Application

 Cambridge

 Fitzwilliam

 Philosophy

 2006

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (5 A*,4 A,1 B)

A-levels

(A at AS)

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

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

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

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Distinction)

Other universities

yes

yes

LSE offer; now first choice.

Decisions about the application

It’s a beautiful university with a fantastic reputation. Also, the Philosophy course is well structured and covers my present areas of interest.

Cambridge did pure philosophy, Oxford doesn’t. Also, I was introduced to Cambridge before Oxford.

I’m a philosopher.

Fitzwilliam is a modern, away from tourists and relatively down to Earth college – at least that’s their claim.

Preparation

no

No, only moral support

Read around your subject and have plenty of mock interviews. Ask your mock interviewers to ask you broad philosophical problems, about equality, morality, happiness, liberty and so on. It’s good to practice thinking on your feet with reasonably easy, but very helpful questions. Also, practice and revise questions on your personal statement.

Interview

no

no

yes

A philosophy test comprising of short TSA-type logic questions (although somewhat easier than TSA). The logic test was multiple choice, and lasted 15 minutes. The essay lasted 45 minutes and was about personal identity.

Absolutely awful and ultimately caused my rejection. I had two academic interviews straight after each other, which meant rushing back from the first and straight onto the second, no time to collect my thoughts. Also, I got a case of the nerves, which I can honestly say has never happened to me before – I must have really wanted to do well! Nevertheless, I messed up the questions – Prisoner’s Dilemma questions, Utilitarianism, Hume’s “Dialogues…” and some others. All of which I had revised at length and, under any other conditions, could have given fantastic answers. Alas, controlling one’s self under pressure is a quality they require; otherwise decent answers in interview will never materialise.

Topics varied from non-academic questions, lifted from my personal statement, possibly just to calm the nerves. After which all questions, in both interviews, were philosophical – as noted above.

Prisoner’s Dilemma-esque question, Utilitarianism (preference/rule), Hume’s “Dialogues…”, Equality (natural rights). And some non-academic questions.

A continental-type jumper and black trousers. Nothing too smart.

Impressions

Fitzwilliam is modern and actually not very Cambridge like. It’s similar to a red-brick University, for example Sussex. It’s very pleasant, and well-kept. Also, modern.

Quite small. Tiny shower and basin.

Not too bad, a bit mass-produced.

The first two interviewers were very friendly, but this didn’t particularly help to calm my nerves. The second was, at times, a bit frustrating; wanting a clear-cut answer when it was fair to bring in other ideas. Also, he seemed disinterested in the answers to his first questions about my gap year plans and travelling. Again, probably just their to calm the applicant’s nerves.

Somewhat introverted. But friendly.

Final stage

I really didn’t think about it that much. Cambridge is no longer the elite-top University for studying Philosophy (indeed, it’s still top for it’s course, but philosophy’s a hugely broad subject). For example, LSE far outranks them in Social Philosophy. I’m fairly relaxed anyway, a Uni place isn’t worth getting overly concerned about.

I opened it. Thought “well, that was expected”. And e-mailed my teachers thanking them for their support.

Looking back

Invariably, I don’t believe in free will.

Read read read! And read good books, not just general philosophy introductory books. This will give you material in your interview. For example, the first academic question I had was about an advanced text and an advanced philosopher, and that by far went down the best with the interviewers. However, it was the more general/A level type stuff that got me (I’m post-A levels, so I was a bit rusty), so revise that in detail too. Also, just read literature in general. Be interesting. And, don’t as I did, get really worked up about the interview moments before it!

Good luck.