Application

 Cambridge

 Trinity

 Mathematics and/with Computer Science

 1999

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – selective

 yes (7 A*,2 A)

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)

Cambridge STEP Maths

(predicted 1; gained 1)

(predicted 1; gained 2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics, A in Mathematics (Further), A in Physics, 1 in STEP II, 1 in STEP III

excluding Latin

yes

N/A

 offer missed, still accepted

Decisions about the application

Reach for the sky. I never considered not applying. Everyone encouraged it and there *is* that prestige that comes from the excellent teaching and reputation.

There wasn’t much contest really. I always wanted to go to Cambridge, I’d looked around a few times and fell in love with the place. It’s also got a fabulous reputation for maths. I went to Oxford on an open day and it just wasn’t right for me.

To quote from my Cambridge statement:

“Coming from a small sixth form where class sizes range from 3 to 9, Cambridge’s tutorial and collegiate systems appeal to me far more than the vast university-wide arrangements which are standard at other institutions. The companionship, fraternity and general atmosphere of the colleges makes the university seem more friendly than the impersonal systems in place elsewhere, and this is important to me – I feel that the individual attention given by tutors will be of great benefit, and that the academic and mathematical nature of the course will be perfect for me. Cambridge’s excellent reputations for mathematics and computer science, as well as the numerous other facilities on offer, have attracted me to the university, and visits to various open days have confirmed my choice.”

I was torn between St Catz and Queens’, but Trinity won with its superiority in mathematics and recommendation by my teacher.
It’s also the richest and largest college, with the most maths students, and has piles of history. But I didn’t know that at the time. I hastily scribbled a T in the box seconds before handing my form in?

Preparation

yes

I had a mock interview outside of school, as well as a couple of interviews at other unis before Cambridge. I also started practicing Oxford entrance papers because I knew I was going to have a test.

Interview

no

no

yes

Eventually found the room I was meant to be in. These places are *very* easy to get lost in! Once the previous group had come out, in I and two others went to face our test. Test? Exam. Ten mathematical questions and, looking at them, I couldn’t do a single one. Oh, hang on, one looks like centres of mass.. we’ve just done that… So I attempted that question, and another that was vaguely on logic, and a third on something completely different that escapes me now. Time ticked past, and off I went to my interview.

It was raining, and I was greeted by this friendly-looking academic who asked me to wait a while while the other man finished his phone call. After brief converse about the weather, in I went with my exam paper. We talked the paper over, while I found I had got two of the three questions completely wrong and seemed to know no maths whatsoever – and then they asked me to do question 2 in front of them. My nightmare. I couldn’t see where to begin – it was volume of a sphere cut by a vertical line – but with a little prodding I saw it was integration and could work it out without any help, which I think impressed them but my initial stupidity probably lowered their expectations! <grin>

That was the interview nearly over. I had one question about my A’levels; Why Latin? To which I replied “Because I liked it”, which, to be honest, is the only reason I’m doing it… No evil questions about what I liked in maths. No current affairs. No computer cutting edge developments. No “Surprise me!” or “Talk on anything you like for five minutes” – something an Arch/Anth applicant at Oxford got.

I came out thinking “God, that was awful, but I think I did my best”.

Integrate from first principles to find the volume of a sphere either side of an intersection with a line. Also why Latin. I asked about changing to maths or compsci at the end of the first year because I wasn’t sure from the prospectus and it gave me something to ask.

I wore a suit because I feel comfortable in a suit. I only saw about 3 other applicants, and suits seemed to be the thing, which made me a bit more comfortable.

Impressions

I didn’t visit Trinity before my interview. I wish I had seen it for the first time under more favourable circumstances. It’s gorgeous. And huge. And gorgeous.

Peterhouse which I visited on an open day is small but still quite nice, and Magdalene is beautiful.

Rooms generally quite big; some face out on to the streets though, which is a nuisance. First years live opposite the bar (Angel Court) or in the two areas over the road (Wolfson Building and Blue Boar Court). Wolfson has ensuite but it’s very modern and depressing, it’s not a nice place to live. Blue Boar is nice but up loads of stairs and again you get street noise. Nearer Sainsbury’s than Angel though. I like Angel Court (I’m in B-second floor now). All 1st year rooms have network points 🙂 and sinks and things, and some have fridges. Quite cold though, and my window doesn’t shut properly.

Edible but not great
It’s not very good for vegetarians, and no vegan option at all. Stay away from crispy fried vegetables. I don’t know what lurks under that batter.

At the interview they were very intimidating but friendly enough. Now I have supervisions with them… some are really friendly and fun, and others are very academic and a bit patronising when you don’t know something or you don’t hand in enough work. Trinity takes its maths too seriously, I suppose you could say.

I didn’t see any at the time. In retrospect though.. It’s such a big college, there are all types here. There are people who hole themselves up and do work 24/7; some who do no work and still do well; and some who are ‘normal’ 🙂 like me. It’s really easy to make friends but in freshers’ week there are so many people to meet and remember you have to wait a while until the subject/location groups start to form.

Final stage

I wasn’t at home, I was 50 miles away with my SO – it was the day before New Year’s Eve.
My mum opened the letter on the phone.
It was the worst ten seconds of my life.
“Dear Miss… we are happy to offer you…” I just jumped up and down for about ten minutes. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, because the waiting was over.

Looking back

I would, because I got in, so I can do it 🙂 I said before that I would apply somewhere not requiring STEP, but I feel the way of thinking STEP has given me helps immensely in the first few weeks, and Trinity is wonderful, so I don’t think I’d change a thing 🙂

Don’t just apply because it’s Oxbridge. Don’t apply if you aren’t confident of your subject. Don’t apply if you have doubts about the course – if you get in, you’ll be studying it for years. The courses can be very academic, traditional (especially medicine) and *hard work*. If you’re not prepared to work, you won’t do well there. Don’t apply just because someone else did; it’s just extra hassle.

In my case, my teacher suggested it (years before my A’levels, but that’s a different story…). Ask your teachers straightforwardly what grades you’re going to get: if it’s anything below AAB, think carefully about applying. I know that sounds patronising but that’s the way it is. Your GCSEs don’t matter as much as some people would lead you to believe; one B will not leave you with a permanent black mark; but if you have Bs in your A’level subjects, you’d better have a good reason for them or show vastly improved performance in your Lower Sixth year. Admittedly the people at my school who got in got, between them, 25 A*s and 2 As at GCSE… (and yes those shameful As were mine)