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That's okay- I only went to one open day, and that was the one university that rejected me, so they're not all that great for your application :-) But they are good fun, and they will give you a feel for a place.
As for the summer schools, I'm not sure about UNIQ, but Sutton Trust is not only free food, accommodation etc for the week, but they'll pay all of your travel costs too, so I'd still recommend giving it a look :-) I went, and I loved it- it's one of the main things that made me change my mind from Oxford to Cambs. And summer schools really will look good on your application. But then again, they're not the be all and end all, so don't worry if you decide not to, or you apply and don't get in. They can be very competitive (in terms of numbers, it was statistically more difficult to get onto the UNIQ summer school than an actual undergraduate place at Oxford, and possibly the same for Cambs, I'm not entirely sure.) Anyway, good luck if you do decide to apply, and bear in mind all the necessary deadlines :-)
Fourthly (not sure that's a word, but oh well), now you have the really exciting bit where you get to order like a million prospectuses from all over the country and visit open days and look at lots of photographs of smiling students on university websites. Enjoy it. This is the fun bit of applying!
All in all, the best thing you can do for your application is work really hard to get as high UMS scores as possible, and just keep doing what you're doing; become a student member of the IOP, read science books (William Dunham is my favourite popular-science/mathematics author) and magazines, and indulge your passion for Natural Sciences. If you do that; i.e. get strong grades and stay a reasonably interesting individual, when the time comes, your paper application will definitely get you that interview, and then it's all up to you. Good luck, have fun and don't hesitate to ask if you've any more questions :-)
P.S Sorry I had to to write two messages, TSR asked me to shorten it :-)
One year to prepare? That's brilliant, as now really is the best time to start organising.
Okay, so I'm guessing you're just about to start A-Levels? Then subject choice is the most important factor in your university application, if you're really serious about a top uni. The Russell Group publishes a guide about this; http://russellgroup.org/Informed%20Choices%20final.pdf that's worth a read.
The second big piece of advice I can give you is apply to summer schools (as long as the timing doesn't clash with your trip to South Africa, obviously!). I know you're thinking of applying to Cambridge, but you can apply to both Oxford's UNIQ summer school and The Sutton Trust Summer School, which is run at five universities, I think, including Cambs. Also check out if any local universities in your area run any. They're brilliant to go on your application, as they show you're motivated, academically-minded, and committed to university. Plus they're also great fun and really informative
Thirdly, talking about interviews (which isn't something you need to be thinking about too much yet!) I didn't take any other sciences apart from Maths and Physics (which is really not recommended for NatSci) so I only had one chemistry question in my interview. My first interview was entirely academic (and entirely science-specific); no personal statement or anything, just questions. My second interview spoke about my application, but again, not about my personal statement, just asked me to explain my wobbly Mathematics modular scores (they're a bit up and down- very high in pure modules, and only mid to high As in applied modules) and talk about my subject choices, and then the interviewer went on to quiz me on mathematics. But you definitely don't need to worry too much about interviews yet, so don't! :-D
Hi I thought I'd leave you a message instead of staying on the thread and annoying people by being off-topic. Is there anything specific you'd like to know about applying to Cambridge? Obviously, I don't really consider myself an expert, but I'm happy to answer any questions I can!
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