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Without doubt the oxbridge interviews were the most stressful uni interviews i had to do. In particular I'm giving advice about my experience applying to cambridge. ----------------------------------------------- Ok, so you've read about how stressful and scary it all is. Nobody would have guessed I'd have got a place. I'm not the most academically gifted person. Nor am i incredibly good at interviews. I did the following though, and it worked. For me anyway. I can relate to the cambridge application process, and some of this advice may be helpful for those applying to oxford.
Choice of subject
Choose your subject wisely. Don't be tempted to apply for a different course at oxbridge from the ones at your other universities as most likely they'll pick up on this immediately on reading your ucas form. Check that you've taken the required a levels, if you haven't dont give up hope! Just follow the next piece of advice (i didnt take the "right" a-levels to do computer science, and am starting in october)
Deciding on the college
You can save yourself an awful lot of time and effort if you seriously consider the college you wish to apply to. at the back of the prospectus there is a list of colleges by subject, and the ratio of applicants to places is listed. Don't be put off if one college is over subscribed.
Decide the college which you most prefer the look of, and then go to www.cam.ac.uk and look up the contact details for that college. Email the head fellow for your subject and describe your a level subjects
and gcses, and ask for his advice on which college would be most suited to you.
Repeat at another college, and see if you get the same advice.
Don't be afraid to email the tutors or admissions secretaries. They are very helpful the majority of the time and they give more advice through email than over the phone.
Background reading/writing your ucas form
Do not lie! Do not think that you'll have read a book by the time your interview comes round. Do not presume that you'll have used vba by the time your interview comes round (ahem.)not that i did any such thing.. ok i did. And it is incredibly hard to pull the interview round after a glitch like that has been picked up upon.
The best thing is to get advice from the people that would know. The tutors. Don't be afraid to ask for any recommended reading. They can't bite you're head off if you're at your computer in a completely different geographic area. If they do get annoyed, just don't apply to that college. You have nothing to lose. Always bear this in mind.
On writing your cambridge form, just be brief. I didn't have much to say on it at all. They didn't dwell on it. They just looked at my gcse results and said "oh those are very good" then looked at the ucas form.
Worth the money a lot of the time. I found mine helped a lot. Gave me an idea of what to expect before i got there, and made the whole day a lot less stressful.
The day of the interview
Wear something you'll be comfortable in.
My interview was on the coldest day in winter last year. I wore black trousers, and a shirt. There are a lot of people that wore suits, and I felt quite out of place. I also threw on a tatty old jumper under a coat because i was freezing. Don't do this. I was warm yes, very warm when i was in the waiting room. I couldnt take my jumper off though without looking like i was stripping, so i just zipped my coat right up and waited. They're all friendly at cambridge in my experience, particularly at fitzwilliam college. When my first interview came round they offered to take my coat. My face! I was so embarrased. My shirt sleeves were longer then my jumper, and my shirt was longer then my jumper. I looked a mess. The lesson to be learnt here is that they don't care too much what you look like. Just dress smartly, but comfortably.
Get there early. When i say early, i mean plan to be there an hour before hand. There was a huge queue for taxis from the station to the colleges, because EVERYONE has interviews on the same day. Being early does no harm, and it gives you more time to settle in.
Bring food I didn't. Big mistake. They provide biscuits and drinks, but there was an awful lot of people being interviewed that day.
Talk to other candidates. Don't be shy, they're probably nervous like you. I made the effort to talk to everyone, it will make you feel a whole lot better.
You will have two interviews. One will be "general" one will be subject specific. My "general" interview was much worse then my subject specific. Mind you it wasnt general. It was all based on chemistry and maths, with a little bit of computer science thrown in.
The setting was for me in a room, which was like a living room. I was made to sit on sofas, that you will sink into. DONT lean back. Its a big mistake, you'll spend the rest of the interview struggling to save yourself from drowning in them. Instead lean forward, look interested even if your not, and watch your body language.
The interviews may not seem to go that well, but dont be to concerned. I know I was annoyed afterwards, and a friend of mine that also got in cried afterwards. They will ask you questions you don't know the answer to. don't be afraid to ask for help if you're struggling, its much worse to continue struggling.
I had a general aptitude test. Take this hint. Email the admissions secretary and ask for a little more explanation on what its about before the day. You will be suprised. Well, I was. I say no more.
Around christmas you will hear either way. I was made a conditional offer of AAA.
Somehow i got the grades and will be starting next week. Have a huge background reading list now, and i guess i shall start on it.. not that ive been sittin at my pc putting it off for months now or anythin..
i gave it 5 stars (dunno exactly what it means) because they gave me a place. Very nice university indeed :oP
ps, i didnt go to the right school - or i dunno if thats true. I think about 16 girls from my school applied to oxbridge and 3 got places at their first choice college, one at a different college. If you're from a state school (like moi) look at fitzwilliam college. They have 70% of their pupils from state schools, this partly influenced my reason for applying to fitz.