Application

 Cambridge

 Emmanuel

 Philosophy

 2001

 pooled, rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 N/A

 Independent – non-selective

 yes (6 A,2 B,1 D)

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)

Other universities

N/A

Decisions about the application

I felt as if I should be studying at a university which would stretch me to the limit. Anything else would leave me frustrated. Being around other intelligent students gives me the confidence to push myself.
The Philosophy course at Cambridge practised the most intuitaive style of enquiry of all unis.
Teaching and research ratings were top.
I didn’t want to move too far from home.
As shallow as it may seem, the prestige was (albeit, a minor one) an attraction.

Oxford didn’t have a course for straight Philosophy.

Very attractive grounds. Seemed like a good place to think. Best student bar. Well-positioned within Cambridge.

Preparation

yes

A little, though in hindsight, not very useful. Couple of mock-interviews.

Be alert, and literate. Don’t go drinking the night before the interview. If you’re sharpness fluctuates during the day, and this is SOOOOOOOOOOO IMPORTANT. – TAKE CAFFEINE. before each interview. I didn’t for the 1st. interview, and suffered as a result as I got one hour of sleep the night before. Clock ticking in my room.

Interview

no

yes

A superb and faultless essay on nefunctionalism and intergovernmentalism. I’d be surprised if they read it.

yes

Yes. 1 hr. ling. Multiple choice, and an essay 9probably on ethics). There isn’t really much preparation that can be done for this. It is obviously an advantage if you study Phil. or related subjects at A-level.

One subject, one academic interview. Very informal chat. I found it too formal, finding (at the time) the questions a little simplistic. It is absolutely crucail to be coherent, and to be clear, even if at the expense of deep ideas. Also be open to changing your views.

Are you a democrat? was the question that caught me out. I should have observed how that question can be interpreted in 2 different ways. I ended contradicting myself, as I was stuck between trying to justify my LibDem membership, and not coming across as demeaning towards the electorate. Other than that, the questions are based on whatever you have put in your section 10. Most of these I answered well, esp. in my non-academic intrview with Don Cupitt, where I successfully showed myself to be well-read, cultured, and highly literate. Clearly not enough. If you don’t have many interests (I am an MEYP, and writer etc.) you’re apparently asked about your A-level subjects. They want your views, your opinions, but most importantly, to see how you work things out, coming to conclusions. You must come across as somebody they want to teach. If you’re a little cocky (without reasoning), they won’t want you as one of their pupils.

Tie and white shirt, posh trousers for 1st. disasterous interview. Felt cranky. Casual, with jeans for 2nd. inteview which went really well. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident. They really are not judging your dress sense. Also get temperature right. You don’t want to be sweating during the interview.

Impressions

V. good. Was genuinely quite beautiful. Socially seemed a bit cold, but I thought I could overcome that if I got in.

Big rooms. Sink. All that you need. Clean. Cupboards. BUT. Ticking clock that (if sensitive) will keep you up all night. I was my undoing.

Good

Brilliant. I met Don Cupitt, who had the aura of Jesus. Very helpful.

Friendly. Some of them a bit odd, but something for everyone, more or less.

Final stage

I originally got placed in the pool, which I half-expected. As each day dragged by, I realised, I wasn’t going to be called back. To be honest, I felt absolutely shite the day I got the letter telling me I was unsuccessful. That month, in fact. Selection can be quite arbitrary, so even top 10 A* students should prepare themselves somehow for the worst.

Looking back

Yes. I may even take a gap year, knowing I was so close. I was in the top 55 candidates. 50 got places. It is an enormous risk, though, a decision which I am not taking lightly.

As above.