I think one of the most important things you can do is take the advice printed on the back cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in large red comforting letters: DON'T PANIC.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, despite firsthand accounts from traumatised ex-interviewees (myself included) and despite the horror stories circulating, the interview really isn't going to look like this:
Rather, you'll be interviewed by this nice man, who is going to sit you down, look at your form, dig your mind, and find out how you think and what makes you tick. So take a deep breath, stretch your eyelashes (even if you're a guy. it's how I got in anyway. take eyelash-batting lessons, they help you get ahead in life) and, of course, Don't Panic.
The other thing I'm worried about is that some people, for reasons beyond my mortal understanding, are so fixated on getting into Cambridge that they're sure their lives will be over if they don't. Now why they think that, despite having read my tales of misery from this crazy crazy town, is beyond me. Newsflash: Not getting into Cambridge ISN'T the end of the world, folks. In fact, plenty of people don't get in every year, and go on to become very successful in their own universities and indeed in life. And if you think I'm bullshitting (which I often am, but hey, it got me where I am today), I've taken the liberty of digging up some famous Oxbridge rejects. Even gifted students get rejected. This guy's spectacle thickness alone probably qualifies him as Oxbridge material. But some Oxbridge rejects are a lot more positive; this forum was set up by a Durham student who obviously enjoys pressing the ? and ! keys on his keyboard a little too much. And even getting straight A's doesn't guarantee you'll get in; in fact Dr Navaratnam admitted to me during my recent interview with him that Cambridge makes mistakes just like any other university...they sometimes let very good students go.
But what I like about this girl is that instead of seeing her rejection as a setback, she used it as a stepping-stone to boost her motivation. Heaven hath no fury like a woman scorned by Oxbridge. Or something like that.
Despite success in her exams, she was "devastated" when she was rejected from Trinity College, as it had always been her dream to study at Cambridge.Spoken like a true soldier. Now there's a woman who's going to go to Stockholm someday.
However, the rejection has not thwarted her determination.
She pledged to become the second woman in history to win the Nobel peace prize.
"I don't want to be a normal doctor, I want to do something great," she said.
So there ya go. Take a deep breath, believe in yourselves, keep a calm mind, and tell yourself it doesn't matter. You have to enjoy the challenge if you're going to survive through such a tough course. Otherwise, of course, you'll end up like me, who in the middle of a what was possibly the lengthiest most boring Pathology lecture in the history of mankind, scribbled the following in absolute desperation on my notes and pushed it to the supermodel sitting next to me, who for some strange reason looked at me fearfully and promptly got up to find another seat:
Do drop me an e-mail at angrymedic [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me how it went. Laugh, cry, curse, bawl your eyes out, anything. I'm bound by UK law not to divulge anything you tell me. Besides, you're probably doing both of us a favour and keeping me from jumping off the Bridge of Sighs into the River Cam.
And hey, remember, if it doesn't work out, you can always get the t-shirt! Apparently they're quite in vogue around here :)