Application

 Cambridge

 Churchill

 Natural Sciences (Physical)

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 FE College

 yes (8 A*,2 A)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics, A in Physics

A, AA (Physics, Mathematics) + another A (Chemistry or FM)..General Studies excluded.

yes

I’m making Cambridge first choice and Bristol second.

yes

yes

Bristol

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Like I’ve said, I did really like the course on offer, but I would probably have applied to Oxbridge anyway for the prestige

I really liked the Natural Sciences course Cambridge offered; it was a lot more flexible than the courses offered at Oxford

I’d looked around it twice before and both times the porters and staff were really friendly and welcoming;

Preparation

yes

I was given several talks on various aspects of applying, and had some help in filling in my forms. I also had two mock interviews.

The Forms: Try to think of something slightly different to say about your subject which would grab the interviewers’ attention; make sure you know what you’re talking about though, as they’re likely to ask you about it

The interview(s): Don’t try to learn everything, like I did, as they probably won’t ask you about anything you’ve done before much anyway. At the same time, it might be a good idea to read up on some important physical/mathematical proofs and to have a good general knowledge of your syllabus. Although I was only asked about Chemistry, I think most colleges tend to ask about all the areas of science you are studying for A-level.

Interview

no

no

no

I had two interviews; a general one with the Admissions Tutor in his office, which was fairly short (about 15 minutes), and an interview with the Director of Studies for Chemistry in his flat, which lasted 20-25 minutes.

In the general interview, the questions were pretty much as I had expected; I was asked about my high school and college, why I liked science and about what I had been doing in my course recently which I had particularly enjoyed. In the subject interview the interviewer broke me in gently by asking about what I had been doing recently in Chemistry. He then asked me to write out the second period of the Periodic Table (which I managed successfully, thank goodness) and then asked me how 2 of these elements bonded together. He then went on to ask about the bonding between carbon and oxygen, and then asked me about carbon monoxide. I was then shown a version of the periodic table with all the elements at different heights, and was asked to show what this represented, which I eventually identified as electronegativity. I was then asked some questions about bond strengths down group 4, and was asked to transfer this knowledge to explain some anomalies which nitrogen showed, which was in group 5. I struggled with parts of this section, and when the interviewer looked as if he was about to finish after I had failed to answer a question, I was worried. He asked me if there was anything else I would have liked to have talked about, so I said I would have liked to have spoken a bit more about my personal statement, upon which he asked me about any articles I had been reading in the New Scientist recently, which I had prepared for.

I wore a coloured shirt and tie and black trousers; i didn’t want to look overly formal, but at the same time I didn’t want to appear to casual.

Impressions

The college generally seemed unpretentious and welcoming, and almost everyone I met was friendly.

I stayed overnight at the college; the room was OK, nothing special – it had a sink, desk and wardrobe. The showers and toilet were OK although a little small

Edible but not great

The interviewers certainly weren’t trying to catch me out and did their best to put me at ease; although I certainly had to think hard in my interviews, the experience was not like any of the horror stories you hear

I only really spoke to one, who took me to my interview; he seemed nice enough, although I couldn’t use this to make a generalisation.

Final stage

The letter came earlier than I had expected, so it took me by surprise; as a consequence I wasn’t as wound up as I would have been otherwise, so it didn’t really sink in till later.

Looking back

Definitely; you have to try these things, or you won’t get anywhere.

Try to find out what you can about the colleges, so you can make an informed choice; make sure you do some preparation beforehand, but don’t make it excessive.