There are lots of resources online you can use to find out more about life at University, and Cambridge in particular.
Why Higher Education?
If you are still thinking about whether University is the right choice for you, there is loads of help out there! UCAS have created lots of guides such as 'Why Higher Education?' and 'the Undergraduate Experience'. These can help you work out if it sounds like the right thing for you. If you think it sounds like something you'd enjoy, but are worried about finance (more here too!) or fitting in, then keep an eye out for opportunities such as mentoring schemes, residentials and Open Days. You can have a look at student societies & organisations at Universities you might think about applying to. Very often you'll find there are groups of/for students with similar experiences to you.
Mentoring Schemes link: that not all of these schemes are affiliated with a University. They are largely weighted towards Cambridge & Oxford.
Why Cambridge?: Opportunities for Students
If you are thinking about applying to Cambridge, but want to find out more, there are lots of opportunities to get support. Have a look at the courses & colleges at the University. This can help you understand what's on offer & how the collegiate system works.
The University has compiled a list of events which you can attend. Many of these are currently online. There is also specific support for students from backgrounds which are under-represented at the University:
- Shadowing Scheme which is a chance to 'shadow' a current student. This is for Year 12s with 'little or no experience of University'
- The Sutton Trust Summer Schools offer free subject-specific residentials for state-educated Year 12s
- Target Oxbridge is a mentoring program for Black African & Caribbean students, and students of mixed race with Black African & Caribbean heritage, who are in Year 12
Why Cambridge?: What It's Like
It's also important to get a sense of what life at Cambridge might be like. The 'Opportunities' above might help, but there's also lots to read & watch online. Check out this visual series, and the video series “Get In Cambridge” & “Applying to Cambridge” to discover what else students say. A group of students from under-represented ethnic backgrounds have also created this site aim, which includes details of their experiences. This ‘day in the life’ with Zainab is also particularly great, and InsideUni’s Q&As might help you to hear from students with similar experiences to you. These videos are based around a variety of identities such as subject, interests (like sports), ethnicity and nationality.
You can also find out about the many different types of support available at the University. Our student societies provide important places of community. These aren’t just interest societies, there are also many which are cultural & identity based. There are the African-Caribbean Society (ACS), Class Act (for students from a variety of backgrounds related to class & wealth), and iSoc, Cambridge’s Islamic Society. There are also a number of support structures built in to each College & the University as a whole. Many students also qualify for financial support like the Cambridge Bursary.
Remember that these sites detail experience & advice from students who have had specific personal experiences. While they are useful for finding out what students have to say, they might not be representative of the student experience as a whole. They might not also be like what Cambridge would be like for you, if you were to study here.
How do I apply to Cambridge?: The Application Process
The University have put together a comprehensive guide for how application works. There are three 'extra' parts to the application process: the additional information questionnaire, admissions assessments, and interviews. These are not 'stages', but all add up to give an overall picture of what you might be like as a student here. Remember - Cambridge’s Admissions Tutors want students who have academic ability & potential. They want you to be able to flourish at Cambridge, and suit their course. There is no magic formula or secret criteria to catch you out!
Interviews are often quite a daunting part of the process, and there is a lot of myth about what happens at a Cambridge interview. This is what our college, Emmanuel, say about interviews. You can also watch these videos from the University to get a better feel for what they're like. Students who have been through it themselves also have a lot to say. This video features students who thought their interviews 'didn't go well'. InsideUni have compiled hundreds of students' testimonies, which describe everything from what the room was like, to what topics were discussed at interview.
How do I apply to Cambridge?: Next Steps
We use the word ‘super-curriculars’ to talk about the extra research & study people do outside of school. This sort of work can help you develop your ideas, find out more about the subject you love, and can make up the basis of your personal statement. There are many resources online which can help you. These include HE+, Your application | Undergraduate Study (cam.ac.uk) (super-curricular guide on the right!), and the student website InsideUni’s subject guides. These guides are just a starting point. You can use them to find something you're interested in, then follow this up with your own research. Take notes as you go and try to engage critically with what you're reading. Don't just use these as a checklist of what to read or do. Remember, at the end of the day, your personal statement is personal so you want to be sure it's unique to you.