Q. What should you put in a personal statement?
A. I think the most important thing to get across to admissions tutors is how passionate you are about the subject for which you’re applying. So include anything in your personal statement which proves that – for example, what books have you read outside of our school courses on your subject? Are there magazines about your subject which you read? Have you learnt something outside school to do with your course? Have you listened to radio programmes or visited exhibitions about your subject?
Q What should you read?
A. Read around your subject. For arts subjects, if you’re reading a work by an author in school, read one or two other works by them. Read historical books that contextualise the works you’ve been studying. For science subjects, read journals and magazines on your subject. For any subject, watch radio and television programmes on your subject as well as news stories and features in newspapers and magazines relevant to your subject.
Q. What is the best thing about Oxbridge?
A. The fellow students – who are some of the nicest, wittiest, most intelligent and supportive people you will ever meet. The work’s tough – but you’re all in it together, and that builds very strong friendships.
Q. What is the best thing about your course?
A. I did English and the thing I most enjoyed about it was discovering wonderful works by authors I’d never even heard of before the course.
Q. How much work do you have to do a week?
A. At least one essay a week – in addition we usually had a practical criticism exercise to do and occasionally an essay for another paper.
Q. Was it hard to make friends?
A. Not at all! There were only eight other people studying English in my course at my college, Emmanuel, so there was no sense of getting lost in the crowd. Across the whole of my year at college there were only around 250 people, so I eventually got to know almost everyone!
Q. What were you most worried about?
A. Not knowing enough – but I quickly realised that everyone worries about that, and everyone helps each other out.
Q. Why did you apply?
A. I wanted to study English is one of the best universities in the world.
Q. How can you prepare for interview?
A. Ask a teacher to do a mock interview with you, firstly. But there are also lots of example interview videos on the Cambridge admissions site http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/interviews/
Q.What was the interview like?
A. I didn’t find it too terrifying once it started – after all they were asking me about a subject which I knew a fair amount about! There were questions I didn’t deal with particularly well or didn’t understand, but that was fine – I had a go at answering and I think they partly wanted to see how I coped with ideas and theories I’d never come across before.
Q. How do you prepare for the admissions test?
A. We only had a test on the day of the interview itself – a practical criticism exercise. I practised by choosing poems I’d never read before and giving myself an hour to write about them.
Q. How did you choose your college?
A. I asked some people who had been to Cambridge which colleges they’d been to – and they all recommended their own (of course!) and then also Emmanuel. I went to look round a few and really liked the look and feel of Emmanuel.
Q. What grades did you get?
A. Four As (this was before A*s)
Q. What grades were you offered?
A. Three As
Q. What is the best piece of advice that anyone gave to you?
A. Read around your subject
Q. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about applying/applying?
A. Go and look around a few colleges, see if you like the feel of the place. And don’t believe everything you read about Oxford and Cambridge – go on an Open Day and see for yourself.