Application

 Cambridge

 Girton

 Natural Sciences (Physical)

 2000

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (6 A*,4 A)

A-levels

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

(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)

Other universities

yes

yes

Durham (NatSci) or Bristol (Chemical Physics). I am in a bit of a spot now. I shall have to spend some time making my decision between the two.

Decisions about the application

I believed that it would have been the best place for me to spend the next four years of my life:- the quality of teaching and research were above other universities.

Oxford does not offer a degree where both Chemistry and Physics can be studied.

It was out of town (I liked the idea of having a 10 minute cycle ride every morning) and after looking around it I knew that it was the place for me.

Preparation

yes

Yes, but I had to approach the teachers myself, as I don’t think that it is normally done. I had a mock Chemistry and a mock Physics interview; neither of these were any practical use.

The Forms: Get started on it as soon a possible. Do draft copies and re-drafts etc. until you feel it is as good as it possibly can be.

The interview(s): I would say based upon my experience it is unnecessary to read around the subjects. Revising basic principles would be much more useful, as I was not asked anything in the least abstract.

Interview

no

no

no

I went down the afternoon before my interviews, as I had to select an article that I wanted to discuss the next day. Everyone was sat down in the same room and we all had about an hour to read through the three options. After that we had dinner and then had free time until the next morning. I had four interviews, spaced out generously through the day. Inbetween the 20 minute interviews people gathered in the coffee room and chatted.

The interviewers asked the same questions to everyone, so many people were inadvertantly giving their peers an unfair advantage. One of the questions was to differentiate 2^x, which one boy was able to work out before his interview.

There were no questions about topics I had included on my personal statement. It would be unfair to say that the interviews didn’t care about you as a person, but they didn’t seem to be interested in you. I would have preferred to have fewer, longer interviews, allowing you to come across as a person and not just a series of answers. The interviewers had set answers that they were looking for eg. when discussing light entering a telescope I was asked “what type of light?” I mentioned the different wavelengths and carried on talking until I said that the light rays could be treated as parallel as they were coming from so far away. Instantly my interviewer came alive and said “Yes! That’s right, parallel.” And he swiftly move along. I could tell that he had been looking for a single specific answer to a very open-ended question.

I felt as if my whole interview process was going to be summed up as a series of ticks and crosses.

I suppose that this is just the manner which Girton prefers to conduct its NatSci interviews – there must be some reason for doing it in this manner, but it was not at all like I had expected it to be. I was thinking that I would be asked questions more along the lines of “Can you describe what happens when a match is lighted in orbiting space craft,” etc.

Interview 1 (General): not many general questions! a few details about my college and then the obvious question about how my modules were going. The bulk of the interview was spent talking about friction between two surfaces at the atomic level. Had to use paper and pen to illustrate what I was attempting to say. Interview 2 (Physics): Differentiation, logarithms, etc. I was requested to comment on a system where a mass was oscillating on a spring. An electronics question was also thrown in at the end. Interview 3 (Chemistry): Shapes of molecules. How could we deduce bond angles? Isotopes. Builting up the periodic table and relating it to compound formation. Drawing dot and cross diagrams. Interview 4 (Article): I chose an article dealing with liquid mirror telescopes, as it was a subject that I had come across before and felt that I would be able to answer the predictable questions. I was asked to give a basic summary of the aricle and then we discussed the physics behing some of the principles in the aricle (centripedal force etc.).

Suit and tie. Smart clothes show that you have made an effort and that you are taking the whole process seriously. I already had these clothes, so it was not a great effort to take them to Cambridge with me. If I had not got a suit, I would certainly not have bought one especially.

Impressions

After visiting Girton I fell in love with it – which is sad, as I will probably never see it again. The staff and students seemed very friendly and helpful and it had a very strong community spirit.

Average size, high ceilings. Stained walls. Nice view. All in all I think that there was nothing to complain about. I believe that regardless of how poor the accomodation and food are you would be stupid to let that put you off Girton.

Good

Friendly, pleasant, etc. They seemed very rushed though and did not have time to do anything but ask their pre-determined questions.

Friendly and kind.

Final stage

Scan read it for the worry “sorry”. Found it. Put the letter back in the envelope. Went downstairs and made a cup of tea. Went upstairs and re-read the letter properly. Thought very negative things.

Looking back

I am assuming that the question means would I re-live it knowing that I would be rejected? If not, then it would just be history repeating.

No I would not apply to Cambridge knowing that I would be rejected. The whole process caused way to much pain for it to be justified as an “experience you will remember for the rest of your life.”

Don’t let that put you off though, because nobody knows that they are going to be rejected. Even if there was the slimmest chance of an acceptance I would have still applied.

Do something that you love doing the day before the interview. I spent the day in my darkroom printing photos. Just do something to remind yourself that whatever the outcome, life will go on. Do the same the day before your decision letter is due to arrive.