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    So I had the idea to start a thread with people commenting about their process of applying to Cambridge if they are not the typical student - this may be in terms of grades or social background etc.

    This is because I always see people commenting here about whether they are good enough for Cambridge and I think it's about time more people have faith in themselves: You don't have to be from a private school with the best grades in the country!

    One issue I would like to comment on is the statistical analysis of Cambridge Applicants. A typically successful candidate will have 5-6 A* with 2A*s at A2 and average UMS above 90%. However, that does not mean you have to have the same to apply and/or get in. I think part of the reason that Cambridge students have such high grades is because people with lower grades don't apply thinking they won't get in and so this only feeds the cycle of what creates a typical Cambridge Applicant/Student.

    Anyway, I'll start with myself. I am an offer-holder for Cambridge with less-than-stellar grades. My grades are as follows:

    GCSEs: 3A*s, 5As, 3Bs, 1C
    AS levels: 3As, 1B
    UMS Average for AS levels (top 3): 86.7%
    A2 predictions: A*AA

    I also come from a low-income background and a state school.

    Please, if you are someone who holds an offer/accepted into Cambridge and think that you do not 'fit the mould', post here so that more people are encouraged to apply!
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    (Original post by ilovegoats)
    So I had the idea to start a thread with people commenting about their process of applying to Cambridge if they are not the typical student
    You probably need to include your course and college to give some more context

    But I don't think there really is a "typical applicant"... you can see that from the Offer Holders No Discussion thread already

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=3815779
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    This is a good idea, I'm thinking of applying but not sure if I'll be good enough. Maybe seeing responses on this thread will encourage me! What course and college did you apply and get an offer from?
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    I'm in my third year now, I don't know if the standards have been upped since then. Last I heard they now only interview people with UMS of 85%+ at AS (do people even do ASs now?). Anyway, at the time my application wasn't particularly competitive - but thanks to a good interview I got in anyway.

    Without trying to blow my own horn, I'll also say although there is some correlation between AS UMS and your university grade, you shouldn't think you'd necessarily be worse than your peers academically once you get to Cambridge if your grades are a bit lower (last I saw the average correlation was about 0.4 between AS UMS and first-year Tripos scores; so AS UMS can account for 16% of variation in Tripos scores across the university, if you like).

    My grades were:

    GCSEs: 7A*s, 3As
    AS levels: 3As, 1C
    UMS Average for AS levels (top 3): 88%
    A2 predictions: A*A*A*
    A2 result: A*AA. The A* was scraped (182/200 in C3 + C4 to get the A* in maths), and both the As were 84%ish, so not spectacular.
    Subject: Geography

    And despite that, in my first year I got a high 2.1 (top 30% of year), and in my second year I scraped a first (top 15% of the year) - despite most of the people getting a 2.1 having 2/3+ A*s at A level.

    For (some) Arts subjects at least, how well you perform at interview may be a be better indicator of performance at university than UMS scores - although I do not know if there is evidence to show that.

    Good luck to you all.
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    (Original post by Ayooo)
    This is a good idea, I'm thinking of applying but not sure if I'll be good enough. Maybe seeing responses on this thread will encourage me! What course and college did you apply and get an offer from?
    I agree the course is essential information. People will inevitably have higher results when getting offers for competitive and or science/maths based subjects including Economics & Medicine. Some courses such as Law & Medicine take more than a passing interest in your GCSEs.

    But the point is well made that Cambridge is adept at looking at context. If you have achieved good marks from a poor school or difficult circumstances they will value your application over marginally better results from an excellent school and advantageous background.

    College is pretty unnecessary information and could be misleading.
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    (Original post by Bulbasaur)
    I'm in my third year now, I don't know if the standards have been upped since then. Last I heard they now only interview people with UMS of 85%+ at AS (do people even do ASs now?). Anyway, at the time my application wasn't particularly competitive - but thanks to a good interview I got in anyway.

    Without trying to blow my own horn, I'll also say although there is some correlation between AS UMS and your university grade, you shouldn't think you'd necessarily be worse than your peers academically once you get to Cambridge if your grades are a bit lower (last I saw the average correlation was about 0.4 between AS UMS and first-year Tripos scores; so AS UMS can account for 16% of variation in Tripos scores across the university, if you like).

    My grades were:

    GCSEs: 7A*s, 3As
    AS levels: 3As, 1C
    UMS Average for AS levels (top 3): 88%
    A2 predictions: A*A*A*
    A2 result: A*AA. The A* was scraped (182/200 in C3 + C4 to get the A* in maths), and both the As were 84%ish, so not spectacular.
    Subject: Geography

    And despite that, in my first year I got a high 2.1 (top 30% of year), and in my second year I scraped a first (top 15% of the year) - despite most of the people getting a 2.1 having 2/3+ A*s at A level.

    For (some) Arts subjects at least, how well you perform at interview may be a be better indicator of performance at university than UMS scores - although I do not know if there is evidence to show that.

    Good luck to you all.
    You don't mention if you came from a less advantaged school etc but if so you confirm the research that says that those who achieve good GCSEs from poor schools tend to do especially well. AS UMS are one of the best predictors that are available but as you say not perfect. The interview is indeed their best attempt to pick those who will perform better than their UMS suggest. It seems with you they called it right. Well done!
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    I'm an international student and I come from an ordinary middle-class Finnish family. Going to Cambridge never crossed my mind in school; I was a top student but Finnish students in general just don't consider studying abroad. It was only really after I had decided to study abroad (a radical decision for me) anyways that I started to consider applying for a top UK university.

    Even still, Cambridge still seemed to exist in a world completely detached from the world I had lived in; the simple and reliable Finnish society I had lived in for my whole life. My grandparents were farmers and my parents were the first in their family to get a university education. Even as late as a year ago I don't think anyone (including myself) had considered the option of applying to Cambridge.

    I suppose what I am trying to say here is that you shouldn't think that your background excludes you from applying; it's only by applying that you can be admitted
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    (Original post by Ayooo)
    This is a good idea, I'm thinking of applying but not sure if I'll be good enough. Maybe seeing responses on this thread will encourage me! What course and college did you apply and get an offer from?
    If you want to go to Cambridge just give it a shot! You'll regret looking back and wondering if you had gotten in if you had tried. A few teachers were very skeptical about me applying. About 14 people in my year applied and throughout the application process, I was given the least help - I wasn't given mock interviews and didn't get any help on my personal statement because no-one actually thought I could make it! Now I am 1 of 4 Oxbridge offer-holders in my year. Funny how things work out.

    But this is the point! No-one thought I could make it and for some reason (I can't quite explain why) I decided to give it a shot anyway. As you can imagine, I am immensely glad that I did.

    Also I applied for History - I'd rather not give my college because colleges don't make a difference - they are all of equal standard and I don't want people seeing my college and having misconceptions about it e.g. thinking it's easier to get into because I got in with less-than-stellar grades.

    I hope you decide to apply - remember, Cambridge will only be 1 of 5 choices anyway so it's definitely worth a shot. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss the process more specifically
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    (Original post by jneill)
    You probably need to include your course and college to give some more context

    But I don't think there really is a "typical applicant"... you can see that from the Offer Holders No Discussion thread already

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=3815779

    Oh, I did not know of this thread! Thank you for sharing! I suppose this thread could just be specifically for those who are less typical and advice could center around that
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    (Original post by ilovegoats)
    If you want to go to Cambridge just give it a shot! You'll regret looking back and wondering if you had gotten in if you had tried. A few teachers were very skeptical about me applying. About 14 people in my year applied and throughout the application process, I was given the least help - I wasn't given mock interviews and didn't get any help on my personal statement because no-one actually thought I could make it! Now I am 1 of 4 Oxbridge offer-holders in my year. Funny how things work out.

    But this is the point! No-one thought I could make it and for some reason (I can't quite explain why) I decided to give it a shot anyway. As you can imagine, I am immensely glad that I did.

    Also I applied for History - I'd rather not give my college because colleges don't make a difference - they are all of equal standard and I don't want people seeing my college and having misconceptions about it e.g. thinking it's easier to get into because I got in with less-than-stellar grades.

    I hope you decide to apply - remember, Cambridge will only be 1 of 5 choices anyway so it's definitely worth a shot. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss the process more specifically
    Thank you. That was quite motivational actually! I'll be sure to message you if I have an inquiry
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    GCSEs: 5A*s, 6As
    AS Levels: AAAB (D in one unit)
    Top 3 UMS Average: 96%
    A2 Predictions: A*A*A*

    Course: Natural Sciences (Biological)

    GCSE School: low-performing, converted-to-academy, state co-ed, where most students are considered 'disadvantaged' (i.e on free school meals)

    A Level College: Just an average state sixth form college, not that bad, not that good

    Other background info:
    From an area where going to Oxbridge is unheard of, a culture where a girl pursuing a high class education is still taboo and a family in a below-average income

    Hope this encourages more from similar backgrounds to apply! Honestly, if you want to get there bad enough, there's nothing stopping you :yep:
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    GCSEs: 4A* 5As 2Bs - I went to a bottom band state comprehensive (circa 40% pass rate, serious crime and drugs problems)

    AS results: AAAA - Moved to a better state comp for a levels, which was a much more productive environment for learning


    Top 3 UMS avg: 91% although my Maths and Further Maths average is 85%due to a C in M2

    Course applied for: Maths

    One thing I was always told is that you need a perfect record for Cambridge, with 95% across the board. It's a bit of a myth really as I only got >95% in 2/6 Maths/F.Maths units. The key is showing that you have potential at interview and being confident that coming from a rougher background doesn't make you any less smart than someone who was privately educated


    I come from a background where very few people go to uni, maybe 5 people from my old year 11 will be going to uni but I made sure that didn't stop me. The path to success is one you pave through your own hard work and the admissions tutors are very understanding of the limitations posed by your educational background


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    (Original post by eniet)
    I'm an international student and I come from an ordinary middle-class Finnish family. Going to Cambridge never crossed my mind in school; I was a top student but Finnish students in general just don't consider studying abroad. It was only really after I had decided to study abroad (a radical decision for me) anyways that I started to consider applying for a top UK university.

    Even still, Cambridge still seemed to exist in a world completely detached from the world I had lived in; the simple and reliable Finnish society I had lived in for my whole life. My grandparents were farmers and my parents were the first in their family to get a university education. Even as late as a year ago I don't think anyone (including myself) had considered the option of applying to Cambridge.

    I suppose what I am trying to say here is that you shouldn't think that your background excludes you from applying; it's only by applying that you can be admitted
    So you got an offer or you're in? My daughter got in from a state school in France, but she had targeted Oxbridge from age 12 and formulated a strategy to get in. Cam admissions was very diligent at taking into account how the French school system worked.
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    (Original post by alcibiade)
    So you got an offer or you're in? My daughter got in from a state school in France, but she had targeted Oxbridge from age 12 and formulated a strategy to get in. Cam admissions was very diligent at taking into account how the French school system worked.
    I received an unconditional offer this January for economics, yes.
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    (Original post by eniet)
    I received an unconditional offer this January for economics, yes.
    Congrats! It is everything it is cracked up to be.
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    (Original post by Bulbasaur)
    I'm in my third year now, I don't know if the standards have been upped since then. Last I heard they now only interview people with UMS of 85%+ at AS (do people even do ASs now?). Anyway, at the time my application wasn't particularly competitive - but thanks to a good interview I got in anyway.

    Without trying to blow my own horn, I'll also say although there is some correlation between AS UMS and your university grade, you shouldn't think you'd necessarily be worse than your peers academically once you get to Cambridge if your grades are a bit lower (last I saw the average correlation was about 0.4 between AS UMS and first-year Tripos scores; so AS UMS can account for 16% of variation in Tripos scores across the university, if you like).

    My grades were:

    GCSEs: 7A*s, 3As
    AS levels: 3As, 1C
    UMS Average for AS levels (top 3): 88%
    A2 predictions: A*A*A*
    A2 result: A*AA. The A* was scraped (182/200 in C3 + C4 to get the A* in maths), and both the As were 84%ish, so not spectacular.
    Subject: Geography

    And despite that, in my first year I got a high 2.1 (top 30% of year), and in my second year I scraped a first (top 15% of the year) - despite most of the people getting a 2.1 having 2/3+ A*s at A level.

    For (some) Arts subjects at least, how well you perform at interview may be a be better indicator of performance at university than UMS scores - although I do not know if there is evidence to show that.

    Good luck to you all.
    I would say that the type of school you went to would be a better indicator of your performance at university, as opposed to AS UMS (in comparison to a private school student with the same grades!). I remember reading somewhere that privately educated students tend to do worse than those who attended a state school.

    Someone who can get A*AA at a state school will, in general, have a stronger drive to succeed and perhaps have a better work ethic than a student who got A*AA at a private school. The best third year chemist in Bristol was educated at a really crap school, 100% in A level chemistry (A*A*A*A* overall), and got 99% in first year and 97% in second year. Another guy from the same school averaged 92%+ as well. (I realise these are anecdotal, but you get the point) And my flatmate who went to a comprehensive who only got A*AA averaged at least 95% who is at least in the top 4...
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    (Original post by InadequateJusticex)
    I would say that the type of school you went to would be a better indicator of your performance at university, as opposed to AS UMS (in comparison to a private school student with the same grades!). I remember reading somewhere that privately educated students tend to do worse than those who attended a state school.
    I'd be inclined to agree, but I doubt that admissions tutors can or would do anything about that, even if they did agree. They can only really judge you based on your application. :dontknow:
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    (Original post by InadequateJusticex)
    I would say that the type of school you went to would be a better indicator of your performance at university, as opposed to AS UMS (in comparison to a private school student with the same grades!). I remember reading somewhere that privately educated students tend to do worse than those who attended a state school.

    Someone who can get A*AA at a state school will, in general, have a stronger drive to succeed and perhaps have a better work ethic than a student who got A*AA at a private school. The best third year chemist in Bristol was educated at a really crap school, 100% in A level chemistry (A*A*A*A* overall), and got 99% in first year and 97% in second year. Another guy from the same school averaged 92%+ as well. (I realise these are anecdotal, but you get the point) And my flatmate who went to a comprehensive who only got A*AA averaged at least 95% who is at least in the top 4...
    Not true at Cambridge though. Somebody who gets AAB may do better than AAA but by the time you get to A*A*A it is no longer true. See Cambridge's research "School background is not a factor in Cambridge degree" successhttp://www.cao.cam.ac.uk/sites/www.cao.cam.ac.uk/files/ar_gp_school_performance.pdf
    And
    A* at A Level as a Predictor of Tripos Performance: An initial analysis
    http://www.cao.cam.ac.uk/sites/www.c...erformance.pdf
    It is a mistake to equate good with private. There are many excellent grammar schools which are state and many underperforming private schools.
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    (Original post by Hydeman)
    I'd be inclined to agree, but I doubt that admissions tutors can or would do anything about that, even if they did agree. They can only really judge you based on your application. :dontknow:
    Well to be honest I made that post to ease any potential oxbridge applicants, particularly offer holders who are intimidated, rather than to suggest that the admissions team will do anything about it


    (Original post by Colmans)
    Not true at Cambridge though. Somebody who gets AAB may do better than AAA but by the time you get to A*A*A it is no longer true. See Cambridge's research "School background is not a factor in Cambridge degree" successhttp://www.cao.cam.ac.uk/sites/www.cao.cam.ac.uk/files/ar_gp_school_performance.pdf
    And
    A* at A Level as a Predictor of Tripos Performance: An initial analysis
    http://www.cao.cam.ac.uk/sites/www.c...erformance.pdf
    It is a mistake to equate good with private. There are many excellent grammar schools which are state and many underperforming private schools.
    My post assumes that the schools attended would be bog standard really (bog standard by state and private standards respectively), I'm aware that there are underperforming private schools and excellent state schools. The underlying point of my post is that you shouldn't let your GCSE/A level grades define your academic limit at university - whilst an aptitude for the subject will obviously aid in getting that shiny first, it's not the be all and end all and the most important factor is consistent hard work.Just because you couldn't get xyz grades doesn't mean you can't get a first or do well at university!
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    (Original post by InadequateJusticex)


    My post assumes that the schools attended would be bog standard really (bog standard by state and private standards respectively), I'm aware that there are underperforming private schools and excellent state schools. The underlying point of my post is that you shouldn't let your GCSE/A level grades define your academic limit at university - whilst an aptitude for the subject will obviously aid in getting that shiny first, it's not the be all and end all and the most important factor is consistent hard work.Just because you couldn't get xyz grades doesn't mean you can't get a first or do well at university!
    Your ambition to encourage people to aim high and not write themselves off is good. But you run the risk of implying that the system is stacked against state school pupils and that private school pupils derive their success from factors external to them.

    In practice private school pupils and state grammar pupils have been in competitive environments where they have never assumed they are the best and so have always had to work hard to do well. Every year they see highly able pupils not getting offers and so they tend to not take them for granted. Their parents have often succeeded because of their education and so have motivated them to believe that their future is under their control. My impression was that some comprehensive pupils had often been one of a tiny handful of bright pupils and had never struggled to come top. They were taken aback by how hard they had to work at Cambridge as previously they had rarely done academic work at weekends or flunked a test even if they hadn't revised.

    I think Cambridge is quite good at picking out those who have the motivation to do well, they exclude the spoon fed from any school and those who despite passion simply don't have the raw ability.

    It's all very well to say don't allow grades to limit you but you can't generally ignore the need to meet the grade requirement or to beat fellow candidates who may have achieved better than you without any greater advantage.


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