Application

 Cambridge

 Queens’

 Modern & Medieval Languages

 2002

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – selective

Applied for French and Italian.
Not known if school was selective.

 yes (5 A*,4 A,2 B)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

Predicted A/B for English Literature

Other universities

N/A

Decisions about the application

In Year 11, the headmistress of my school said to my parents that she believed I was capable of going to Oxbridge. I decided that I had to apply, otherwise I would always be faced with the question of “what if?”.

When I originally was picking my course, as I remember, the Oxford prospectus stressed that the Modern Languages course would be heavily literature-based, which, at the time I was making the choice, did not sound right for me. If I’m honest, it was also a matter of instinct.

It was the college in which I had lunch when I went for the MML open day, so I already knew I liked the surroundings. I wanted to be able to audition for the Chapel Choir once I had started at university, which I would have been able to do at Queens’, and in general, there seemed to be a strong music and drama community.

Preparation

yes

My French teacher fitted in some extra speaking practices with me, and my Head of Sixth Form gave me a mock interview.

For the forms, no, simply because I don’t know what they’re looking for. I would say, follow the general advice for personal statements etc, but make sure you’re not trying to seem cleverer than you are, because they will know.

Practice speaking in the foreign language(s) you are applying for. Although it only counts for a small part of the interview, you will probably feel more confident.

If you are studying one of the languages from scratch, find out information about the country. Try and have as many reasons as possible for wanting to study it.

Also, read a copy of “Cambridge Interviews: The Facts”.

Interview

no

yes

One school essay, written in French. The essay I submitted was on the subject of immigrants in France, and was chosen on the basis that my teacher felt it was the best essay I’d written this year.

no

Firstly I had an interview with the French tutor. It was due to be with two French tutors, but only one was present. I had to be outside the room 15 minutes before the interview to prepare a given passage of French. In the interview, we discussed what I had been studying at A-level, including talking about aspects of grammar that I had covered, and two of the topics I had given as possible topics to be talked about in the interview. Then I was asked to read the passage aloud, and we talked about it in French for about 5 minutes.

The second interview was the general one. During this, I was asked to explain why I’d chosen to carry on English Literature to A-level (seeing as I had got a B at GCSE and a B at AS-level), and then I was asked about why I wanted to start learning Italian, and what I already knew about Italy and its history (which wasn’t a great deal!). We spoke a little about my musical interests, and then I was asked to compare Italian music with French or English music.

I think this is everything we covered in the interview, though I may have forgotten some things!

A beige-brown woollen jumper, and brown cord trousers. I felt it was smarter than ordinary casual clothes, without being too formal. I would have been comfortable wearing a suit, but since it was said that it wasn’t necessary, I didn’t bother.

Impressions

I felt that Queens’ College was a friendly place. I had to stay overnight before my interview, and a third-year student who had stayed on after the end of term kindly gave me a tour of the college.

The room I stayed in was of a reasonable size – but was absolutely freezing! The showers/toilet were just down the hall, and there was a wash basin in the room.

Edible but not great

The evening meal was nice, but the breakfast food wasn’t hot, making it edible but far from great.

The French tutor, Dr Crowley, was really friendly, and I was told by the student who showed me round that he had a really good reputation. I felt at ease with him and that he was giving me a chance to say as much as I could. Dr Pountain was, again, friendly. The interview with him was more testing, but of course, the interviews are meant to be testing. But I felt, though only very slightly, that he was looking down on me for wanting to carry on a subject when I’d ONLY received a B for it at GCSE/AS, and it didn’t seem that my reasons (the main one being pure enjoyment of the subject) were good enough. But that was just my perception, I could be entirely wrong.

From what I saw, very friendly. The two students who helped show us round the college when I was there at the MML Open Day were very enthusiastic about their college, but in a genuine way.

Final stage

I opened it, with my father looking over my shoulder. I was neither surprised nor unsurprised, because I’d been entirely divided about what I thought might happen: part of me felt that I had a very good chance of getting in, but equally, part of me didn’t really feel that I’d shown myself to be “Oxbridge material”. I felt okay about it, and still do, because I do have other offers, and firmly believe that I’ll be happy at whichver university I go to.

Looking back

Yes, because the whole process was a very valuable experience. I had to come on my own by train, making two changes on the way – and any practice of train traveling is good! I had to stay overnight in a strange place. And I had to have two interviews, which weren’t really like the mock interview I’d had. And once you’ve done something once, you know you should be able to do it again.

It won’t be exactly like you expect. And I think it’s very hard to tell whether it’s gone or well or not, so don’t worry about that.

Most importantly, view it as an experience, rather than an ordeal. Also, I wouldn’t apply if you’ve got your heart set on and couldn’t bear the thought of anywhere else – because even the best candidates may be rejected.