Things we all thought about our Cambridge interviews
Every single one of us cocked up really
“So how did your interview go?”
You’ve probably heard this 103483 million times this week in those painfully awkward icebreakers during Freshers.
And of course, you’ve heard all the classic stories; the one where so-and-so forgot his own name, someone tripped on the way in, got laughed at, choked, puked, fell asleep….
These well-recited tales (which for the record, are the worst icebreakers ever) for all their predictability, are ultimately oh-so relatable as we all at some point in our Cambridge careers, had to make the long and perilous journey up for a roasting to rival all roasts.
Funnily enough, a lucky few of us actually made it out alive and got invited back for 3 more years of it!! (lol)
Throwing it back to January, I remember sitting outside my interview and finally clocking that my duty here was to convince a world-expert in exactly 30 minutes why the autobiography of a bored sociopath was the absolute fire of my loins.
Suddenly, I was aware of the enormity of the task ahead.
Could I do it? Yes I fucking could I told myself, trying desperately not to let the all-consuming, ever present feelings of inadequacy set in whilst trying not to cringe when remembering what I had written on my personal statement.
Eventually, the man of the hour himself comes out and I enter his office. Before even sitting down, I am confronted by a mummified face which, tactically placed or not, stared back at me over the shoulder of my interviewer before I took a seat (nearly missing the chair by a fraction: TRUE STORY.)
In the most painful silence of my life, the reality of being in my position set in; a thought which initiated some pretty terrifying questions…
Had I been prepared? No I hadn’t. Had anyone looked over my SAQ before I sent it off? Nope. Had I been passed around the offices of various classics teachers at leading schools, prior to my interview to prepare me before being thrown to the lions: the world experts in my subject area who would be interviewing me? Oh I wish.
My interview preparation consisted of a trip down the road to the local sixth form with a nervous looking RS teacher who could have been a student himself and had tried and failed abysmally to fabricate a knowledge of Hippolytus ending with a well-practised wisecrack: “You’ll be great… Don’t worry…Stay calm… Stick to what you know…You’ve got a great chance of getting in.”™These remarks were enough to make you want to punch those who uttered them in the face, but most other Cantabs already know this.
“Is this yours?” The interviewer asks holding up my personal statement. I recognise my own tightly packed paragraphs, smashed together finally at 3am in a caffeine and nerve fuelled frenzy after flipping a coin over which college would be lucky enough to have me [cue anxiety and FOMO; Clare college bar I’m looking at you]. Would I regret sacrificing grandeur for normality? Would I look back woefully at my choice to abandon the city centre and flee to the hills?
There is a pause whilst he reads it and thus the roasting began…
30 minutes later, I walk back through the college gates into the darkness of the night. I, like so many other applicants, went in brimming with hopeless optimism of what lay ahead; assured that I was ready to grapple the dragon none could master: Cambridge University.
But, like most of those poor souls before me, I left with nothing but a fractured ego and a scarred intellectual integrity. How could they hold it against me for not knowing the context of some colourless passage of prose? Did I miss that simile in line 8? Or the symbolism in paragraph 2? Did I accidentally mispronounce the name of the book I’ve been studying for two years?
To me, and maybe you too, my fate was sealed; months of anticipation had led to a shameful defeat and the place I had always thought would be mine had slipped through my fingers in just 40 minutes.
But If you had asked me then, as I trudged through Cambridge in a torrent of self-damnation, what I would think of the fact that on Thursday 12th January I would receive a call informing me that I had achieved a place at Cambridge, I would be utterly speechless.
Truth is, for most of us our interviews were probably pretty shit, leaving us feeling less than confident about our chances. Though some of the stuff which went down at the interview was downright embarrassing, we somehow must have pulled it together.
But hey, here we all are now; we're all friends, lovin life and the fact that we all have to get up tomorrow at 9 am to discuss books on our reading lists! HAHA!
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