Application

 Cambridge

 Downing

 Engineering

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (10 A*)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(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)

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, Latin AS and GS A2 excluded.

yes

yes

yes

Hopefully I will achieve the three A’s required, otherwise I will hopefully take up a place in Bath (offer of BBB).

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I knew that if I was accepted I’d be given very little excuse not to succeed in my studies there and later in life. The demands that would be placed, through the supervision system and in private work, were something I felt I could really benefit from, keeping my mind permanently on edge.

I never really considered Oxford and after visiting my chosen college in Cambridge, I was almost afraid to look anywhere else for fear being too torn in my college/university decision.

I intend to progress to Chemical Engineering later.

During the summer I visited, it was first impressions that grabbed me. It seemed modern, fresh and uncluttered in the summer sun. When I returned in winter, it retained that visual crispness and educational atmosphere which confirmed that I had made the right decision.

Preparation

yes

Invaluable help was provided with the personal statement and small written section of the Cambridge form through several redrafts. A mock interview was also undertaken with the headmaster which primarily made me aware of the format.

The Forms: Not specifically as I really can’t tell how important it is. I filled in the form highlighting how I would benefit from the supervision system, a little about the college and picked on an aspect of the course (perhaps specific only to Oxbridge).

The interview(s): As you probably know, if you indicate an interest in chemical engineering, your interview will not differ in anyway from an interview for an engineer (i.e there will be no chemistry questions).

For engineering I found it useful to keep up to date on my A Level learning. I did do some wider reading around the subject although I found specialised books of little help (for that reason – they are too specialised and you’d be lucky to have a question on the book’s subject). I did, however, read the Physics Review Magazines – they are useful in making you more aware of physics beyond the curriculum. I noticed that my friends and myself were being asked questions answered in these magazines. Have an interest in the subject and be able to speak enthusiastically at your interview, no matter if it’s bridges you’re enthusiastic about.

Interview

no

no

no

I had three separate 20 minute subject interviews, timed at 0900, 0940 and 1040. I arrived at 0830 (the first person) and was directed to a room where refreshments were available and some general information. I spoke to some students there and other people in my situation. It was a metaphorically warm atmosphere (the rooms themselves were quite cold early in the morning).

The first interview was a mechanics one. We talked over differential equations of motion, the objective of which to derive v^2=u^2+2as from a=dv/dt (and consequently a=v dv/ds). We then talked a little about circular motion (the direction of the acceleration in a whirled string, and the direction of velocity) and progressed this topic further. The second interview was a maths/physics one. I was asked to differentiate certain functions and draw their differentials. I was then asked the integral of 1/x between infinity and negative infinity. The next section concerned electrical physics and the base units (or more useful meanings of certain values). i.e a volt as a joule per coulomb. The third interview began on the subject of a guitar and how it produces a note/sound. the conversation progressed through Archimedes’ Principle (how objects float), with a theoretical question of whether there would be an upthrust or not if a perfectly smooth object was on a perfectly smooth ocean floor). The final question was about the factors to consider in building a long span bridge – an open ended question which I was allowed to talk through for a couple of minutes. It was interesting to note that the interviewers made a point of asking me about my extra curricular activities – whether this was just a trivial matter or meant something to the interview, I am unsure.

A smart (but not overly so) suit. Everyone was dressed smartly but suits were only seen in about half the cases.

Impressions

The architecture was amazing – the open lawns and crisp environment seemed conducive to an effective learning environment (compared with other colleges I visited which seemed too cluttered).

Although I didn’t view a room internally, from the outside, and from the college prospectus, they seemed spacious and homely.

Good

All very friendly, thanking me for travelling the long distance (although I didn’t have much hope if I didn’t). They generally made me feel very at ease although you’d be pretty talented if you could read their reaction to your answer in interview (of course,though, it’s their job to give you no indication as to whether you’re right or not – you have to think for yourself).

Varied – they all fitted into a stereotype of students, although interestingly, not a stereotype of cambridge students – the kind of people I’d like to be living around.

Final stage

So much text! – I had trouble finding the result with obscure sections in bold type. After getting through the relevant sections I smiled and danced a merry jig (the details of which shall not leave this forum ;)) It seemed like weeks, months and years of hard work had paid off, and the reactions of my family only added to the delight.

Looking back

Why not? – there is nothing to lose – you spend a few days in beautiful cities. You embark on a massive learning curve with regard to selling yourself, interview techniques and at the end of it, you have a chance to attend a world class unviersity. People would pay for that experience!!!!

I would say just go for it, although I’m a little uncertain about people who apply without any real enthusiasm about attending the university. It’s a fine balance, however, and don’t be too enthusiastic. If only one in three applicants are accepted, there’s a chance you’ll be disappointed. In that instance, you need to be just as enthusiastic about another university.