Interview: Dr Andrew Bell, Admissions Tutor at Gonville & Caius College

Image credit: Samuel Piker

With Cambridge buzzing with Results Day excitement, we made the most of a briefly calm moment to sit down and talk admissions, elitism, and mind-blowing tactics with Dr Andrew Bell, Admissions Tutor at Gonville & Caius College.

What advice do you have for anxious offer holders on results day?

People who've made their grades - well done! If you want to hit the ground running at your university then start thinking your way back into your subject right now so you arrive match fit.  If you do that, you're sure to make a good start.  If you've missed your grades, remember, there are lots of good places at good universities still available - just hold your nerve and be sensible.

Sound advice! What's your favourite part of your job as an Admissions Tutor?

I love working with schools and students, and it's fantastic to see students whom I've met at an admissions event apply to, and then be admitted to, Cambridge.  Graduation Day is a big deal for Admissions Tutors, because we've all got a personal interest in every single student.

How much do you talk to Admissions Tutors from other colleges about the process?

Admissions Tutors work with each other very closely across the colleges, and we all value each other's input into our collective processes and decisions.  I'm always impressed by how committed and hard-working all of my admissions colleagues are.

The past decades have seen huge progress in the way admissions are handled - what's the next development?

Assuming the proposed changes to AS and A Levels go ahead, we'll need to rethink very seriously the way we assess candidates for admission here at Cambridge.  Fairness and transparency are at the heart of what we do, and our worry is that the proposed reforms will make it harder, not easier, to make the right decisions.  Watch this space!

So in difficult times of transition like this, do you think Cambridge will ever fully shrug off its elitist image? Should it?

Cambridge is rightly proud of its reputation for academic excellence and we should stand up for high standards and high ambitions.  Sometimes people confuse that with a sort of nineteenth-century social elitism, which is a long way from the Cambridge most of us know. I want Cambridge to be known as a place where anyone who's very good at academic study, and is prepared to take their work seriously, can achieve a great deal, enjoy a lot of support, and have a really good time along the way.

Do you have any particularly good anecdotes you can share with us?

Any process involving people has its funny moments and its heartbreaking moments.  The most memorable always have to do with giving deserving students good news.  I once called up a student to tell him that we'd be making him an offer through the Winter Pool.  After about twenty seconds silence his response was 'you've just blown my ****** mind!"

Mind=blown.  Image credit: Hamad Al-Mohammad

All of us at TCS hope that good results have ‘blown your ****** mind’ too, and if they have, then congratulations! We hope you get into the full swing of celebrations, and reap the wards of a well-deserved success! Once the hangover fades, find out more about Cambridge’s most vibrant student newspaper by emailing to see how you can get involved.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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