Exam results are not enough; Cambridge likes to see what it is getting. A personal statement is also required, which if compelling enough will result in an invitation to be interviewed. This is the most crucial and scary part of the application process and is designed to investigate the student’s suitability. There are myths surrounding the interviews. Contrary to widely held views, the admissions tutors state they do not set out to trick candidates with weird questions, but discuss issues around the chosen subject and personal statement. Students need to display flexible minds that are receptive to teaching; they have to be passionate and processes mental stamina. Being nervous ...view middle of the document...
Robinson College, for example, is considered laid-back liberal, King’s is perceived as passionately active, favouring Labour with a 70% intake from state schools, while Magdalene is viewed as conservative, despite producing an editor of The Guardian newspaper (the newspaper of choice for liberals). Trinity is seen as the most aristocratic and has generally been the college of choice of the British royal family. Whatever a college is known for, such will be its diversity that the exact opposite can and will be found there. This has always been the case with much in-house fighting recorded between Catholics and Protestants, Royalists and Parliamentarians, not to mention the squabbles between supporters of Gothic and classical architecture.
Students should consider practical issues such as, how far away from college is their faculty, has the college got the facilities required to fulfil other interests like music, art and sport? How good is the college library in their chosen subject? Does the college indulge a high table along with separate social spaces for undergraduates, postgraduates and tutors or is it egalitarian with no segregation and no high table? Not all colleges have a chapel, is that important? Do women require a single sex college?
Unlike Oxford, all Cambridge colleges can usually supply college owned accommodation for at least three years to undergraduates, which in most cases is the length of the course. This accommodation may not be on site, so tight is space in central Cambridge that colleges now build satellite facilities. Many fourth years and postgraduates can also be sheltered but this is not guaranteed. Applicants should check out the quality and price of the food in hall and enquire about self-catering facilities, both of which vary greatly between colleges.
Some applicants agree with the university prospectus and just want a Cambridge education that gives then access to all the wonderful resources on offer and are not bothered which college they go to. These students fill in an open application and if successful will be assigned a college. They are not discriminated against in any way. For applicants where the type of college is important, Cambridge (and Oxford) holds several open days a year, providing established students as guides to give tours lasting around half an hour. Some, but not all have to be booked.
Generally all undergraduates are accepted on their potential to gain a first class honours degree. This may sound all rather off-putting to sixth formers at state schools with no real history of supplying Cambridge, but if they do not apply they cannot be accepted.
The University of Cambridge has existed for 800 years and despite the odd grumbling about government intervention is in the rudest of health, educating more students than it has ever done in its history. In that time the university has experience monumental political, religious and social upheavals and survived it all with qualities that...