonetheless, I was very pleased and I remember being quite dazed.

However, my second interviewer had something nasty in store for me. This supposedly general interview was with one of the teaching Fellows at the College. He was young-ish. This interview was an utter nightmare, mainly because the interviewer chose to grill me for the full 25 minutes. No questions were asked about my personal statement. I had anticipated a discussion on general economic issues, as Trinity had informed me before hand that this was to be the case. However, my interview was far more technical. I’m not sure why this was, but it could have been because I had specified I was doing AEA Economics on my UCAS form and my interviewer wanted to stretch me. I was first asked “Why Economics?”, a question I had anticipated would come up and consequently had prepared a good answer for. This was followed by some questions relating to efficiency and equity, the main microeconomic objectives of the government.

We then went on to discuss whether government intervention was beneficial in the economy. He asked me to cite examples. I decided to talk about whether it would be beneficial to split up a natural monopoly, e.g. coal company owned and operated by the government, given that productive efficiency would not be achieved since a natural monopoly would already be producing at the lowest point on its Long Run Average Cost Curve. In the vast majority of the questions he posed, however, my interviewer seemed far more interested in the “how and why” rather than he what. He asked me what I thought were the main reasons for the market failure caused by monopolies. I replied that I thought it was mainly a problem of information, but he didn’t let me stop there, replying “a problem of information on the part of whom?”, a rather tricky question since under pressure one may be tempted to say “consumers”, when in fact the problem lies, I think, with the government as it possesses inadequate knowledge about consumer tastes. It would therefore fail to achieve allocative efficiency.

There was also quite an in-depth discussion on the theory of the firm (price/profit maximization, the goals of firms, divorce of ownership from control – manager and behavioural theories – William Baumol). We then moved on to discuss the US current account and fiscal deficits. However rather than allowing me to regurgitate information I might have heard on TV or read in a text book, he proceeded to ask a number of strange questions: “You have just stated that a fiscal deficit is undesirable because it is unsustainable, but people often take loans to finance their education, thereby creating a deficit for themselves; why is that not considered to be a negative thing?” I was stumped here, and proceeded to give a very daft answer “If a person obtains a good university education, then they can get a good job and pay back the deficits that they have created for themselves.” This was a VERY stupid thing to say, especially since the interviewer seemed to want to stifle a laugh. (In hindsight I should have seized the opportunity to talk about the importance of savings, consumption and expenditure in the economy.) He then stated that my theory would collapse if he were to cite another example. However, I retorted emphatically, citing my own examples. Strangely, here my interviewer seemed pleased.

The final part of my interview concerned a discussion on externalities. I got the distinct feeling, however, that at this time, he had already reached his decision about me, but didn’t want to send me out early in case I took that as a sign of failure and burst into tears.

Err…see above!!

Black trousers, black pinstriped jacket, black socks, flat black shoes…tried to look academic.

Impressions

Loved it…very academic athmosphere.

Didn’t stay there…stayed in a little hotel. I’m international, so my parents accompanied me as well. The hotel was a bit poky, but very homely.

Didn’t eat any!!

Well, I only met one, my interviewer! e seemed like a real thinker and I remember saying to myself, I wish I could have him teaching me.

Very academic, seemed a bit like me!

Final stage

My dad rang me up when I was in the school car park. I screamed, Some year sevens looked at me like I was mad. I promptly fainted on a teacher’s car.

Looking back

YES!!!!!!!!!! Its the experience after all.

Overall, I thought that my interviews were a great experience. I am a really nervous person by nature, but for some reason I wasn’t nervous at all during my interviews. Perhaps this was because I really fell in love with Cambridge and felt I belonged. Both the interviewers were very kind. The first one was a bit of a stereotypical public-school boy, but nevertheless was very appreciative and really seemed like he wanted to bring out the best from all his candidates. In terms of advice for future applicants, I would say that perhaps the most important thing is to be yourself. If you don’t understand a question, say so ! I did, and don’t appear to have been penalised for doing so.