How to approach a Cambridge interview

Image credit: Alexbrn

Cambridge interviews, which are set to take place this week, are widely regarded as a worrisome time for all prospective students: it is the moment when students’ bids to attend the University transforms from the electronic application, so tentatively sent into the ether of UCAS in October, into the tangible face-to-face meeting with representatives of the institution. They are an element of the process to study at Cambridge which every student will remember from their application; each and every individual in Cambridge will have a multitude of tales to tell about what happened and their opinions of it – with much disseminated concerning just how emotionally heightened this period can be.

Of course, therefore, going into interview will seem terrifying. And yet, so much artificial information is reported on these experiences, with websites, schools and individuals spilling over misconceptions, scaremongering and false impressions, that preparing for interview can quickly spiral into panicked uncertainties and reservations. Some report that their interviews were easy. Some say they were questioned on niche areas they had little knowledge of, despite weeks of preparation. Some take pride in recounting their humiliating experiences throughout the process. Which, then, should influence how you prepare?

However, the truth is that one’s interview experience is, in a word, personal.

Though interviews may follow the same format, the foundation of the interview will be on your own application: there is no checklist for the content of the meeting, and you shouldn’t go into it thinking that you have to prove yourself to an elusive guideline.

Cambridge prides itself on individuality; on the unique and original perspective on your field which you, by getting to the interview process, already have shown you are cultivating. You are the guideline, the individual approach to your subject which Cambridge has been looking for, and you have already proven yourself against it. Now all you have to do is cement it.

Treat it as an opportunity to speak with academics and professionals in your area of passion, who are producing work at the very pinnacle of the subject. Yes, confidence is useful – but they want the real you: the you with those quirky passions and approaches you are so uncertain about pursuing; the you trying so hard to attain your dream; the you clothed in layers of insecurities and doubts and anxieties. If you’re not confident, don’t worry. If you haven’t prepared as much as others claim, don’t worry. If you’re really quite frightened about it all, don’t worry. Embrace all that – because that makes you you – and go into it as utterly yourself.

It is, in the end, just a chat with a couple of people, which will be based on your personal statement (which includes your passions about your field), your UCAS statement (which details your amazing successes so far) and any work or tests you’ve completed (which will have already dazzled the admissions team). If you do anything to prepare, look over your application – but don’t worry if you haven’t, because this is just a base from which the professors will build the interview. There are other things to talk about, and you wouldn’t be here if they didn’t think you were capable of discussing your field.

I know you’re worried, but here’s a secret: we’re all still worried we shouldn’t be at Cambridge. I keep expecting my Director of Studies to knock on my door and tell me to leave.

We’re worried because we care – as do you - so show the admissions team the fact that you care, and why, and you’ll be all set.



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