Before the academic year starts I’d like to say something about the way I approached Cambridge, my college and the process of applicaiton. I hope these brief notes may be useful for anybody willing to follow a similar path. For any question just leave a comment below!
I visited Cambridge for the first time during Summer 2013; it was a study holiday,in theory a good occasion to develop my linguistic skill. Now I can honestly say that, if it did not particularly boost my English, certainly it gave me great inspiration for the years to come.
Briefly, my school teachers knew the fellow of a college, allowing us to visit it and get some information regarding the way Cambridge and the college system work. The university is made up of thirty-one colleges, institutions which provide a wide array of services for students throughout their stay, from accommodation to sport facilities; furthermore, colleges are responsible for admissions.
Such system allows student to fit easily into university life, providing the basics they need. Moreover, collegiate life reduces distances between students, making integration easier between people from different backgrounds and allowing to develop a net of contacts soon; last but not least, it provides a proper environment to work effectively and help whenever necessary. These are among the reasons, along with Cambridge’s excellent academic reputation, which led me to apply.
Giving a totally rational reason for my choice is not simple: most colleges have similar academic performances and, as courses are run by faculties, these do not influence students’ experience. When I attended an open day in July 2015 I had already shortlisted some colleges according to criteria such as position, but the list was still long; hence I decided to have a tour of some colleges and see. I spent the whole afternoon this way, passing through King’s, Corpus Christi, Christ’s, Magdalene (it turned to be my second choice) and eventually Jesus.
Jesus college has an extraordinary position: it is five minutes away from the city centre, but yet enjoyes incredibly vast grounds with gardens and sport fields. The entrance itself (a tower-like structure of bricks at the end of a long path) conveys an idea of majestic spaciousness. Throughout the gardens contemporary sculptures are scattered, highlighting a strange contrast between different ages (the college’s chapel is the oldest university building still in use); yet, the whole atmosphere conveys a deep feeling of peace, fostered by ample sights, green lawns and red-brick buildings. Before becoming a university institution Jesus used to be a convent and I believe that the past aura still permeates its grounds.
My choice, that I’d now define slightly impulsive (but not wrong indeed), was made as I ended the tour: I saw myself studying among those buildings, it was the clearest sensation, even though it still needed to be confirmed by facts. Some months later I applied.
As I wrote, students are selected by colleges, which set a pre-defined limit of places per subject. History of art is among the smallest courses, so each undergraduate college can admit two people only per year.
The whole process started as I submitted my application through ucas.com as for any other UK university. After a while I was asked to submit two marked essays produced as part of my schoolwork. I chose a piece of art history and one of English literature and philosophy: the first was an analysis of Iris’s statue from the Parthenon’s West pediment, the second a study of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet focused on its philosophical and ethical references. This was followed by an e-mail of the college in November inviting me for an interview that was to take place in early December. The interview is supposed to test whether you’re apt to the Cambridge system or not, so it is not based on previous knowledge: you should rather be able to apply things you already know in different contexts, showing engagement with your subject and a flexible mentality.
I attended two interviews in which I was first asked about my personal statement and personal readings, and then to comment and compare images I had never seen before. I remember pleasantly those moments: I did not perceive them as a test; rather, I felt I was having a discussion on art, showing my point of view, listening to the professors’ critics and trying to implement them in a new answer. I am not saying that it was all plain and simple, on the contrary I believe that I was asked to go as far as I could, but this is also what drew me to Cambridge: a chance to challenge my potential and to develop it further. Indeed, I was being asked to think. Roughly one month later, I received an offer.
Edriandille on Deviantart