St John’s



 pooled, offer made (Churchill)






 Independent – selective

 yes (1 A*,5 A,5 B)


(B at AS)

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

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

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

Details about the offer





 offer met

Decisions about the application

I thought that the collegiate system was an excellent method of teaching, being part of both a large and small body of students simultaneously. There seems to be a very different approach to learning than at most universities, and there are excellent facilities in all fields.

I preferred the course, and i was aware of a higher standard of practical music making there. Both my grandfather and my uncle were at Cambridge.

It was large, rich, with excellent music facilities, and in the centre of town. When i visited on an open day there was a lively atmosphere, and i got on well with the supervisors.



We had the choice to have pracise interviews with someone from outside the school, and everyone automatically had a practise interview with the headmistress. Our head of sixth form also checked over everybody’s UCAS forms (not just Oxbridge applicants). Most of these were aimed towards students applying for the more mainstream subjects.

On Cambridge Application Form: Sound enthusiastic, and try and make the person reading want you more than anybody else. Make sure you keep a copy of your form and be aware of any follow-through questions they might ask you based on what you have written! (i.e. try not to lie/exaggerate too much)

On interviews: Try to have a good overall view of the history of music, and have a more in depth knowledge in at least 2 specific areas (preferably something slightly more unusual). Also, it is a very good idea to find out the interests of the people interviewing you, so you don’t get caught out (possibly avoid those areas if you can, unless you yourself are an expert in them!!)




We were requested to submit two contrasting essays, a piece of harmony, a piece of counterpoint, and a composition if we wanted.I did all of these, although due to the AS course i had done minimal music essays, and very little counterpoint.


My first interview was a general one with the Senior Tutor.
My subject interview was with the head of music at Cambridge, as the Director of Studies at St.John’s was on sabbatical.
Both were conducted in their rooms on sofas, in a fairly informal style.

I wasn’t asked any particularly taxing questions in my general interview. Mainly things to find out how i could expand on what i was asked, and to find out more about me as a person. He was very friendly. My sibject interview was unlike any i have come across in other colleges: There were no keyboard/aural tests, and i was not given any piece to analyse. Instead i was asked to choose 2 composers to talk about, and asked very specific questions. It was very much geared towards not only seeing how much i knew, but also to find how i used my brain, not just regurgitating what i learnt in school. It was hard work, but interesting.

I didn’t own any suits, so i wore some smart trousers and a top, and comfortable shoes. It is important that you give the right impression straight away, and how you present yourself is most important.


St.John’s: when i went for interview, there were not very many people around. I pretty much looked after myself, but everybody was helpful when asked. I felt very happy that i’d applied there.
Churchill: After getting my offer i went to look around. Everybody was extremely helpful. I met the director of studies and discussed the course. It was very informal.

St.John’s: large, extremely comfortbale rooms. good heating. big windows.


Very helpful and encouraging. Not at all scary.

Final stage

I was on a music course when i received my Pool letter.I was fairly happy that i’d been pooled, because i knew that a college like St.John’s was very competitive, and i knew people that had been rejected. the hardest thing was waiting to hear if i’d got an offer from another college. I was the first person on my course to hear- I got a phonecall from my mum saying that Churchill had rung me with a 3 A offer, but they were sure i wouldn’t want to accept! I talked it over with her, as i knew little about the college except that it was ‘modern’ and slightly further out of town. However in the end it was Camrbidge i wanted to go to, and not St.John’s. I now can’t believe that the thought of not accepting the offer even crossed my mind!

Looking back

Absolutely. And i would probably apply to Churchill straight away rather than to St.John’s. I’ve had a very happy first two terms there, and am really enjoying the course and love the college, despite it often being criticised by others for being ‘ugly’. The teaching there is good, the facilities excellent, and my room is superb! What more could i ask for?!

Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t offered a place, or are pooled- it DOESN’T mean you’re a failure. It either means that your interviewer did not feel that you’d cope with the course (they have had a lot of practise finding out!), or you/he had a bad day, and you did not perform your best. Alternatively if you are pooled, it may simply be that there were only a certain number of spaces at that college, but that the interviewer felt that you were certainly up to Cambridge standard.
And most importantly, Cambridge is not the only good university!!! If you are unlucky it is NOT the end of the world. You can either reapply, or got to your second choice- there are plenty of excellent universities around.
But whatever you do in your interview, be positive! Negative vibes are easily picked up by the interviewer, and easily lower your chances.