Application

 Cambridge

 Selwyn

 Modern & Medieval Languages

 1996

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

I came from a school which rarely sent people to Oxbridge and when they did, it was for science or maths. Teachers were supportive, fellow pupils less so, to put it mildly.

 yes (12 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

I also had to take STEP in French and German (now defunct). Requirement was 1,2, I ended up with 1,S

Details about the offer

 conditional

B in English Literature, A in French, A in German, 1 in STEP I, 2 in STEP I

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I think that I felt I would fit in to a fairly academic environment. I also wanted to go to as good a university as possible and liked the idea of the supervision system.

Oxford’s modern language prospectus came with some quotes from current students. One bloke said that the main reason he loved being there was because of the warm, cosy feeling he got every time he entered his college and thought “Every one of the people here has an IQ of more than 120”. That pretty much predisposed me towards Cambridge.

I love languages.

I had absolutely no idea which college to apply to, so I picked one that seemed fairly friendly, wasn’t too massive, ancient or pompous – and was located so close to my faculty that I could literally get out of bed ten minutes before a lecture started.

Preparation

no

I didn’t have any preparation, though they did get hold of some past STEP papers for me to look at. They were certainly great in terms of moral support.

Interviewers are looking for originality and thoughtfulness. Read around your subject if you can, bring some questions with you, feel free to state confidently that you need a question to be clarified if you’re not sure what’s meant.

Interview

no

no

no

My mind has wiped any real memory of them. The interviewers were all male, rather public school, and I had 3 individual sessions, each with just 1 interviewer. I can’t say that they were particularly enjoyable. The French interview consisted of reading a passage from Gide aloud and then discussing it, partly in French, partly in English. The German was a more general discussion about the reading I’d done at A-level – not that there was much of it – and it was again a mix of English and German. I felt rather out of place.

I would so have appreciated some preparation for the interview, I was extremely nervous and intimidated by the fact that I was coming from the state system. I think access programmes have improved since then – it would have been wonderful to talk to some students already at Cambridge beforehand.

The usual: why languages, why Selwyn, what do you want to do with them later on, what particular interests would you like to explore in the course of the degree (I said that ideally, I would want to work towards more comparative papers, with some degree of interdisciplinarity).

I didn’t really have a massive wardrobe of clothes to choose from, so basically the least tatty of the relatively formal stuff I had to had. not particularly formal, but I figured that if they judged me on that, I would perhaps be best off not going there in the first place.

Impressions

It did seem quite friendly, but my impression afterwards was pretty hazy due to the general stress of being there for interview and not knowing anybody.

I didn’t get accommodation on site, so had to stay in a B&B outside the centre of town.

I really don’t recall. I’m not even sure any was provided.

As I said, relatively public school, but accommodating and friendly enough.

There were very few around as it was after term time.

Final stage

Trepidation, dread, sense of impending doom, excitement, a mixture of being scared of not getting in and being scared of getting in.

Again, I really don’t remember. I think my last A-level year was all a bit of a haze as I was so keen to get it over with 🙂

Looking back

Yes, but I would probably take a gap year and apply to a different college. This is not because the college was awful, it’s just I think I would have been better suited to a slightly different environment. As for the gap year, it would have been helpful to have had a little more experience of “real life” before taking the plunge and I would just recommend this to anyone who can afford it before going to uni.

From a vantage point 14 years after applying, I can safely say that it is REALLY helpful to take the time to visit some colleges before applying. This will give you a basis to choose from. Also, state school applicants, try and attend some access events because I suffered from a real lack of self-confidence because of being fed the old stereotype of Oxbridge = public school territory. Also, if you can get in touch with some people at Cambridge doing something in your area just to talk about it, this will boost your confidence and again help you to make a more informed and confident decision. Please don’t think that you shouldn’t consider Oxbridge if you hail from the state system and are a bit intimidated or ill-informed about it – go for it!