Application

 Cambridge

 King’s

 Philosophy

 2005

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (3 A*,6 A,2 B)

A-levels

(C at AS (209 UMS))

(A at AS (256 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (271 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (250 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (282 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Merit)

I re-took a couple of German AS modules and achieved a B in the end.

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in English Literature, A in Psychology, A in Religious Studies

yes

Warwick was my insurance, with an offer of AAB and a B in an AS level (excluding General Studies).

no

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I had 5 universities in mind that I had always wanted to go to, and I had an extra space. I liked the look of the Cambridge course and had suitable grades. My other 5 choices (Warwick, Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton and Nottingham) were all quite realistic choices- typical offers ranged from AAB to BBB- so I thought it wouldn’t harm to aim high. I think the collegiate system suits me, as does the teaching methods (one on one teaching, not just lectures). I guess the prestige appealed to me somewhat, because it obviously helps your employability.

Cambridge offers straight philosophy, Oxford does not. I had never been to Cambridge before applying and loved Oxford, so I guess I might have applied to Oxford had they a straight philosophy course. But having seen them both now, I prefer the layout and feel of Cambridge. The Cambridge course was perfect too, Oxford would have had a hard time beating it.

Philosophy is a subject that has interested me throughout my life. Reading some philosophy confirmed that it was the right subject for me to study, as did the fact that I enjoyed the philosophical bits of Religious Studies. I didn’t really have any concrete career plans, so I thought I may as well choose a course that genuinely interests me.

The architecture of King’s is amazing, it is known to be less ‘traditional’ and more laidback. It has a central location, is a mixed college, is by the river and has good facilities. It is also near to where lectures would be. It had everything I wanted, basically. It’s quite easy to narrow down the colleges (I crossed off the all-female ones, the ones reeeally far away, looked at the college websites and the alternative prospectus and so on). I was left with 5-10 that I really liked, went with my instincts and chose King’s. All of the colleges are nice though so I wouldn’t fret.

Preparation

yes

I had a mock interview, which was helpful (though probably scarier than the real one). My RS teacher lent me some philosophy books and showed me this website. They obviously answered any questions I had with regard to the forms.

Read lots of philosophy and form opinions on it. Don’t worry about it too much though, because of a lot of the questions can be answered without having read any philosophy. Write a personal statement that reflects your interests (they might ask you about any books you mention on there, for example). Be yourself and be prepared to have your opinions challenged at the interview. I read a mixture of introductory books and famous works (Simon Blackburn’s ‘Think’ is a good example of the former, and Descartes’ ‘Meditations’ of the latter). Maybe recap on any AS level work in case they ask you about that. You can’t prepare all that much though, as a lot of the questions require no background reading, just quick thinking.

Interview

no

yes

I sent an essay on situation ethics, made up of two short essays (it was an RS exam question). I wrote about the main features of situation ethics and to what extent it is a Christian branch of ethics.

yes

There was an exam the day before, with some logic type questions (multiple choice) and an essay which I guess was about aesthetics. It wasn’t something one could prepare for. From what I can gather, the logic type questions were a bit like Critical Thinking.

I only had one, and it was with two interviewers. It lasted 30-40 minutes. It was an academic interview as opposed to a ‘general’ one. So basically there was a focus simply on philosophy, not on my extra curriculars, world events, etc.

I won’t say too much in case they recycle the questions…but: Why philosophy at Cambridge, which book on my personal statement has made the greatest impression on me and why, then we discussed dualism, Berkeley’s Master argument, philosophy of punishment, and about the possibility of being a disembodied ghost.

Warm clothes because it was December. Black trousers, jacket, converse trainers, a scarf.

Impressions

King’s was stunning, I was really glad I had applied there. The chapel and the bar were really nice. It was really central, and close to lectures. I looked at some other colleges whilst passing…Trinity was big, Corpus Christi was small, Jesus and Clare both looked really nice, as did St.Johns. Generally, all the colleges looked amazing and I think wherever you go you’d have a good time.

I didn’t stay in the accommodation (I only live an hour and a half away from Cambridge so didn’t really think they needed to boot out a student just for me). I think the accommodation looks good though, lots of en suite rooms above the bar from what I can tell.

I didn’t have any, but it looked alright.

I only met my interviewers, but they were both really nice and friendly. I’d imagine they would be quite approachable as lecturers/tutors. They made me feel at ease straight away so I could relax and be myself…by the end of the interview I was pretty calm (I walked in pretty much a nervous wreck).

Friendly and helpful, some were eccentric but were still nice enough.

Final stage

I thought about the interview a bit and reflected on what went well and what could have been better, but I tried to push it out of my mind. I was on holiday in Tenerife the week before the letter came, so that took my mind off of it. I thought the interview had gone well (largely because I had enjoyed it so much) but then thought about how many applicants there were, and how few places…so by the time the letter came I was pretty sure I hadn’t got in.

It was midnight because I had been on holiday, got home and opened it, was really happy but went to bed as I was so tired.

Looking back

Yeah of course…it’s only one place on your UCAS form. If I hadn’t applied/got in I would have applied to somewhere I didn’t really want to go to, just to fill in the final space, so I wouldn’t have lost anything either way. The interview was a good experience and I’m sure it will be good fun. You have nothing to lose from applying (the worst you can get is a rejection, and even then at least you know you tried) and a lot to gain. The interview is worth doing because it is a good chance to discuss your subject with experts and it’s all character building stuff. I have now got the grades and am really excited about going. If you can cope with that extra bit of pressure (namely HAVING to get all As and coping with an interview) then apply.

Read a lot, be enthusiastic, try to be confident in the interview. Don’t worry if the interviewers challenge you in the interview, they probably want to see how well you can argue and defend yourself. Fill in the forms carefully (I took about 5 attempts…dropping it in the mud etc). Be yourself, and if you get an offer obviously work hard to get the grades. I did and it was hard at the time but it’s well worth it.