Application

 Cambridge

 New Hall (open application, allocated college)

 Social & Political Sciences

 2002

 rejected

Applicant

 International Baccalaureate

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

Non-selective state 11-18 school

 yes (7 A*,2 A,2 B)

International Baccalaureate

( predicted 1; gained NA)

( predicted 1; gained NA)

( predicted 1; gained NA)

( predicted 1; gained NA)

( predicted 1; gained NA)

( predicted 1; gained NA)

39 points overall (predicted grade).

Other universities

yes

yes

I think Edinburgh or maybe LSE will be my first choice and Manchester Bath or Durham as second..In other words; I’m still very undecided.

Decisions about the application

I had good enough grades for my IGCSEs, people mentioned it would be good to try; the SPS course was pretty unique and seemed exactly what I wanted.

I was still deciding between human sciences at Oxford, and SPS at Cambridge; but I decided to apply for social sciences in all 6 unis; so SPS it was.

I didn’t; and was quite disappointed.

Preparation

no

Not really. I got some tips from teachers; the usual advice of; ‘be yourself, don’t get nervous,’ most of which I didn’t manage to apply in the interview itself. What did help was the last-minute phone call with one of my teachers; talking over political issues that interest me/they might have asked about.

Just use a bit of “optimistic” honesty.

Interview

no

no

no

First one (the academic one); there were two interviewers; a man and a woman. It was a livingroom like area and I got to sit on a comfy chair. The comfortable, informal surroundings didn’t make me feel any more comfortable though; I was very nervous. I think I sometimes lost track of what I was trying to say, repeated myself several times and my thoughts weren’t all that coherent.

In the subject-based one; most of the questions were about my personal statement. As I had never taken any of Psychology, Sociology or Anthropology before I couldn’t really be asked definitions. They asked what other universities and courses I had applied to; which I didn’t really think was all that relevant. Then what subjects I took (which is on the application form anyway) and how many points I was expecting to get. Another question was what newspapers I read..and it seemed like they were expecting me to say a varied and impressive list of respectable papers. Then they asked what recent article or news story I had been following.

I wore blue neat-ish but 70’s style pants, and a black shirt and sneaker-type things. I didn’t really think about it too much.

Impressions

New Hall is quite modern compared to the other colleges; I guess it would be o.k with some getting used to..but if you’re looking for traditional cambridge then it’s not what you’re looking for. Also the fact that it was a women’s college is something I wasn’t very happy about at the beginning.

The room I had was pretty grotty, but apparantly the ones in the new block were better. The bar looked funky enough.

Edible but not great

We found hairs and things in the food…but maybe that’s only the case in the holidays.

The tutor who interviewed me was pretty nice..seemed like a bit of a confused intellectual, but maybe that’s what Cambridge is about.

Hm. It was out of term time and the few students who were around were very varied..What I was conscious of was that I was a bit of a ‘foreigner’; in that I have never lived in Britain. There were some very posh sounding people and some quite nice people. Strangely, what caused much amusement amongst some fellow applicants was that they’d spoken to the gay/lesbian rep.

Final stage

I didn’t really expect to get in and a good friend had just been turned down from Oxford; so when I got the letter I was a bit shakey, but already quite sure it wouldn’t be an offer. It was a bit disappointing, but as I knew the interviews hadn’t really shown them who I was I didn’t take it all too personally.

Looking back

Yes, it was an interesting experience. It also made me realise I didn’t really want to go to Cambridge badly.

Keep up with the news and read ‘respectable newspapers’ ;-), and I would advise doing practice interviews if you’re not too confident about it.
Don’t feel intimidated by them: they may be hyper intelligent and know more about everything than you do…that doesn’t make them better people.
Oh and don’t play things down.

Just don’t worry too much; and if, like me, you feel a little bit out of place applying to Cambridge..still do it. Think well before you make an open application, and don’t do it unless you don’t mind going to any college.