Application

 Cambridge

 Downing

 Natural Sciences (Physical)

 2007

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – non-selective

 yes (9 A*,2 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(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)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained NA)

Other universities

yes

yes

I applied to Durham, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Cambridge. Got rejected from Cambridge but it was never my first choice anyway..think I’ll probably go to Durham.

Decisions about the application

Why not? Sounds cocky but if you’ve got the predicted grades, then really, why not?

I actually liked Oxford more as a place, but Cambridge did Natural Sciences, Oxford didn’t.

Didn’t want to commit to one particular science, so I liked the flexibility of being able to choose what modules to do.

Nice, big open grounds, really good accommodation (en suite for first years!) and people seemed alright. I know it’s got a reputation as one of the more academic colleges, but if you like it and really want to go there, don’t let that put you off. Besides, when you’re applying for Nat Sci, you’ve already got more competition than others ’cause it’s the most applied-for course at Cambridge!

Preparation

yes

Had a couple of ‘mock-style’ interviews which weren’t really all that helpful for Cambridge. I had interviews at Manchester and Bristol too though and the mocks ones I’d had gave me some idea of what to expect at those.

Forms – fill ’em in carefully, they take absolutely ages, but that might be because I wrote a rough copy of what I wanted to say before putting it in neat. Also, if you don’t have anything to say in the ‘additional personal statement’ box, or the one which asks if you have anything else to say that didn’t seem relevant to your personal statement (two different forms I think), don’t bother filling them in; I did and then someone told me that they didn’t even read them!

Interview – SERIOUSLY don’t stress out about it. It wasn’t at all as scary as you might think; I wasn’t really that bothered about getting in ’cause Cambridge wasn’t my first choice, but that didn’t stop me from panicking beforehand. There’s really no need though, they’re all friendly and the rooms are warm (it was freezing when I went) and comfy, so it’s all laid out to put you at ease. However, I would suggest reading through your notes from A-level and possibly AS if you’ve got time, get a good night’s sleep, wear something you feel comfortable in (what they tell you about short skirts and low sofas is true – I was wearing a long skirt, but the sofa was sure low enough!) and..well it sounds clichéd but really just have fun 🙂 Oh and if you wrote something about some books you read or the New Scientist on your p.s. don’t go to great lengths to try and remember what was in the book/the last issue because chances are, they won’t ask you about them anyway.

Interview

no

no

yes

TSA – this was alright. All you can do to prepare is try the practice one on the Cambridge website.

I thought they went alright at the time, but don’t stress yourself out trying to figure out what the interviewers are thinking; they’re used to keeping a straight face so you can’t really tell how they think your interview went.

I had three: all academic, one Physics, one Chemistry and one Maths (in that order), with two interviewers in each.

Physics – they asked me if I’d studied Mechanics (yes) and Electricity (yes) and strangely, after I answered yes to the first, one interviewer said ‘So you don’t like Mechanics, then?’ – bizarre, but obviously I gave him that impression, ’cause I really don’t like it. He asked if I liked Electricity and I said yes. Then he asked what my favourite topic in Physics at the moment was, to which I answered ‘nuclear stuff’, but told him I was also looking forward to studying Astrophysics in the next module. He asked, ‘So, given the choice, would you like to answer a question about Mechanics or Electricity?’ I don’t know what made me say this, but I answered Mechanics, to which he raised his eyebrows…anyway I was then asked something about the tension in a gold chain suspended from his hand. I worked through it (with a lot of help) and we finally decided that it varied. The other interviewer then asked me to estimate how many light bulbs I thought had been changed in the UK the day before. This threw me a bit, but I kind of whittled it down to half a million. They asked how I’d got this answer and I said (truthfully), just narrowing it down by process of elimination. They grinned and talked me through how I would’ve worked it out…and then it was over!

I came out of my Physics one thinking I’d done pretty badly, but I was talking to someone else in the waiting room, who said that he’d heard that Physics was always everyone’s worst interview, which cheered me up slightly!

Chemistry – one interviewer asked me about polymers and the other about kinetics and rates of reaction..oh and mechanisms. I felt like I worked through these much more easily than in the Physics interview, so I was happy with this one.

Maths – some curve sketching, differentiation and a bit of probability. I enjoyed this one the most, the interviewers were really nice and had the warmest room!

All in all, there wasn’t a lot I could have done to prepare, just know the basics of your subjects and be able to think beyond what’s on the A-level syllabus, because my questions were all on topics I knew about/had studied, just taken to a higher level or looked at in a different way.

Calf length black skirt and a dark green jumper, ankle boots and a coat. I just wore what I felt like – it was pretty cold so maybe the skirt wasn’t the best idea, but I don’t think they care what you wear; just something vaguely smart that you feel comfortable in.

Impressions

Very pretty, people seemed nice enough. Downing was definitely top of my list, but all the others were pretty too. King’s is gorgeous – I would have applied there if I’d had to change my mind.

I didn’t stay the night before, but I saw the accommodation on an open day – it was really really good!

Friendly, they’re not there to scare the living daylights out of you, they’re just doing their jobs.

Didn’t meet any – it was the Christmas holidays for them.

Final stage

Completely forgot about them till a week before, but that’s only because, like I said, Cambridge wasn’t my top choice. No point worrying yourself to death – don’t let it ruin your Christmas/New Year.

My post was delayed so I sent the admissions office an email. They replied, I opened the attached copy of the letter, I laughed, yelled down to my mum ‘I didn’t get in’, texted a couple of people and that was that.

Looking back

Tough one..probably not. It was incredibly stressful, I just got bogged down with work and worry during the winter term, but if I’d taken the advice I’ve just given up there, I probably would’ve been more laid back and so yeah, maybe I would’ve still applied.

Just do it.