*Kaycee wrote this article at the end of last academic year. She is now studying Law at Cambridge University*
“Not Oxbridge, it’s not for people like me,” is what I first told myself. Funnily enough, I almost scared myself off from applying. I always had these preconceived notions that I wasn’t ‘smart enough’ or that they would instantly reject me, so there was no point in trying. All I can say now is it’s a good job I didn’t let these doubts stop me because now I’m an offer holder for Law at the University of Cambridge.
At the end of Year 12, I’d been achieving good grades in CAPs and I had always been what some would call a ‘high achiever’. At the point of deciding which universities to apply for, I knew I wanted to study Law so I started looking at where I could apply to, and, thanks to the support of the Enhancing Excellence team at Notre Dame, Oxbridge didn’t seem so unrealistic anymore. In June of Year 12, I decided that I might as well apply as it would only be 1 out of 5 UCAS options, so why not?
With no one else in my family having gone to university, the internet became my best friend. One of the biggest challenges was deciding which college to apply to. I knew it was Cambridge I wanted to apply to, purely based on the fact I preferred the Law course and examination style over Oxford, but with 29 undergrad colleges it was hard to choose just one. My advice would be to decide on what is most important for you in a college such as location, size, accommodation etc. Then, research all the colleges via their websites and categorise them into 3 groups: those you really like, those you are not too sure about, and those definitely don’t want to attend. With your top choices listed, have a deeper look into what they offer - go and visit them if you can - and just choose the one that feels right for you. For me, I wasn’t too concerned about the size, I just wanted one close to the city centre that looked friendly and comfortable, and I ended up going for Emmanuel.
Once I had made up my mind where I wanted to apply, it was time to start on the application process. First step was my personal statement, which I began drafting over summer. The thing I found most helpful when starting off was the record I had of all super curricular activities I’d undertaken. The most challenging part was bringing this all together in a concise statement. My strategy was to tell a story of my developing interests in Law - what I’d researched, read, questioned, wrote, seen and how this changed my understanding. I think the key here is showing not just that you have read something but that you’ve learnt from it and engaged with the material actively. Some of the things I focused on included coursework, my EPQ, a lecture, work experience and wider readig. Also, bear in mind that depth is essential. If you feel as though you are struggling, remember that you’re not on your own - Kitty Graham provided incredibly helpful advice when I was writing my personal statement for the October application deadline.
Finally, I completed the application. I’d sent it off, yet this was only half of the work; an admissions test and an interview lay ahead. However, to my surprise, they weren’t impossible activities that you were destined to fail at. In fact, reading up online and doing a few practice tests meant I was sufficiently prepared. My interview was actually the opposite of what I thought it would be - they didn’t try to trip me up or ask me ridiculously unsolvable questions - and was more of an academic discussion asking me to put forward arguments, explain my reasoning and show how I think about different questions. It was honestly nowhere near as scary as I had imagined.
Now I just had to wait until the offer day. By then, I’d convinced myself that there was no chance they would want to give me a place - ironic, I know - so you could imagine my delight at getting the offer email. It’s still very weird to think I will actually be starting at my dream university (provided I get the grades of course) in October this year. It is a very scary concept moving so far from home but I’m excited to be in a new city with new people and studying a course I’m passionate about with experts in Law teaching me.
So, that’s my journey of applying to Oxbridge, from Year 12 to the end of Year 13 where I am now waiting for results day. To any potential applicants, or even those who are unsure, my key piece of advice is just do it. It’s only 1 of your 5 UCAS options and the only way you have 0% chance of not getting in is if you don’t apply. If you put in the effort, you will be surprised at how much you can achieve.
On a final note, I hope that I’ll be seeing many Notre students around Cambridge or Oxford in a few years time and good luck with your university applications.