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Advice on applying for Cambridge: "Just do it!"
My name is Ellis Napier and I have just started my second year studying law at Trinity College, University of Cambridge.
I applied to Trinity in October of 2016, was interviewed in December of the same year and received my offer, A*AA, in January 2017. I attended Lawnswood High School and Sixth Form, completing my A-levels in June of 2017. I studied English Literature, History, Politics and Geography, achieving A*A*A*A respectively.
Studying at Cambridge has been an incredibly rewarding experience, in large part due to how challenging it has been. My average week consists of around a dozen lectures on a variety of legal topics, around 40-50 hours of independent reading and writing and five, typically one-hour long supervisions per fortnight. My reading consists of cases, textbooks and academic articles.
The supervision system is one of the major benefits of Oxbridge, involving you and one or two other students discussing the reading you have been doing on a topic with an academic. Supervisions can be very intense experiences, but they push you to probe deeper into complex areas of law: it’s not uncommon for your supervisor to have written a textbook on the subject you’re studying, so you need to know what you’re talking about.
The university’s careers service promotes a variety of events intended to introduce you to different careers, and prestigious law firms frequently hold networking events and dinners for current students. It is absolutely essential if you want to be a solicitor at one of these firms or a barrister that you do some work with them prior to graduating: many simply won’t look at applications from people they’ve not interacted with before. At the moment I’m considering a career as a barrister, and to this end have worked shadowing practising barristers: but I’ve also had the opportunity to go to events and dinners held by solicitors’ firms to understand their work.
I would offer a variety of advice to people thinking of applying to Cambridge, for law or other subjects. Firstly, do it! If you think that Cambridge sounds like the right experience for you, I would always recommend applying: even if you’re not accepted, you lose absolutely nothing by trying, and stand to gain a lot if you’re successful. Reading a lot around your subject is obviously a good idea but try and find some particular area that interests you especially: a lot of people will have read a lot of the same stuff, so it’ll help you stand out, and make your interest seem more genuine. Try not to worry about your interview too much: they’re not expecting you to be a genius, to know anything about the law already or even to be that confident. Interviewers understand how stressful the process is and will be very sympathetic to you, especially coming from areas that don’t send large numbers of people to Oxbridge.
A slightly more specific piece of advice would be to look up essay competitions. Lots of Oxbridge colleges run national and international competitions for sixth formers, either on a given subject or for you to choose a topic to write about. I entered one such competition in Year 12 and was lucky enough to win it: I’m certain that had I not decided to, I wouldn’t be where I am today doing what I am. Even if you don’t win you’ve not lost anything, they certainly won’t hold it against you when it comes to applying and it not only shows you’re interested in the subject, but that you’re proactive in pursuing it.
I’ll always be grateful to Lawnswood for the time I spent there. Lawnswood not only enabled me to grow academically but equipped me with an independence and work ethic that has proved vital the past year. Cambridge can often feel like a bubble, and a very insular and privileged bubble at that; I’m equally grateful to Lawnswood for being a diverse community that brought together people of all backgrounds and abilities.