During my time in Sixth Form, I always knew that I wanted to pursue a degree within the Humanities sector. My A levels in Psychology, History and Mathematics developed in me a love of learning and honed my ability to critically appraise information. Studying History at A level furthered my passion for learning about the past, especially political climates, subterfuge, war and crimes. I have a particular interest in American society and culture; how it grew to become what it was and the relations between different races. The main reason as to why I actually chose to apply for History and Politics at university was because the modules within the degree course at each respective university were more suited to my tastes than a pure History degree – not to mention that I have an equal interest in modern affairs as I do in key periods and eras of the past.
The Nottingham Emmanuel Sixth Form has given me many opportunities to be involved in university progression programmes such as Teach First and the Sutton Trust. It was these experiences that shaped my decision to apply to Cambridge University as they enabled me to gain a further insight into both the teaching methods at both Oxford and Cambridge and the cities themselves. I found myself really engaged in the lectures at Cambridge and quickly developed friendly relationships with people I saw regularly on my course as well as the people outside of it.
In terms of applying to Cambridge, there were a lot of obstacles I had to get through. The first thing was getting a well-written personal statement and sending it out by 15th October, which is the early deadline for all applicants who are interested in Oxbridge, medicine, veterinary and dentistry degrees. Fortunately, the Sixth Form team, and previous programmes I’ve been on, helped out a lot in editing and adding to the final draft. After this, I had to fill out an additional SAQ (supplementary application questionnaire), which was needed for the interview process to help the admissions team get more detailed information as to my grades, past experiences and anything else I might want to add.
The next step was to take the HAA (History Aptitude Assessment). On the whole, this wasn’t too bad; I enjoyed the first part of it immensely as it mainly relied on reading comprehension and the excerpts used in the test were actually quite interesting to read. The second part of the HAA was, in my opinion, the hardest. In itself, it was an essay question based on two unseen sources, something which would have been relatively familiar, as a similar type of structure is used in AS level History. The problem was, the question was on an obscure topic of which I had relatively little knowledge, so it relied mainly on my ability to recall techniques whilst under stress.
After successfully passing the HAA, I received information about an interview at Selwyn College. I was told that I had to send in two recent essays of my choice, so I chose two with legible handwriting and a question I wouldn’t mind going into depth on – these were on the topic of the arrival of Mary Queen of Scotts and the effect Kett’s rebellion had on the fabric of Tudor society. Prior to the formal interview, I got some tips from people I made contact with throughout Sixth Form and went through a mini interview with Mr. Saunders (Assistant Principal and History teacher) to try and prepare for the real deal.
On the day, the first interview was of a general nature and lasted 15 minutes – it was mainly about why I chose the course, what I was doing and lastly, what were my plans for the Christmas holidays. After this, I had 30 minutes to read an article, annotate it and try and figure out what the interviewers might ask me – the excerpt was mainly on the role of History in modern society, the part historians play etc. It wasn’t centered around a period of time, but more on why historians do what they do and whether it’s important.
The second interview was by far the best experience I had throughout my application to Cambridge; the interview was split into two halves, the first half was based on the discussion of the article and I found myself engaged in the conversation and forced to think more deeply about my opinions and examples I could relate to the piece to support my beliefs. The second part of the interview was about my essay on Kett’s rebellion; I discussed my opinion on how it affected the ‘fabric of society’, what the ‘fabric of society’ was, and lastly how the article I discussed in the first half of the interview applied to the rebellion.
Almost 6 weeks letter, I received the email I’d been waiting for; the offer of a place to read History and Politics at Cambridge University. I couldn’t have been happier though I know that the real work starts now in terms of revision and preparation for my A level examinations.
In terms of my plans for the future, I know I want to get involved in societies at University, learn a language, go on an exchange programme abroad and definitely gain some experience in the workforce. One thing that I’m certain of is that I’ll keep my eyes open for programmes or events like Sutton Trust and Teach First, as they were useful in developing me as an individual and are still aiding me throughout my University application process.