Why it’s okay to be nervous: Ellen on applying to Cambridge

Posted 2016/04/24 13:30:07 by ng398

I never considered Oxbridge until I went to my sixth form college; having always attended state schools and coming from a family in which no one had ever been to university, I didn’t think of it as an option or know much about it. Yet when I got to college I found they were particularly good at encouraging students to apply to top universities – they even organised visits to Oxford and Cambridge during which we spoke to current students. Yet despite my good GCSEs I was still reluctant to apply, believing Oxbridge would be too competitive and everyone there cleverer than me – I didn’t really see myself as a typical candidate for it.

A couple of weeks before the deadline my teacher kept suggesting I apply, so I did, and I only chose King’s only because he told me it had a high state school intake. I was originally going to do an open application but would advise using your choice whilst you have it; even if you aren’t accepted by your that college there is a chance you will pooled anyway and another college may accept you.

Throughout the application process I was convinced I was wasting my time, and couldn’t believe it when I received an email inviting me to interview; I was extremely nervous and read up on everything I mentioned in my personal statement just in case they quizzed me on it – in my experience this wasn’t completely necessary but gave me peace of mind that I would be prepared!

I remember standing in front of King’s with my parents before I went in, realising for the first time where I’d actually applied, the huge imposing building standing before me. It was very daunting but my actual interview experience was nothing like the exterior would suggest.

I had heard so much about Oxbridge interviews and the obscure questions I was likely to be asked, that when I saw the professor’s name ornately printed above the door frame and the reality of the situation sunk it, I seriously considered running away. Luckily the reality was nothing like this; the professors were not trying to catch me out and genuinely wanted to hear about my interest in the subject.

For modern languages I was given 15 minutes before each interview (one for each language) to read a passage, which I then discussed with the professor prompted by questions from him, along with some grammar exercises and discussion of my interests.

When I received my offer in January I was in disbelief, and then still wasn’t sure I’d achieve the grades (originally I had been more worried about the interview than the grades, which reversed upon receiving my offer…). When I found out that I had met my offer on results day, I was still very much daunted by the prospect of Cambridge and made sure I read almost everything on the reading list before going- again this wasn’t completely necessary but made me feel prepared!

The activities during freshers’ week encompass a huge range of interests, meaning there is definitely something for everyone. Each college arranges its own activity schedule, meaning it is much easier to get to know the people in your college first – this differs from other universities but I loved the sense of community. I found the variety of interests in this week to be true to the whole of Cambridge, the university offering so many societies and chances to meet likeminded people.

Cambridge is a beautiful, exciting place to live and study with so many events, talks, formal dinners etc. happening all the time, and the academic benefits of small supervisions mean there is more scope to explore your personal interests. I really think that anyone even vaguely considering applying should go for it; I definitely wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been lucky enough to receive so much encouragement. You have nothing to lose and it’s likely that applying won’t turn out to be a waste of time!



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