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    I'm going to take a gap year to reapply to Cambridge university and was wondering what kinds of things I could do related to physics to stand out. It doesn't have to be a job, any advice would be appreciated as I can't think of much I could do with A level knowledge in the field of physics. Also if it would matter, I'm an international student.
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    Any help?
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    I'm going to take a gap year to reapply to Cambridge university and was wondering what kinds of things I could do related to physics to stand out. It doesn't have to be a job, any advice would be appreciated as I can't think of much I could do with A level knowledge in the field of physics. Also if it would matter, I'm an international student.
    - Work experience (contact any physics/ engineering companies near your home and ask for a week of job shadowing)
    - MOOCs (these are online courses, often at around 1st year uni level - check out Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn, etc.)
    - Start a blog (write about exciting physics news stories, summaries of recent physics research papers, etc.)
    - Work on a physics project of some kind/ do some extended research on a topic and write an essay about it, etc. (could be either for a formal qualification, e.g. the EPQ, or just do it independently)
    - Read lots of physics/ popular science books
    - Summer schools/ taster days (depending on the availability of these in your country, these are an opportunity to try out studying your subject at uni for a day/ week, there are also some ridiculously over-priced ones in e.g. America for international students)
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    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    - Work experience (contact any physics/ engineering companies near your home and ask for a week of job shadowing)
    - MOOCs (these are online courses, often at around 1st year uni level - check out Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn, etc.)
    - Start a blog (write about exciting physics news stories, summaries of recent physics research papers, etc.)
    - Work on a physics project of some kind/ do some extended research on a topic and write an essay about it, etc. (could be either for a formal qualification, e.g. the EPQ, or just do it independently)
    - Read lots of physics/ popular science books
    - Summer schools/ taster days (depending on the availability of these in your country, these are an opportunity to try out studying your subject at uni for a day/ week, there are also some ridiculously over-priced ones in e.g. America for international students)
    That's really helpful thank you. Just a question, does it make much of a difference if I just watch the lectures and do the problem sets on mit courseware instead of doing the actual mooc? Does the verification count for that much? I was planning on doing a few courses from mit courseware like quantum mechanics and differential equations anyways but now im feeling I should do one of those from edx.

    Another question, I've heard from many places and even on TSR that Cambridge doesn't care that much about job experience, to what extent is that true?
    We don't have any summer schools here and neither do we have epq's. I'm planning on doing some mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena as experiments, how does that sound?
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    Another question, I've heard from many places and even on TSR that Cambridge doesn't care that much about job experience, to what extent is that true?
    Very true. One of my interviewers said something which indicated that they hadn't even read my personal statement yet alone made any judgement based on it. I don't think they care what you do on your gap year as long as you're competent at the interview and show that you haven't forgotten everything.
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    That's really helpful thank you. Just a question, does it make much of a difference if I just watch the lectures and do the problem sets on mit courseware instead of doing the actual mooc? Does the verification count for that much? I was planning on doing a few courses from mit courseware like quantum mechanics and differential equations anyways but now im feeling I should do one of those from edx.

    Another question, I've heard from many places and even on TSR that Cambridge doesn't care that much about job experience, to what extent is that true?
    We don't have any summer schools here and neither do we have epq's. I'm planning on doing some mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena as experiments, how does that sound?
    I doubt they care at all about the actual verification bit, working through the MIT courses would be just as good I've found that their courses are sometimes quite incomplete though/ lacking proper structure (more of an issue with the chemistry courses/ more advanced courses though, not such an issue with their physics ones), hence why personally I prefer MOOCs

    Hmmm, it depends really on who is looking at your application - in my interview I did get a couple of brief questions about my work experience and on scientific topics I'd written about in my personal statement (e.g. I'd done work experience in a clinical lab, so they asked me about the stages in extracting/ purifying DNA, I'd attended a talk or something about solar energy so they asked me some questions about the properties of materials used for solar panels). Work experience definitely isn't required (except for medicine) but it is one method to demonstrate a passion for your subject.

    That sounds interesting - essentially a personal project rather than an official EPQ What kind of experiments are you thinking of doing? Bear in mind that the physics course at Cambridge is very mathematical and quite theory based rather than practical
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    (Original post by Forecast)
    Very true. One of my interviewers said something which indicated that they hadn't even read my personal statement yet alone made any judgement based on it. I don't think they care what you do on your gap year as long as you're competent at the interview and show that you haven't forgotten everything.
    This.

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    (Original post by Forecast)
    Very true. One of my interviewers said something which indicated that they hadn't even read my personal statement yet alone made any judgement based on it. I don't think they care what you do on your gap year as long as you're competent at the interview and show that you haven't forgotten everything.
    At an open day my future DoS told me the only thing they cared about (for NatSci) was that I do some maths so I don't forget it all.
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    There seems to be some sort of disagreement. Some people are adamant on their stance that only grades matter and that their DOS's even said so but on the other hand my guidance counsellor and a few Cambridge students insist otherwise. Im not sure what to believe as I have seen a bit of both. One thing I've noticed is that most Cambridge students I've seen were very much into their subject outside of their a levels (or other qualifications) and did amazing things like ted talks, publish papers, win international competitions etc.
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    One thing I've noticed is that most Cambridge students I've seen were very much into their subject outside of their a levels (or other qualifications) and did amazing things like ted talks, publish papers, win international competitions etc.
    Nope. Really not needed.
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    There seems to be some sort of disagreement. Some people are adamant on their stance that only grades matter and that their DOS's even said so but on the other hand my guidance counsellor and a few Cambridge students insist otherwise. Im not sure what to believe as I have seen a bit of both. One thing I've noticed is that most Cambridge students I've seen were very much into their subject outside of their a levels (or other qualifications) and did amazing things like ted talks, publish papers, win international competitions etc.
    From what I've heard (yes, this is just one undergrad's point of view though...), grades are very important up to a point - you need good enough grades to indicate you're more than capable of meeting the entrance requirements, and ideally exceeding them. However, that's mainly for selecting candidates to interview. Once you've had your interview, they're going to be much more interested in how well your interview went (i.e. how well you answered the questions, did you suit the supervision style of teaching well, were you passionate about your subject) than whether you got 95% or 97% UMS, which could just be down to a couple of small mistakes in exams. They have so much information about the applicants by this point, that small differences in grades are easily made up for in other areas

    I've never known any pre-university students to give ted talks or publish papers, a few have done very well in national and international student competitions (stuff like the physics olympiad etc.) but there are plenty of others who have just studied hard at school and demonstrated their interest in their subject in other ways (e.g. reading books, attending talks, summer schools, blogging, school subject societies, etc.).

    Essentially, it's all about showing you have not just the academic aptitude but also a genuine enjoyment and motivation to study the subject at a high level
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    (Original post by jneill)
    Nope. Really not needed.
    (Original post by dragonkeeper999)
    From what I've heard (yes, this is just one undergrad's point of view though...), grades are very important up to a point - you need good enough grades to indicate you're more than capable of meeting the entrance requirements, and ideally exceeding them. However, that's mainly for selecting candidates to interview. Once you've had your interview, they're going to be much more interested in how well your interview went (i.e. how well you answered the questions, did you suit the supervision style of teaching well, were you passionate about your subject) than whether you got 95% or 97% UMS, which could just be down to a couple of small mistakes in exams. They have so much information about the applicants by this point, that small differences in grades are easily made up for in other areas

    I've never known any pre-university students to give ted talks or publish papers, a few have done very well in national and international student competitions (stuff like the physics olympiad etc.) but there are plenty of others who have just studied hard at school and demonstrated their interest in their subject in other ways (e.g. reading books, attending talks, summer schools, blogging, school subject societies, etc.).

    Essentially, it's all about showing you have not just the academic aptitude but also a genuine enjoyment and motivation to study the subject at a high level
    i think another thing to be considered is the amount of competition for the international spots. From what I've seen, international students are judged quite differently and, dare I say, much more harshly.

    I really don't think the admission Staff doesn't read your personal statements. Because I know a few people who have made amazing contributions to the world but had okay grades and got into Cambridge. Example being winning a film award at Harvard university
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    Because I know a few people who have made amazing contributions to the world but had okay grades and got into Cambridge. Example being winning a film award at Harvard university
    And what were the movie-maker's "okay" grades? Did they met the typical entry requirement for their course?
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    (Original post by jneill)
    And what were the movie-maker's "okay" grades? Did they met the typical entry requirement for their course?
    2 A's at AS
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    2 A's at AS
    For NatSci? And what did they go on to get at A-level?
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    (Original post by jneill)
    For NatSci? And what did they go on to get at A-level?

    Not natsci. They got AAA at a level and Cambridge refused to accept her. Shows she wasn't up to Cambridge standard grade wise, but was given a chance due to her extra curricular achievements.

    Edit: but anyways this is besides the point. The real question I want to ask is what can I do to stand out among all the intense competition for international spots?
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    (Original post by Student1256)
    Edit: but anyways this is besides the point. The real question I want to ask is what can I do to stand out among all the intense competition for international spots?
    In Natural Sciences, there's no separate competition for international students compared to those applying from the UK. It is true that the acceptance rate for internationals is lower, but I think that this is mainly due to them often taking qualifications other than A-levels, which provide a less good preparation for the course.

    You are doing A-levels, so one good way of standing out is to re-apply with all A*s achieved. Only a minority of applicants go on to reach this level, but it's fairly standard for an offer-holder. A strong showing in the NSAA also won't hurt. Then, revise the main interview topics (everything from A-levels + graph sketching + estimation) and you should be good to go. This is much better preparation than filling your time with super-curriculars.
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    (Original post by Forecast)
    In Natural Sciences, there's no separate competition for international students compared to those applying from the UK. It is true that the acceptance rate for internationals is lower, but I think that this is mainly due to them often taking qualifications other than A-levels, which provide a less good preparation for the course.

    You are doing A-levels, so one good way of standing out is to re-apply with all A*s achieved. Only a minority of applicants go on to reach this level, but it's fairly standard for an offer-holder. A strong showing in the NSAA also won't hurt. Then, revise the main interview topics (everything from A-levels + graph sketching + estimation) and you should be good to go. This is much better preparation than filling your time with super-curriculars.
    Very good advice.
 
 
 
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