Application

 Cambridge

 St John’s

 Philosophy

 2007

 pooled, offer made (St John’s)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – selective

 yes (9 A*,3 A)

A-levels

(A at AS (263 UMS))

(A at AS (269 UMS))

(B at AS (225 UMS))

(A at AS (265 UMS))

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Merit)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in English Literature, A in Government and Politics, A in Latin, NA in Theatre Studies

Excluding Theatre Studies (sigh.)

yes

yes

yes

Warwick – Insurance – Offer AABb
Manchester – Offer ABB
Leeds – Offer ABB
Durham – Rejected

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I thought I may as well to be honest. I grew up in Oxford and knew that I liked the traditional element. I liked the small nature of Cambridge and the knowledge that I would be tested intellectually, because I can be quite lazy and I think I might not do so well in a less academically rigorous setting. Similarly, I liked the course and I liked the job prospects that come with having got a degree from Oxbridge. Having said that there were many other universities who give the same kind of thing. It really came down to the fact that I didn’t think I would get in but had a space on my application and thought I might as well try!

I grew up in Oxford and would have been just as happy to go there but they didn’t offer straight Philosophy. Oxford has some great colleges, particularly Corpus Christi and Oriel, but then so does Cambridge – St John’s and Pembroke are great.

I really didn’t know what to do, so I went through all the courses on the Cambridge website (because it offers them in a simple format…) and Philosophy caught my eye. It was different and interesting, it’s full of variety and a great choice if you aren’t in love with any subjects that you are doing for A Level. I was originally thinking of doing English and Latin at Oxford, but I wasn’t very good at Latin and I know English is something I will always continue to pursue in my spare time, so I thought I should take a chance… though am feeling a lot of trepidation.

I only looked around a few colleges, because I had been thinking of applying to Oxford. To be honest, I chose John’s because I had gone to look round in the summer and it was one of the few colleges where the porters and staff were lovely to me. King’s chapel staff were extremely rude to me and wouldn’t let me look around whereas the John’s porters practically offered me a guided tour. Plus, it really is a spectacular college and has some of the best accommodation as well as a fantastic library and nearly all of it’s facilities on site. I also got to try their food which was nice and reasonably priced.

Preparation

yes

They gave me a practice interview and read through my personal statement, but none of it really helped towards my application, however it did help to make me feel more prepared, even though I wasn’t…

Definitely try and get as much help as you can in terms of practice interviews. Also, ask someone to pick as many holes as they can in your personal statement despite the fact that your interviewer will probably only refer to it once or twice. Get yourself into as many discussions as you can to practice backing your point up.

Interview

no

no

yes

I had a 20 minute logic paper followed by a 40 minute essay along the lines of “Which is morally correct?” followed by a scenario. I didn’t have any knowledge of Philosophical theories really so I just used as much common sense as I could and some knowledge from Communism.

General interview was fine. Subject interview was a complete disaster – although I later found out I answered the question correctly in the first minute and then spent twenty minutes changing it because I thought they were implying I was wrong.

Spent nearly all of general interview talking about drama, got questions like “who is your hero”, “what is the main point in Hamlet” and “what do you like to read in your spare time” (to which my answer was “children’s books”…). They will mainly ask you about school if you’re still there and gap year if not (I think).
Subject interview – I was asked “If all ravens are black, are all non-black things not ravens” – my answer was horrific and made little sense. They also asked me if I thought people were inherently selfish (I said yes) and my thoughts on political philosophy because I mentioned it in my personal statement.

See above.

I wore a stripey shirt and black jumper with smart trousers. I was going to wear high heel shoes but at the last minute I swapped to a grubby pair of trainers. I didn’t want the interviewers to be distracted by my clothes being either very posh or scruffy. I was stressing out and thought smart was the way to go but I didn’t want to be uncomfortable so went for scabby trainers.

Impressions

John’s – beautiful but massive.
Trinity – see above
Kings – Too big and they were mean to me because I didn’t follow exact rules of Open Days (though I’m sure that was just because the woman I spoke to was in a stress rather than the college being horrible)
Pembroke – absolutely stunning, but people had said mean things about it which I’m sure are untrue.
Peter House – Lovely, just lovely.
Clare – Nice, but the idea of the “Colony” was a bit 1984…

I only know what I’ve been told, which is that the Cripps building is meant to be “post-modern”, i.e. extremely ugly, but the rooms are supposedly massive and the best in Cambridge.

Pretty good, better than most of the other food I’ve tasted at Oxford and Cambridge colleges, and cheaper. (St Cat’s Oxford does good food)

I spoke to two female tutors and one male one. The man seemed lovely, and the two women, though very very intelligent seemed a bit odd…

Final stage

I was absolutely convinced I’d been rejected (because they basically laughed in my face in the interview) so I had already tried to get over the disappointment.

I got the letter that I was Pooled and was very shocked but didn’t want to get my hopes up. They told me that if I got an offer from the pool I would be told by a certain date – by that date nothing had come – but I received an email the day after in my SPAM with the title “Congratulations”… Was very excited especially to see that the college who had pooled me had decided to take me back!

Looking back

Definitely. Even if I hadn’t got in I still would have applied. I was very unenthusiastic about all of the universities I had visited so I didn’t really have anywhere I wanted to go. It made sense just to apply even if it meant a day off school and some experience in rejection (which in the end is a good thing… really…)

If you live miles away but aren’t offered accommodation go up the day before anyway. Relax and don’t second guess yourself too much but don’t stick to a point when you are quite clearly wrong. Be flexible, friendly and practice arguing without being aggressive or defensive. Read up about your subject and be enthusiastic.