Hi everyone! My name is Sikemi and I am currently a first year Geography student at the University of Cambridge. My pathway to Cambridge is something that I am frequently asked about, and I am keen to share my experiences and to encourage others to embark on this journey too! In this blog post I will be discussing how I got into Cambridge University, as well as giving some advice and top tips to anyone looking to apply.
My journey began in September 2019, which was when I decided on the universities that I wanted to apply to. I submitted applications to five universities (Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, Nottingham, and Royal Holloway), and started to receive offers within two weeks. For Cambridge, I had to complete an admissions test before receiving an interview offer in December. I traveled to Cambridge for my interview alone – this was a very daunting experience but it allowed me to visit the city again and to see what it was like to be a student there! I stayed in college accommodation overnight and I got to explore the city before my interview in the morning. I had two interviews, both of which were difficult, but gave a realistic expectation of what teaching is like at Cambridge. I then had to wait about one month before I found out whether or not I had gotten in. Hearing the news was definitely one of the highlights of 2020!
Having gone through the process and also receiving offers from all of the universities that I applied for, here are some tips that I wish I had known before applying.
1. Be organised.
The application process is long and complicated! There are various things to consider including dates and timings of admissions tests, interviews, and deadlines to send in applications (the UCAS deadline for Oxbridge and Medicine is earlier than other universities). Being organised will reduce the stress of the process.
2. Know your personal statement inside and out.
The interview tends to be based around your personal statement and this can help feed into further discussions. Therefore, it is important to know the details of your personal statement. This includes having read the books and articles that you claimed to have read when writing it! In terms of further interview preparation, do wider reading around your subject area. For me, this meant reading articles on topics such as climate change and flicking through textbooks.
3. Watch videos
There are so many videos on platforms such as Youtube which explain different people’s experiences of the application and interview process at Cambridge. These are invaluable sources of help, and they offer various perspectives and subject specific advice. I recently started a Youtube channel and my most recent video discusses my experience in more detail. Feel free to check it out here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyjQVrhEG8s&t=253s
4. Have non-academic experience.
As much as Cambridge is a very academic institution, they are looking for students who can offer more than just brains! This means taking part in a range of extra-curriculars (the more unique the better), doing something for your community such as volunteering or even having a part time job. These will also give you plenty to talk about in your application and at an interview.
5. Be yourself!
This is perhaps the most important tip. Be yourself! At the end of the day, the university is looking to admit students who they believe would thrive in their unique learning environment, and they will definitely be able to tell if you are putting it on. Don’t worry about rejection – the way I used to think of it was that it only means that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the experience!
There are many misconceptions about Cambridge, one of them being that you have to be from a privileged background, have rich parents and be a certain race or ethnicity to attend the university. As a black woman who is not from a particularly privileged background, I can tell you that this is not true at all! In fact, Cambridge is an extremely diverse city and the university is making efforts to improve diversity within colleges. You should definitely not let your race, social background or any other factor deter you from applying. Mentoring programs delivered by organisations such as Rare Recruitment and SEO London are a fantastic way to learn more about the application process and to boost your chances of getting in. I also recommend speaking to current Cambridge students as this is the best way to gain insider information and see if the university is really suited to you.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or want to hear more about my experience. As already mentioned, I have a Youtube channel and will be posting more videos about my Cambridge experience there. Additionally, I started a podcast with my friend where we discuss our experiences at Cambridge in a wider context – it is called ‘Generation C’ and you can listen to it on most streaming platforms. Here is the Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/show/6z1OD21FVrBKrawxhG5fPn?si=nCjyh66YR4O4i7PPRDtqUA.
I hope that this has been helpful!
Written by Sikemi