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Author Topic: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)  (Read 7579 times)  Share 

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The-Cambridge-Student

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An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« on: February 16, 2015, 05:34:49 pm »
+17
Hey everyone ;D

It’s hard to believe that three months ago I was in the tiny front yard of a English rental flat on a freezing winters night, phone in one hand – desperately held aloft in search of an internet signal – and a piece of paper with the precious code that I needed to access my final high school results grasped in the other. The whole operation might have been a lot easier if I hadn’t been surreptitiously crouching behind the iron fence in a pathetic attempt to avoid catching the attention of any dodgy passers-by. After twelve years of schooling, months of gruelling study, painstaking research and relentless exams, my future hinged on a four-digit number. There’s nothing quite like icy gusts of ocean wind to bring on an existential crisis, especially when your 3G connection keeps dropping arbitrarily in and out. As an Australian girl from the warm, quiet suburbs of Sydney, it seemed so bizarre that I should be standing there at all. But if I wanted to get into the university of my dreams, I needed a very high result.

A few days before that fateful night in England, I had found myself in the beautiful city of Cambridge. Having taken a train through vast swathes of countryside greener than anything I had ever seen before, walking through the cobbled city centre made me feel as though I was awake for the first time in my life. Even though it was December, the sky was a crisp, bright shade of blue and was streaked with trails of cloud left by passing jet planes.

There’s something about Cambridge, something hard to define, that makes it feel like a beating heart. Vibrant shops nestle in the spaces between centuries old buildings, grand colleges sprawl on the banks of the river Cam and posters for student plays adorn iron railings beside bike after chained bike.  Perhaps it is the sheer number of people packed into such a tiny town that makes it feel so alive, particularly in interview season. In every café, I could spot a dozen high school kids wedged between two nervous parents, books and notes spread out across the tabletops amidst empty coffee cups.

The college where I had my interview was an incredible place. From a stunning old courtyard I was lead into a warm, book-lined room that fulfilled every stereotype I had ever read about an academic’s office.
“Well,” the professor remarked with surprise as he flicked through my file “You’ve come a long way, haven’t you?”
Within minutes I was fielding question after question, my brain pulsing like a bundle of fibre optic wires with a million different thoughts. It was badass. I felt like I was flying, theories and ideas tumbling from my mouth as we tackled each new concept.

I think we all have these moments when we fall in love a dream and a vision of our own future. Maybe some of us volunteer in remote communities and decide that we want to become doctors, perhaps others spend weekend after weekend exploring galleries, determined to become artists and sculptors. Why is it, then, that so many of us sacrifice these secret hopes, why do we hesitate to actualise our unspoken plans?

If you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, you’ll often hear them cry: AN ASTRONAUT, A DANCER, A MUSICAN, A WRITER. They will shout their answer confidently and clearly without a shred of doubt. In our society growing seems to entail scaling back our dreams. Objectively, this makes sense when a person has a family to support, a house and a mortgage…life and responsibilities get in the way. Yet why, I ask you, have we begun to pack away our secret hopes and ambitions at a seemingly younger and younger age, at a time in our lives when we aren’t tied down by kids, a job and heavy taxes?

At my school in Sydney, there was a phenomenon known as ‘spending your ATAR’ that became very popular. What this essentially meant was that when a student got, for example, a 99.7, they would ‘spend’ their ATAR by taking a degree like law just because they could. I myself very nearly did this.

All my life I have been told by teachers, school and society that paying for an arts degree is ‘waste’ of time and money – a gross indulgence that will render me unemployable. Comments such as these very nearly cost me the opportunity of a lifetime to study history at Cambridge University. If I hadn’t taken a chance on my crazy dream, right now I would have been studying a degree that I never really wanted to take, hating every minute of it.

Perhaps growing older has now become synonymous with sacrifice and comprise, but in the words of Charlotte Eriksson, “I’ve found that growing up means being honest. About what I want. What I need. What I feel. Who I am.”

I recently received a question on my blog that made me feel very sad for the anonymous asker. They said:

“How did you deal with people after you dropped maths, I really want to but I go to a school where maths and science are the most amazing subjects and if you're not good at it you're stupid. I really want to but everyone is so judgemental!”

To which I could only reply:

 “Well the best way you can deal with them is by getting a higher ATAR than them. I got a 99.7 with five units of History, four units of English and Legal Studies! Honestly any combination can get you very high grades (plus a 99.95 if you are really dedicated). If you don’t like science and maths and you are confident you can be ranked highly for your humanities subjects then I say take the ones you truly want to study, you’ll thank yourself later…I know so many people who took chemistry and physics because they ‘scaled well’ who didn’t get 99 ATARs… so really you should take the subjects you are good at.”

The most important thing that my final year of school taught me was that hard work combined with passion and willingness to takes risks was the only path to success. Can you imagine pursuing subjects that you hated, a degree that held no appeal for you and a job for which you felt no enthusiasm? Ask yourself, how will you feel if you devote yourself to dream that isn’t really yours…can you bear the thought of looking back upon your life and finding that all your achievements have amounted to nothing, simply because you are miserable?

You don’t owe it to society to fit a mould, but you do owe it to yourself to be honest about what you want. Although we do not enter this world on a level playing field, by deciding upon what we value – be that hard work, devotion to family or pursuit of a dream – at least we can find some sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

You don’t HAVE to be rich. You don’t HAVE to own a house or an expensive car. You don’t have to be famous. If you don’t get a 99 ATAR and are rejected from the course your parents have been telling you to take, that is OKAY.  There are a million different ways to get into the profession you want to pursue.

The point is…this is YOUR LIFE. On average, we get maybe 80, 90 years on this funny little rock floating through space that we call earth, and as a students we hold in our hands a unique opportunity to set the courses of our own futures. In the words of Robin William's character from Dead Poets Society, “Carpe diem! Seize the day…. Make your lives extraordinary”.

For the next few months, I will be here on this forum making weekly posts with all my advice in relation to school, work/life balance, study, notes, exams, marks, ATARs, subjects, university, careers etc.! The list goes on :) Now is the time to lift your expectations, take chances, work hard and support each other. The HSC and your final year are a marathon, and your success depends on how much you are willing to put in. I will be here to help and answer all your questions! Together we are going make it through this ;)

All the best, and good luck!

- Caitlin
« Last Edit: February 16, 2015, 08:57:12 pm by The-Cambridge-Student »
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

brenden

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2015, 07:42:24 pm »
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Even though she's an HSC grad, I'd still encourage any VCE/SACE/WACE people to ask any questions if they have any (Cambridge process, study habits etc).
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Kanon

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2015, 08:06:34 pm »
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Woah! Super congrats! All that hard work really payed off :D

Although not a VCE/HSC student I was wondering if you could outline how you 'studied'? Like how are you sure the content has gone into your head and that you fully understand it?
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Cogglesnatch Cuttlefish

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2015, 08:33:54 pm »
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Can you explain about the Cambridge process?
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The-Cambridge-Student

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2015, 11:01:36 am »
+4
Woah! Super congrats! All that hard work really payed off :D

Although not a VCE/HSC student I was wondering if you could outline how you 'studied'? Like how are you sure the content has gone into your head and that you fully understand it?

Thank you! :) Well I actually wrote up a response to a similar question on my blog not too long ago so I'll copy and paste what I said to help you :P:

I said "I had a very specific technique for learning general information and content. Essentially you learn something, you wait a little bit, ‘relearn it’, wait a bit longer and then repeat with bigger and bigger breaks (which turn into days and weeks) —> this is really effective.

For learning an essay, I used to start by memorising the first paragraph to the point where I could recite it off by heart. I would then learn the second paragraph, and once I had accomplished that, I would recite the first and second paragraph. I would continue in this fashion until I knew the whole essay. Once I perfected this technique, I was able to learn whole essays in about an hour (which was handy when I needed to occasionally cram aha). Once you have learned an essay in this manner, it is likely that you won’t properly remember it after about maybe two or three hours, so when this time has passed, go back and ‘relearn it’ -this shouldn’t be so difficult as you will be fairly familiar with it! Allow the gaps between study to grow longer, and hopefully the essay will be retained in your long term memory #pseudoscience #jksthereisresearchonthis

Of course all of this only applies if you are trying to learn long essays off by heart, you don’t need to be this rigorous if you just want to know an essay ‘fairly well’.

Personally I wouldn’t advocate for learning whole essays anyway, learn paragraphs that are centred around themes or points of information as they are much more adaptable."

Hope that is helpful and answers your question, I had other techniques like reciting things to pets (so lame I know haha but dogs can't judge you aha), sticking up notes around my room...OH the other thing too is that if you are trying to memorise something I personally found it really helpful to walk around my house, for some reason the activity of moving seemed to help me learn things..but maybe I'm just weird haha!
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

The-Cambridge-Student

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2015, 11:07:15 am »
+4
Can you explain about the Cambridge process?

Sure can :P I have rounded up the essential information that you need below:

--> https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/key-dates - This is a list of the key dates you need to take note of regarding your UCAS application

--> http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/dates.html - This is the page on which Cambridge lists the key dates for a Cambridge application

Essentially, in September you will be able to submit your UCAS application (Personal statement, personal information etc). If you want to be interviewed in Australia for Cambridge then the UCAS deadline for submission is October 15th.

If you apply to Cambridge, you also have to fill out this additional form called COPA (examples can be found on the Cambridge website).

In terms of requirements, what Cambridge are most interested in are your grades (which should be as high as possible) + your performance at interview and in any written assessments they give you on the day of your interview. They do care about extra-curricular activities (especially if they are impressive, e.g. debating in Parliament house or being a national athlete), but only from the perspective that they show you can undertake many activities AND maintain high grades.

NOTE* Cambridge are looking for a person who has their own ideas and opinions, who thinks outside the box, who isn't afraid to challenge accepted notions but who is also receptive to guidance. Striking the right balance between these virtues can be difficult, but if you undertake a few practice interviews that might help you a bit!

You should become accustomed to reading as many books on your subject as you can, your broad knowledge is more likely to impress a Cambridge professor than extracurricular activities.

Basically, you will be told eventually whether or not you have to attended an interview and a written exam. These will take place sometime in December (but are sometimes earlier for international students). After that, it's a just a waiting game to see if you get in!

Good luck!!!
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.

Adequace

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2015, 04:17:38 pm »
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Although I'm a VCE student, what method of studying and memorising worked the best for you for your humanities/english subjects? Did they differ from subject to subject?

Also, regarding what you said above. Did you memorise complete essays for all of your subjects' exams? Remembering one oral is hard enough.. :P

The-Cambridge-Student

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Re: An Introduction - Advice from a Cambridge Uni Student :)
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2015, 04:43:06 pm »
+1
Although I'm a VCE student, what method of studying and memorising worked the best for you for your humanities/english subjects? Did they differ from subject to subject?

Also, regarding what you said above. Did you memorise complete essays for all of your subjects' exams? Remembering one oral is hard enough.. :P

Oh yeah learning the amount of information necessary to do well in a humanities subject does take quite a bit of determination and perseverance haha! But it's worth it ;)

The methods I laid out above were probably my favourite way of learning information, the key really is diligence. Facts and memorised paragraphs can slip out of your head if you don't 're-learn' them fairly regularly, so if you follow the method I talked about ^ that should help a lot!

My method didn't really differ that much from subject to subject, mostly it just involved me taking a copy of the thing I was trying to learn and either sitting down and studying until I knew it, or walking around my house (for some reason it helped me learn things!)

I did actually memorise a couple of essays for each exam just in case I could use any of the material, but I also learned paragraphs and extra quote/evidence. I definitely didn't learn the essays expecting to be able to use them ahah, that wouldn't have worked, but it does mean if you get a similar question you have a rough idea of how to approach writing the response.

You defs don't need to learn whole essays though, really develop a method that works for you. I know a lot of people who only ever wrote essays on the spot during the exam,everyone is different! I just prefer to have a lot of spare material in my head just in case I can use it ;) 
18, going to Cambridge University in October to study History :) received a 99.7 ATAR in the 2014 HSC.