Application

 Cambridge

 St John’s

 Law

 2000

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (10 A*)

A-levels

(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)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained NA)

(predicted NA; gained NA)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAB, Excluding General Studies.

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

For Law, an Oxbridge education means a lot, given the degree of competition for the top jobs. Cambridge topped the Times league table for Law as well, so it seemed worth a try. I was in two minds about applying though, because it does affect your applications to other institutions when you’re applying for the most popular subjects.

I never saw there as being a choice, to be honest. I didn’t decide to apply to ‘Oxbridge’, but I knew that Cambridge was a place which I would love to go to, while Oxford was one I didn’t. The fact that you can’t apply to both seemed irrelevant at the time.

All the usual reasons – big, old, rich, central, large number of Law students. Actually it was pretty much a random choice, made the night before I sent off my form, but it’s probably worth thinking about carefully since there is a great deal of difference between the colleges.

Preparation

yes

Yes – they were willing to give me as much as I asked for. In the end this involved some meetings with a barrister to talk over some legal issues, a very informal mock interview, some profiles from past applicants and some general advice. None of it helped greatly in the interview but it made me feel more comfortable with the idea of talking in front of other people, and talking about myself. For Law, they don’t assume any prior knowledge but the interview situation can be awkward if you’ve never experienced it before. I would advise getting someone to ask you some questions – on any topic – just so there’s less chance of freezing up, like I did.

They don’t shrink the Cambridge form, so you can use a smaller font to get more in. 🙂 Be honest, sell yourself without lying, try to make it different from the UCAS form since they see both. Expect to be asked questions on it in the personal interview. Remember it’s a chance for them to see your essay skills as well, which are important if they don’t see any written work. Grab a teacher for some advice if you want help with the best way of phrasing it.

Interview

no

no

yes

I had a reasnoning test. It was a bit like a condensed General Studies exam – no essays, but difficult comprehension passages and some logic questions. I think I got about half marks, but everyone said afterwards that it pushed them. There’s no preparation which you could do for it.

I stayed over the night before since I live a fair distance away, but ended up sitting up chatting for most of the night, so I was exhausted.

We were pretty much left to our own devices – just expected to turn up in the right place at the right time. The JCR was the ‘interviewee supprt centre’ but no one actually bothered unlocking it…

First interview was with two Lawyers. Firstly they wanted to know why French and English were good subjects to prepare for he study of Law. I didn’t know. After that we moved on to Law – who should get compensation for the Hillsborough disaster. I made a few comments, they built on that, and I made a few more inane remarks. Then we talked about land rights for natives – e.g. whether aborigines should be compensated for the land that was taken away from them. I went down the wrong track completely, but they took me back and sent me in the right direction. Again, more waffle. Finally they asked a question about the law of homicide, which was legal reasoning – no knowledge assumed. That one was probably the easiest of the three, but in all cases they led you into a trap – watch how they use your words in replying, and think before you speak. The personal interview wasn’t informal, but was more relaxed. The tutor (Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic) asked me about why I wanted to do Law, and my future plans. I didn’t actually have many so I waffled a bit more about how a Law degree is excellent for a wide range of careers, etc. We also talked about the hobbies I listed on my UCAS form, and my interest in languages, which was fine. We then moved on to some legal/political issues seen from a layman’s point of view. I think I was asked what is the greatest injustice in the country at the moment – things like that. I was also very unlucky in that my interview was on the day which the Guardian chose to launch a legal attack on the laws of succession based on the HRA – my first priority that morning had not been to buy a newspaper, so I had to think very quickly.

I wore a black trouser suit with a roll neck sweater underneath. This was a good choice – virtually everyone was in suits and it was very definitely a formal thing. I took off my jacket in the interviews, but that sort of set the ball rolling – gave us a chance to talk about the weather, to put me at ease.

Impressions

I saw most of the colleges while I was in Cambridge. The ones in the centre were all fairly similar.

John’s: Gorgeous, old, lovely architecture. The friendliest when I came to look around (I didn’t go to an open day). Large – but that’s what I wanted. Attracts a lot of tourists, which can be a pain.

Caius: Beautiful again, and friendly when I went to an open day. Decided it wasn’t for me because you have to eat in hall 5 times/week or something, which didn’t appeal.

Queens: Stayed here for a week. Lovely – very friendly, the right size, next to the river. Lots of things going on there, beyond academic stuff.

Queen’s: Large room in modern building. Very comfortable, although it was very cold, even in summer. All first-year rooms have a washbasin, with a bath/shower between about four. You can live in for all three years, which is good.

Caius: First years live in Harvey Court – nice setting, sociable arrangement with a balcony linking all rooms. I stayed in a set, with a living room and seperate bedroom, which was good.

John’s: The room I stayed in was lovely, but it wasn’t actually student accommodation. 🙂

Edible but not great

Not much variation while I was there. I think I would end up cooking for myself.

Tried hard to put me at my ease, which was an impossible task anyway. Young, friendly, great.

They were all scientists, for some reason, so it probably wasn’t a fair representation. They drink a lot, row a lot and work a lot. They were also very friendly towards me and comforting afterwards, so on the whole, good.

Final stage

Worried about whether they’d made a mistake. Thought that I wasn’t up to the course and worried that I’d decieved them. The though “sod it” and wore my thumbs out sending text messages. Then I went back to sleep and worried about my mocks.

Looking back

Yes, although I did find the whole thing quite stressful.

Remember Law is very, very competitive. Try reading a few books beforehand, so that you have some idea of what you may be asked. “Learning the Law” by Brian Simpson was recommended to me, and it’s worth skimming through. “How to do Things with Rules” is good as an introduction to legal reasoning.

Get lots of work experience, at courts and with lawyers – it’s not difficult to organise. I would also suggest applying to some sort of pre-university taster course – many places run them (I think Nottingham does a weekend every January). I went on the Sutton Trust scheme, and spent a week in Cambridge in the July before applying. It was excellent – if you go to a state school, it’s worth looking into.

Otherwise there’s not much you can do for the interview. I came out thinking that it had all been an unmitigated disaster, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice…

Don’t worry about it as much as I did otherwise you’ll be a mess, like I was. Try to relax, even if it’s difficult, and get a proper night’s sleep. Oxbridge isn’t the last word as far as universities go.