Application

 Cambridge

 King’s

 Mathematics

 2003

 pooled, offer made (Selwyn)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (4 A*,6 A,1 D)

A-levels

(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)

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

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

Cambridge STEP Maths

(predicted NA; gained 1)

(predicted NA; gained 2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

1 in STEP II, 2 in STEP III

AAB

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Been told I was good at Maths for a long time. Seemed sensible to go for the “best” at Uni. My research told me that Cambridge just squeezed in as top of the Maths tree

I asked an admissions tutor in Oxford where was the best place to study Maths in the country and she said “Cambridge or Warwick”. I asked an admissions tutor in Cambridge where was the best place to study Maths in the country and he said “Cambridge or Warwick”. I lived about 5 minutes away from Warwick so chose Cambridge

I received advice that Kings was “easier to get into for state school people”. This is in retrospect was very poor advice. Because they don’t ask for STEP papers lots of people apply – making the applicants per place ratio much higher and so making the interview process much harder. My advice to any would-be maths students would be to go to a different college and do STEP – it will be very useful when you come to Uni anyhow.

Preparation

yes

I had a teacher who was very keen for people to apply to Oxbridge. He gave some general interview tips.

Practice. If your school doesn’t formally provide help with interviews, badger them so that give informal help. It is not easy to get used to talking about maths out loud in real time – get some practice in and things will run a whole lot smoother on the day.

Interview

no

no

yes

I had to read a book. It was hard going – they certainly didn’t expect you to read and understand it all. I tried to do some of the exercies in the back of the book.

[i.e. this was the preparation this person had to do for a Maths exam at Cambridge]

Kings: One thirty minute interview with two male fellows. Then one thirty minute interview with a woman based on a book that I had to skim through beforehand.

Selwyn: Three interviews: Two half-hour maths based ones. One quarter-hour with an admissions tutor – “friendly chat” sort of thing.

One interview consisted entirely of maths questions. They assumed only A-level knowledge but asked questions that wouldn’t be found in a A-Level textbook! Another involved them asking the usual “why cambridge” dumbass questions.

Impressions

I can’t remember what I thought when I was first interviewed but this what I think now.
Kings: Tourist magnet – good cache if you go there but can be very annoying – cheap rent – excellent first year rooms – slightly more political than other colleges.

Selwyn : Very nice looking. Very friendly people. College authorities a bit nanny-ish though.Accommodation is OK but there are certainly better in other colleges. Very convienent for Sidgewick Site (=most Art subjects departments) Cost is average for Cambridge

First Year rooms : 60s halls of residence as seen all over the country. Two people to a shower. Rooms are not big but you don’t feel too squashed.
Later years : In Old court – very beautiful and excellently situated but kitchen/shower facilites are rank. Quite cold sometimes. Bigger rooms/two room sets. In hostels: enormous rooms but again generally rank facilities.

Edible but not great

Applies to food you get all the time – the food they give you free on interview day is generally much nicer if unadventurous.

They’re alright. Range from very academic to very normal.

I like them. They have been my friends for three years. Generally quite affluent (certainly above national student average) A small minority satisfy the criteria that frequently gives Cambridge the label “posh/elitist” in the outside world however the overwhelmingly majority do not and are “normal” pleasant people to spend your time with.

Final stage

Getting into the pool : Glad not to have been rejected outright but annoyed that my interviews had not gone as well as they should’ve done.

Looking back

Yes.

Go for it. It is only one spot out of six on your UCAS form. Who cares if it goes pear-shaped in the long run? If you do apply – badger everyone you can (teachers, careers advisors, parents) to give you some interview practice beforehand. It really does make a difference to have had some interview practice.