Application

 Cambridge

 Clare

 History

 2004 (deferred entry)

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (5 A*,6 A)

A-levels

(B at AS)

(A at AS)

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

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

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

Other universities

yes

yes

Durham – rejected
Warwick – offer
York – offer
Birmingham – offer
Edinburgh – offer, accepted & I’m there now (It was a tough decision between here and Warwick!)

Decisions about the application

I loved the breadth and depth to the history course – it seemed I could study just about everything. The uni is old and beautiful and prestigious. I had the grades, I seemed to be good enough. I’d spent most of my life in a slightly scummy school and the thought of studying in such gorgeous surroundings was awesome.

I’d visited both the cities and just clicked more with Cambridge. I didn’t want to sit the HAT (in retrospect it might not have been a bad idea.)

It was tricky, there were loads of subjects that looked interesting. History was one of my favourite subjects in school, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t ever get boring.

God, looking back I really went over the top with the whole selection process. I wanted one of the old colleges by the river, but also one that didn’t seem stuffy or pretentious. I spent ages on the Cambridge alternative prospectus website and Clare seemed to fulfil all my requirements. I looked up the history staff there and they seemed really interesting. I went on the open day, really liked it…the choice was made!

Preparation

yes

One mock interview with the head which went so badly that he called me back for another one. Some general chatting about interviews with my dad at home. Nothing else apart from that. I’d never had any sort of interview experience and I was terrified.

Get used to talking generally about your subject.
Read heaps.
KNOW your submitted essays, they’re crucial.

Interview

yes

yes

Two essays, both had to be my most recent work. They stressed that it should NOT be altered or written especially for the interviews. I didn’t alter mine and sent them in, typos and all. Again in retrospect I could have changed that.

yes

My stomach was one huge knot of nerves. The tutors were encouraging and tried to put me at my ease and the questions they asked were really interesting, but my nervousness got in the way of everything and just as I began to relax the interviews were over. I performed badly – lots of stammering and blushing and there were these horrendously awkward pauses where they would ask me something and my mind went blank. I really seemed to be an entirely different person.

I had two interviews, both with two interviewers in each one. It was weird answering questions from one while the other was frantically scribbling down notes. The tutors were friendly, one man (a Dr Jahn I think) I found incredibly intimidating.

Aargh, erm…*thinks back* The first interview focussed mainly on my essays (which were on Chartism and African-American history) and questions led on from them (When did the study of social history begin? Why did the Chartists not campaign for women’s rights as well?)

In the second interview I had to read a short article on the nature of history in education and we discussed it very briefly. They were very interested in the fact that I was taking Film Studies as an A level and asked me questions about history and film (What would be differences in a film made by a ‘normal’ filmmaker and a historian? Do you think modern history is more relevant than ancient and medieval history? Did you like living in Tanzania? Are modern historians more nihilistic about religion? – That last stumped me, I had no clue what ‘nihilistic’ meant and was too embarrassed to ask.)

I didn’t want to look too dressy or too casual, the result was I just felt a bit uncomfortable. I had new corderoy trousers on, they were too big and kept slipping down. Definitely don’t go in new clothes (or if you do, make sure they fit properly!)

Impressions

I remember walking around Clare on my interview day, faintly surprised that it wasn’t as lovely as I seemed to remember – absolutely gorgeus gardens though.

I only saw one on the open day, it wasn’t particularly impressive though of course by no means awful.

Pretty bad, the usual greasy canteen stuff.

Clever and intimidating.

Friendly and supremely confident.

Final stage

I knew I hadn’t got in, but the wait was still agonising – there was a whole ‘well-maybe-it-didn’t-go-as-badly-as-I-thought-it-did’ thing running through my mind that kept me hoping…

Again, not real surprise but this horrible knot of disappointment clenched up in my stomach anyway. I could tell my parents were disappointed and I wasn’t looking forward to the whole Oxbridge reject label that was inevitable.

Looking back

Probably, just to see. I’d definitely choose another college, a more modern one, and possibly go for Russian instead of History. (Or, if I’d decided to do history and Russian then I’d apply for Oxford.)

I won’t lie – the rejection hurt. But life moves on and getting into Oxbridge certainly isn’t the most important thing in the grand scheme of things. See it as useful life experience and PLEASE don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you’re rejected, then you’re clearly not good enough for them. That’s just BS. I’m currently in my first year at Edinburgh, reading History and Russian, absolutely loving it and having a much less stressful time of things compared to my Oxbridge peers.!