Application

 Cambridge

 St Catharine’s

 Natural Sciences (Biological)

 2001

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 FE College

 yes (9 A*,2 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, One of the As must be in biology.

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

The usual reasons – its reputation, the chance to be taught by leading researchers in their field, pleasant surroundings and good job prospects

Cambridge offers Natural sciences as opposed to striaght biochemistry/biology so I could defer deciding on what I wanted to specialise in until the third year.

Its not too big, centrally located and has a reputation for being a friendly college

Preparation

yes

Mock interviews.

If you are applying to St Catharines spell it with an ‘ar’ not an ‘er’. Dont mention that you have read specific books unless you can talk about them at length and understand them fully – if you have just skimmed them then you will be found out!

Interview

no

yes

I submitted an essay entitled ‘The synthesis of ATP and its importance in living organisms’ as this was the only vaguely relevant and suitable thing I had done. It was originally a practice for the synoptic Biology paper which I rewrote and lengthened.

no

I had two interviews, the first was upposed to be general but in fact was also subject based as the interviewer was an ecologist. Both interviews took the form of a discussion rather than a series of questions and answers and they were very relaxed and not at all formal or scary. however the questions were probing and you would quickly be found out if you didn’t know what you were talking about.

Lots, including 1. Why Cambridge, St. Catharines, Natural sciences? 2. Which part of biology don’t you like? 3. Asked about my Biology coursework – how does the number of samples collected affest the significance levels for the Spearman’s Rank correlation coefficient? 4. Why don’t humans and other mammals grow back limbs that have been lost in a similar way to lizards and crustaceans? 5.Talk about a scientific article that you have read recently. 6. What is cell ultrastructure, why can’t it be seen by a light microscope? 7. How does an electron microscope work? What are the limitations? 8. Draw a mitochondria, relate structure to function. 9. Where may mitochondria and chloroplasts have originally have come from, what evidence is there for this? 10. What causes evolution? Email me for more details!

I wore a black wooly jumper and grey trousers. Vaguely smart but not overdressed. I wanted to be warm as it was freezing when I went for my interview. I’m glad I didn’t wear a skirt or a suit – I would have felt really out of place as all the other applicants were dressed really casually.

Impressions

From what I saw of St. Catharines (I didn’t go to an open day there) it seemed really friendly and welcoming – not at all intimidating. Everyone, including the other applicants seemed really nice.
I also went to an openday at Peterhouse which I didn’t really like – it seemed really traditional and the other people there at the open day didn’t seem as friendly.

Didn’t see any unfortunately. I would advise all applicants to stay in college accomadation if it is offered – I didn’t and I wish I had.

N/A

My interviewers were really nice – friendly and not patronising. they were also suprisingly young.

Some students came into the room where we were waiting for our interviews and chatted to us and told us not to worry etc. which I thought was really nice and made me feel much better.

Final stage

I had just come back from holiday when I got the letter so it was 8.00pm when I opened it. I was very very pleased and excited.

Looking back

Of course!

If you have a realistic chance of getting an offer, go to an open day and see if you like it – don’t just dismiss the idea like I almost did. However, if after that you don’t think that you would want to go there, think carefully about applying – I think an offer would be difficult to refuse even if it wasn’t really the place for you.