Cambridge Interview Tomorrow

Here’s a stpry from to soothe the nerves >< Heh.

Clive, Computer Science at Robinson College, Cambridge: I stayed overnight the night before my interview so that I didn’t have to wake up at 4am that morning to get there in time. The first thing that struck me when I got there was how nervous I was – I wasn’t particularly nervous before I’d actually got there. I collected my room key and meal vouchers and went to my room where I attempted a bit more interview preparation. This attempt having failed, I went to the JCR with the hope of mingling with other people. The reality of this attempt at mingling was that I felt like I was intruding and interrupting people’s conversations, so I just went back up to my room until dinner. Then, at dinner, I was approached by a few other applicants, and we ended up forming a huddle of four terrified 17 year olds in a sea of… other people. There’s safety in numbers, though, and once we’d been at the bar for a while our nerves soon calmed down! The big bit was the next day, though. After a sleepless night, I made my way down to breakfast, and then on to the JCR as instructed where I would wait for my TSA exam at 9:30am. While I was waiting, I met a few other people from my course… I’ll admit to secretly trying to weigh up my chances as to whether I stood a chance against any of them: as far as I was concerned, I was doomed for failure! I was surprised by the relative ease of the TSA exam, and fortunately the exam managed to take my mind off the imminent interviews. After the exam, I went back to wait in the JCR, and that’s when the nerves really set in. When I was finally called to my interview and was sat outside the room, I was actually trembling in fear. I, of course, blamed the cold. Interestingly, though, after a few deep breaths, I managed to pull myself together before I entered the room… I recommend this to anyone and everyone going for an interview: it really helps! When I went into my first interview, I shook the hands of the two people interviewing me, and then sat down ready for the interrogation. Prior to the interview, I had been sent an extract from a book to read which had a task at the end of it which I thought I had to prepare for at the interview. They asked me if I’d done it, and if I’d enjoyed it, but never actually asked me what I did! Their first question was “why computer science?” which was relatively easy to answer, since it was the most anticipated question I could have thought up. After another 5-10 minutes of asking me about things on my personal statement (although in no great detail), I was set the task of finding the complexity of an algorithm. I had to ask for help several times throughout the problem and stopped and started all the way through, but I reached the correct answer eventually, which was quite satisfying! My second interview was entirely mathematical, and I thought it went terribly. The mathematical knowledge required to do the questions they asked was at AS level at the very most, and I was stopping and starting all the way through what are, looking back on them, very easy questions. Then came the long wait until 3rd January for the result… to my surprise, I got in! My GCSE/AS grades were hardly impressive, and I didn’t think my interviews went that well, but I have a genuine passion for Computer Science which I think shone through in the interview. For example, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and I didn’t pretend to know things that I didn’t know… like, when they asked me about what programming languages I had used, I immediately disclaimed that I was no expert and just played round with them for fun. The nature of the interviews was very informal compared to what I thought it would be like, too! It was one surprise after another.

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