Application

 Cambridge

 St John’s

 English

 2009

 pooled, rejected

Applicant

 Other qualifications

 post-qualification

 EU

 N/A

 Independent – non-selective

 yes

Other universities

no

Decisions about the application

I visited St. John’s on an open day, and loved everything about it.

Preparation

no

Make sure you read all the information available at the Cambridge webite – it will give you a general idea of what an interview will be like. If it is possible, do ask a teacher (preferably one you don’t know very well) to practice with you. Besides that, it’s good to think about questions like ‘why Cambridge?’, ‘why this college?’ or ‘why (your subject)?’, because you can be almost certain that you will be asked them.
It’s also important to read around your subject. In the case of English: reread the books you mentioned in your personal statement AND read a few works of criticism or reviews about them. They will stimulate you to think more critically about the works

Interview

no

yes

I had to hand in two recent essays, the topics of which were discussed during the interview.

yes

I had to sit a written test at the day of my interview. I was given two poems and asked to consider certain themes in either or both of them.

They were very stimulating, but I was too nervous to enjoy them. I had two interviews: one general one and one subject specific. The general interview started with the questions I listed above, like ‘why Cambridge?’, ‘why English?’ etc. Later I was asked to to give my opinion about a few topics like the importance of literature, translations, how literature is being spread nowadays etc.
During the second interview some of the texts I mentioned in my personal statement and essays were discussed. At the end I was asked to read a poem and reflect upon it.

In-depth, thought-provoking questions about some of the authors and texts I had mentioned.

I wore dark grey trousers, a white blouse and a warm purple vest – it was very cold! What to wear should really be the least of your concern – the people who interviewed me really couldn’t have cared any less. Just make sure you wear something you feel comfortable in.

Impressions

I loved St. John’s – the people are really open and friendly, the architecture is great and it has a rich history. I also visited Trinity, which is beautiful, but I didn’t get the chance to speak to any students or tutors. I also went to the Peterhouse open day but unfortunately didn’t really like the college.

I stayed in Cripps, which is a lot better from the inside than from the outside! My room had a nice view of the Cam and New Court. There was a sink in the room, it was very clean and all necessities were provided: towels, soap, shampoo – even hot chocolate and cookies!

Really good. I have eaten at other Cambridge colleges and St. John’s had the best food of them.

Very friendly and encouraging, enthusiastic about their subject, not too formal or intimidating – just really nice.

There were always a few students in the JCR, and they were very friendly. They tried to make everyone feel less nervouw before their interviews and made sure all applicants knew where to go.

Final stage

I didn’t do well during my interview, so I knew a rejection was coming my way. I was very nervous and really didn’t like having to wait for over a month – but I survived!

I was very sad and disappointed. I expected a rejection, but still. I was pooles, which wasn’t much of a comfort as I had my heart set on St. John’s.

Looking back

Absolutely!

Don’t be put of by stereotypes when choosing a college. Try to visit a few, and you’ll immediately know which one is the right one for you.
Make sure you have read all your texts recently enough (so that it’s all fresh in your mind), read some secondary literature and, especially, THINK about what you read. Consider all aspects of the work, be ready for new ideas and whatever you do, don’t just say ‘I don’t know’ like I did! Always try to answer a question to the best of your abilities – after all, you are not supposed to know everything yet, and they will challenge you with questions that are beyond you – but try. Try to explain your thought-process while you are considering a question – like many have said, they are more interested in the way you think than your actual knowledge of the subject.
Try to practice with someone, get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview, set two alarm clocks (you really don’t want to be late), don’t take anyone (they are only going to distract you), and enjoy it!