Application

 Cambridge

 Sidney Sussex

 Natural Sciences (Biological)

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – selective

 yes (9 A*)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, The exact offer was; an A in Biology, an A in Chemistry, and an A in French OR maths.

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I like the idea of the tutorial system – being able to bounce ideas off an expert in the field without many other people there to make you feel self-conscious. Also: it’s a challenge, the surroundings are, let’s face it, gorgeous, and of course there’s the nice idea of being able to put ‘Cantab’ after your name… 😉 Plus I love the flexibility of the course.

I just preferred Cambridge as a city – I’m a country girl (oo-aarr) and it just felt greener and pleasanter.

I walked in and fell in love! It seemed the friendliest, most open college – and of course it has lovely gardens as well.

Preparation

yes

A mock interview – which was scarier than the real thing!

Take your time with the Cambridge form. If you make a mistake it’s a real pain filling it all in again! And don’t worry about the photo: if they let me in despite my picture, no-one else has anything to worry about…

Interview

no

no

no

I had two interviews: one was supposed to be a general interview (but my interviewer was a geneticist so we ended up discussing the human genome project) and one was scientific: I had two interviewers for that one but it wasn’t as scary as it sounds.

The question that sticks in my mind the most was in the scientific interview: one of the interviewers held up a shell and I had to work out the characteristics of the creature that inhabited it from the features of this shell. He did guide me through it though! There was also a question on how a bouncing ball loses energy (physics, yuck), and one on respiration: did I think aerobic or anaerobic respiration had evolved first and why (amongst other discussion). In the general interview, as well as talking about the human genome, I was asked how I thought my extracurricular activites at school and elsewhere had prepared me for Cambridge – which I found really hard!

A shirt and smart trousers – I wanted to be smart but comfortable.

Impressions

Really friendly – all of them are, really, but Sidney just seemed more so. I also really liked Trinity Hall: the smaller colleges appealed to me more because they seemed more personal.

I only saw one of the nicer rooms – in fact it was a set! Very nice, reasonable size, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t all like that.

NA
(They haven’t fed me yet.)

The ones I met were really helpful; when I went for the interview their calm and friendly attitude helped calm me down a lot.

They were lovely.

Final stage

My parents found the letter and woke me up – I was so bleary I couldn’t find the letter in the envelope at first! When I got it I suddenly woke up, can’t imagine why, and then the innumerable phone calls began… Be aware though that the letter isn’t thick – there’s not a huge amount in it. So don’t panic and assume you’ve been rejected as soon as you see the thin envelope!

Looking back

Yes. It was a stressful experience at the time, but I think it was very worthwhile – apart from anything else, the sort of questions you get asked at interview get your brain to work in a slightly different way and I kind of enjoyed that.

Firstly, don’t panic about the interviews, before or afterwards. The interviewers are really lovely – they want to bring out the best in you, not trip you up – and don’t worry about the result. I thought I’d screwed up; I think most people do, actually, from what I hear. And if you get rejected don’t feel like a failure! I have several friends who were rejected (from Oxford, actually – see, Cambridge is better 😉 ), who we all thought were bound to get in because they were just incredibly good at their particular disciplines. The interviewers get so many clever people applying that at the end of the day, luck has to play a part.

Finally, good luck! 🙂