Application

 Cambridge

 Robinson

 History

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (8 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(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 A; gained A at A2)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted Distinction; gained Distinction)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Economics, A in History, A in Mathematics

AAA

yes

yes

yes

 offer met

Decisions about the application

It is reputed to be the “best” University education and I wanted to show myself and others that I could achieve it. And Cambridge is *the* place for History in terms of the libraries and Supervisions.

There is never any harm in aiming for the top, as long as you bear in mind i) it’s hard to get there and ii) you never know where the top is, even if you reach it.

The Cambridge course was recommended by my teacher above the Oxford one. Also, I knew one person at Cambridge and he encouraged me to apply there. And the course options seemed more interesting, offering lots of breadth *and* depth.

I can think of no other substitute for learning about who we are, where we as humans have come from, and what we could be coming to. History is the only thing I have truly been fascinated by.

It’s modern, and seemed both lively and friendly in the prospectus. Also, it was not right in the middle of the town, so there are far fewer tourists.

It is worth visiting the college to which you apply, since this is the best way of finding out whether you might feel comfortable there. Equally, some find differences between colleges almost imperceptible – you find this out by visiting friends in other colleges.

Preparation

yes

I had two practice interviews, both of which were useful in the material they covered (I had to read an article in the first and the second was a discussion of my essays). Also, the head of admissions and at my school and my form tutor were very encouraging and helpful in the advice they gave.

I had read lots on British Imperial History, partly since this was a subject I had mentioned in my Personal Statement, Cambridge form, and Robinson questionnaire, but mainly because it was one that I was interested in. However, I wasn’t asked any questions on it, even though I think one of the interviewers specialised in 19th Century British History! Nonetheless, it helped my confidence to read a few books before the interviews. Make sure you can talk about History in its broadest sense (perhaps for the ‘general’ interview) and, although you will feel nervous, just try to relax! I actually enjoyed the second interview!! 😉

Interview

no

yes

Two history essays; the first was my extended essay draft from my History A2 course. It was just over 3000 words long, but I had spent much of the previous few weeks before the interview re-drafting it, so I knew the material well. The second essay was just under 3 sides long, written in Year 12. It was on Henry VII’s control of the nobility during his reign. I thought it showed I had breadth of knowledge and didn’t *just* study 20th Century Germany (although we studied this to death through KS4 and A-Level as well).

yes

Comprehension of a passage of historical writing from a choice of maybe half a dozen. We were encouraged to make notes and think about date of creation, provenance, etc.

This depends on how self-critical you are.

It’s always easy to find faults but sometimes you do not realise that you have done the hard bits well.

The first interview was the ‘general one’. I was expecting questions on my interests and hobbies, but apart from one question on voluntary work I have done, it was history-orientated. I was asked (roughly): what does History teach us? why is History important to you? if you could keep objects from the present for the future, what would they be?
I can’t remember the other questions, except I did talk about the uses and abuses of History, so there must have been a question on this! Just before the second interview, which was the ‘subject’ one, I had to read and annotate a passage of text. I was led by one of the students through the garden and into a house with the widest front door I have ever seen. The interview itself was with the tutors who share the Director of Studies post. I was asked to summarise the work I had sent in, and then was asked specific questions (roughly): did Henry’s usurpation in 1485 mark the start of a more modern monarchy? did the participants of the Indian Mutiny look back on history to justify their aims or actions? did you read all the books mentioned in your extended essay? For this, I said ‘no’, because firstly, I had listed about 12 books in my bibliography so reading them all would have been stupid and taken way too much time, and secondly, I know that’s not the aim of the History degree. I said that I was selective, using the books in a reference-type way to counter arguments that I came across. I think he liked this answer 🙂 Also, I was asked to summarise the argument of the author of the passage I had chosen. I got a bit of it glaringly wrong, although the other interviewer helped me through it. I’m sure I was asked a few other questions, but I can’t remember them at the moment!

A suit with a tie, white shirt and black jumper, because it was quite cold!

Impressions

Robinson is modern, so there are lots of red bricks around you, but I’m not bothered too much about architecture. After all, if you want architecture, just stroll around the other colleges. And, the garden is nice and the people there – porters, admissions office staff, students – were very friendly.

Robinson has some of the best accommodation because it’s so new. I stayed in a huge en-suite room for three years, having come in the middle of the ballot for the 2nd and 3rd years.

Very good for mainstream tastes.

They didn’t tear me apart so I’m obliged to say that they were nice! I felt relaxed very quickly in both interviews, and they didn’t make me feel intimidated, which was a stereotype I believed before I went to the interview.

They were very friendly and talked to the applicants quite a bit to help calm our nerves.

Final stage

Not especially fretful but not 100% relaxed either. The waiting process did not induce any dreams or nightmares.
It was a bit like waiting for your team to score their 5th goal in a penalty shootout, with the scores tied at 4-4 and with the other team having missed their last spot-kick. If that helps.

I was pretty happy. Like practically everyone else, I thought I was going to be rejected, so reading, “following your recent interview I am pleased…” was *very* pleasing.

Looking back

Yes, because anyone who applies has a chance and filling in the form, going there, doing interviews, and at the end of it getting in is a wonderful experience.

On top of the stuff I wrote before, I would say: prepare by reading through all the statements and essays and whatever else you sent them, because I think they were reading that during the interview. Also, don’t make yourself think that Oxbridge is the only place where you can learn and enjoy yourself for three years.
You need to want to study your subject *more* than you need to want to go to Oxbridge – that makes the whole journey much easier and more enjoyable.