Application

 Cambridge

 Churchill

 Social & Political Sciences

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (3 A*,7 A,1 B)

A-levels

(B at AS)

(B at AS)

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Only institution to do the exact course I wanted in the entire country. Plus good societies, centre of academic excellence…this seems a rather trivial question!!

Only Cambridge did a political course encompassing sociology

Churchill was informal, good accomodation, very spacious, next door to friend’s college and most importantly it had a very low ratio of applications to places for my course (over the last 3 years it had averaged 2 to 1).

Preparation

no

Not really. They only gave me one interview which was pretty hopeless (although I applied in my gap year, I had applied to King’s College the year before and got turned down after being pooled). I did a lot of background reading (e.g. came to this website!). There are various books you can get which give examples of questions etc.

I would suggest you do not waste time talking about your non-academic activites. Concentrate on your subject and also make sure everything is related to your subject. For instance I have a rather unusual hobby called Graphology. If you look up the dictionary definition then you will see how it is easily related to the psychology aspect of my course. Although they like to know if you are human or not, at the end of the day, you are going to Cambridge to study not to play. By relating everything to your subject additionally demonstrates your enthusiasm and passion which your interviewers will share.

Interview

no

yes

I had to submit 3 essays. I really did not have many essays to choose from but thankfully had 3 good ones. I submited one on the impact of the euro on UK businesses, one on British foreign policy between 1932-36 (I think), and another on why Lloyd George was not to blame for the disastrous treaty of versailles. It’s best to submit essays which relate to your subjects again

no

No thank goodness.

I had 2 interviews – one general, one subject-orientated. The general interview still asks you subject-related questions here and there.

Advice to everyone: try and be as friendly as possible to the interviewers. They are partly there to assess your intelligence, but also to ascertain whether they would enjoy teaching you. They aren’t going to enjoy teaching someone who is aloof and unapproachable.

It does partly depend on the personality of your interviewer, plus the atmosphere of the college. Applying to a informal college they probably enjoyed interviewing someone who is informal themselves.

I was asked questions related vaguely to what I had written on my UCAS forms. The hardest question actually sounds like the easiest: ‘Why does America want to go to war with Iraq?’. It threw me because I wasn’t expecting such an obviously topical question. The other problem was at the time I was slightly pro-war and they were blatantly anti-war. Because I hadn’t thought much about any possible response I decided to go throw the reasons it wasn’t. I pointed out it cannot possibly be about oil since over 2/3 of Iraqi oil goes to Russia. If America took the oil it would start another cold war. So if you don’t know what an answer soundly vaguely correct might be, go through the process of elimination. I never got to the answer because we got side-tracked down a comment I made about the situation in Israel.

I just wore a smartish shirt (it was quite thick – it was Winter – and royal blue) and thick blue trousers. I didn’t wear a tie or jacket and had my top-button undone. I choose Churchill because I do not like too much formality. So I think what I wore suited the atmosphere of the college and demonstrated confidence and made me feel comfortable. I say it demonstrated confidence because I was the only male not wearing a suit!!

Impressions

Very pleased I applied to Churchill. So Fitzwilliam might be the only college less attractive, it is still very pleasant, everyone seems friendly, very informal and relaxed.

Call me a die-hard romantic but I quite liked the open fields and the window seats in the bedroom staring out into the distance. Well, I did do fine art at A level!

I know the distance is a bit much but its not too far and you get the best of both worlds. It’s not like you will never step inside Kings or Downing – you can have dinner there and may be taught there.

BY THE WAY: CHURCHILL LIKE STUDENTS TO TAKE A GAP YEAR.

I’ve only seen through peering through windows + reading + photographs. Churchill accomodation is very good. It’s quite comfortable. Rooms are well-heated. You get a very nice window seat in your bedroom. Bedrooms are larger than most colleges too. It’s nothing flash but it appears comfortable. Plus you get 3 years accomodation.

Good

I haven’t eaten there yet, but friends inform me the food is reasonably good.

Quite strange. The admissions tutor was very friendly. Well they all were. The subject tutors who interviewed me were quite humorous. One was Dutch and reminded me so much of George out of Seinfeld (mainly the laugh). I would seriously considering not watching Seinfeld if you haven’t seen it before and are set for a SPS interview at Churchill. I was on the verge of cracking up. The other tutor seemed alright but was a bit cold in the interview. She seemed to have other things on her mind…understandably.

Didn’t see too many. But they seemed alright. The guy showing me around was from Luxembourg and was almost incomprehendable. No-one was leaping about hysterically, but that is probably a positive thing.

Final stage

Well it was kind of strange. I was half-expecting to get in – but as you may have experienced already, you still have doubts in your mind. But because I was half-expecting to get in, I wasn’t as jubilant as I expected to be. Admittedly I cried because I come from an Irish background and no-one has ever even taken A-levels in my family before!! I had also fought very hard to get in and was by no-means the most intelligent in the year…despite my unconditional offer 😛

Looking back

Of course. I don’t need to say why.

Read, read and read. Also go over basic questions like ‘What is Politics?’. Also make sure you have a couple of ‘hot topics’ – i.e. topics you can ramble on about and really emphasise them in your UCAS form.

For instance I am certain one of the reasons I got in is because I was able to talk for 5 whole minutes on gender socialisation (mainly why girls do better than boys at school) and was able to answer their questions competently. I said on my UCAS form I was interested in feminism (I’m beginning to sound quite weird aren’t I?) and I was lucky they decided to ask me about the education system and why girls do better.

It’s also worth making sure what the latest fashionable topics are before you go to the interview. Why girls are doing better than boys was a fashionable topic too.

*****PLEASE READ THIS:********
I don’t think this would have happened to too many people so make sure you read my comments here.

I had applied the year before to King’s College, same subject. But I had got turned down after being pooled for SPS. King’s College had one of the highest applicant rates for my subject. It would have been good to get in but I don’t regret it.

I applied to Churchill in my year out, after receiving my A-level results.

So my main advice would be: If you don’t get in during year 13, apply during your year out (presuming you are patient and willing to take a gap year)!!

I know 5 people who did the same as me and every single one of them got in the second time round. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t (though I have no official stats!). But what have you got to lose? I really wanted to go to Cambridge mainly because of the subject plus it has a much better atmosphere then other universites. I’m not much of a party-goer so thought I’d settle into Cambridge better (though party-goers do not be put off!!!).

Finally, don’t worry about it! I swear to God that I was not one bit nervous. Okay so I have had a bit of experience with public speaking etc (I work for the ProLife Party) but there’s nothing to fear. Just be determined and enjoy the chance to talk about your beloved subject with someone knowledgeable.

Oh and also: if you apply during a gap year, get some work or work experience in a field related to your subject. I worked for Ann Widdecombe in Parliament and for the ProLife Party. I’m also going to work for Dave Weldon (a Republican in the House of Representatives) later in the year hopefully.