We asked Cambridge admissions tutors what their best piece of advice for applicants is. Here’s what they said:
Stay calm, be yourself, and try to enjoy the process (as best you can). Throughout your application, we want to see you engage with your subject, and will provide you with ways to do this (through admissions tests, the interview etc). You’ll have the opportunity to engage with texts or ideas that you haven’t previously considered within the subject that you’re excited about studying.
Finally, please remember that Cambridge entrance is very competitive. Every year, we are unable to make offers to some applicants not because we do not think they are clever enough or hard working, and not because we do not think they would do well at Cambridge, but simply because there are too many others who have made an even stronger application. Many people who are unsuccessful in securing an offer from Cambridge go on to do superbly well, and some come back to teach here having earned an excellent degree elsewhere. So please don’t put yourself under too much pressure.
Do research around the course you’re applying for, show your passion and commitment to the course, and do your best. Remember, Cambridge receives around 6 applications to every available place so, if you aren’t made an offer, it’s generally a reflection on the competitiveness of the applicant field and not you. It is a great university – but there are many great universities out there and don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get an offer.
Try to enjoy the process and use it as an opportunity to learn and to practice your skills.
Ensure your interest in the subject goes beyond the curriculum, and ideally has done so, ambitiously, for some time. Treat the interviews as short conversations about a subject you all care about. Share your ideas honestly, and listen to replies. Don’t be surprised if you enjoy the interviews.
Cambridge isn’t a one-shot thing. Many outstanding applicants are simply squeezed out by the volume of competition on the day. The fact that your school or HE adviser is willing to support you in an application to Cambridge is already testament to your calibre as a student, and securing an interview is itself a real achievement, so if you are interviewed, try to enjoy the experience as much as you can. Even if you don’t succeed first time round, you may succeed as a re-applicant for undergraduate study, or as an applicant for postgraduate study, or even come to us as a professor (it happens!)