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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.
Oh the places you will go....
Lawnswood Alumni Panashe Jinga, has kindly written a news article updating us on the fantastic three years he has spent at LSE since leaving our sixth form. A truly inspirational story for our younger students to aspire to. Enjoy!
My name is Panashe Jinga and I am a recent First Class Honours graduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). I grew up in Queenswood and attended both Lawnswood High School (Class of 2013) and Lawnswood Sixth Form (Class of 2015). I studied Law, Geography and Psychology for A-Levels, achieving A*A* A, respectively. I also won Law Student of the Year 2014 in the annual awards evening. Whilst at Lawnswood, I began to develop a keen interest in Law, and social sciences more generally, which inspired me to pursue Law at university.
I began studying Law at LSE in 2015. LSE is ranked as the second best university in the world for social sciences and third best in the UK overall. I was frequently reminded of the prestigious nature of LSE and the exceptional opportunity I had been given; I therefore spent the next three years attempting to excel at all spheres of university life.
My primary aim was to gain as much work experience as possible across a range of sectors. In my first year at LSE, I was invited by Rachel Reeves MP to intern at the Houses of Parliament. Here, I assisted in a range of tasks, such as researching complex legal and political issues. I also interned at two international commercial law firms, where I visited the firms office in Paris, and assisted in a $1billion construction dispute. Also, I was selected to take part in RARE’s award-winning ‘Articles’ Programme, where I visited their 11 partner law firms and participated in intellectually demanding one-to-one sessions with an ex-international lawyer and law lecturer. Additionally, I co-founded a company which used technology to increase productivity amongst young professionals.
In my second year of university, I was awarded the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship after attending a rigorous two-day assessment centre. This prestigious scheme provided me with mentors from Freshfields, Goldman Sachs and the Bank of England. I also attended in-depth professional and personal development sessions, received financial support and an alternative route to an interview for a ‘training contract’ (job) at Freshfields after university. Moreover, I spent three weeks working at Goldman Sachs assisting the Legal department and working on an Operations case study. Following this Scholarship, and further internships at other law firms, I received three job offers from ‘Magic Circle’ law firms (this is the name given to the leading and most profitable international commercial law firms headquartered in London).
Another main aim of mine was to excel academically. In addition to studying the modules required for my degree to be classified as a ‘Qualifying Law Degree’, I also studied a broad range of other legal areas. This included: international, medical, evidence, information technology, human rights and jurisprudence. I finished with a First Class Honours degree after achieving seven First Class marks out of eight core modules.
I also occasionally sit on panels discussing complex social and legal issues. For example, I was recently invited by the University of Leeds to sit on a panel discussing the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the legal profession. Furthermore, I occasionally visit Lawnswood, where I have hosted the Sixth Form assembly and delivered presentations on numerous legal topics. Additionally, in September 2018, I will be featured in Powerful Media’s Future Leaders magazine; this features 100 of the UK’s most outstanding African and African-Caribbean students and new graduates.
My time at LSE has now come to an end. I will be travelling Southeast Asia before beginning the Legal Practice Course in February 2019. In August 2019, I will begin working at Freshfields as a Trainee Solicitor, where I will assist clients in solving intellectually stimulating legal issues. Although my time at Lawnswood feels like a distant memory, the skills I learned there continue to play a role in my life. Whilst at Lawnswood, I learned how to think independently, build relationships with a diverse range of people and critically examine issues. These are skills which have helped me to shine at university, and they will be pivotal to my success in the professional world.