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' to 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. Also have a look at student societies and organisations at Universities you might think about applying to - very often you'll find there are groups by and for students with similar experiences to you.
Mentoring Schemes link: please note that not all of these schemes are affiliated with a University, and are 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. Firstly, have a look at the courses & colleges at the University, so you understand what's on offer and how the collegiate system works.
The University has compiled a list of Events which you can attend - many of which are currently online due to COVID-19. There is also specific support for students from backgrounds which are under-represented at the University - for example, the Shadowing Scheme (a chance to 'shadow' a current student, for Year 12s with 'little or no experience of University'), the Sutton Trust Summer Schools (free subject-specific residentials for state-educated Year 12s), and Target Oxbridge (a mentoring program for Black African and Caribbean students and students of mixed race with Black African and Caribbean heritage, 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: for example, 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 while sites which detail experience and advice from students are useful for finding out what students have to say, these might not be representative of student experience as a whole, or what University 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 Supplementary Application questionnaire, admissions assessments, and interviews. These are not 'stages', but all add up to give a holistic picture of what you might be like as a student here. Remember - Cambridge’s Admissions Tutors want students who have academic ability & potential, will flourish at Cambridge & who are suited to 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, and you can 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', and 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—such as HE+, Cambridge’s guide, and the student website InsideUni’s subject guides. These guides are a starting point: 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, and 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.