Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Hitchhiker's Guide To Sitting For Cambridge Interviews

Don't PanicI've been getting reports from all over the country about rising panic levels in conjunction with the Cambridge interviews, so I thought I'd dedicate a short post to those sitting for the interviews this year.

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:

Dr Richard Barnes
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.

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.

Spoken like a true soldier. Now there's a woman who's going to go to Stockholm someday.

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.

Good luck!

And hey, remember, if it doesn't work out, you can always get the t-shirt! Apparently they're quite in vogue around here :)


yh said...

Cool. You read Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. Douglas Adams rocks ya! and He's from Cambridge !! ahhaha.. u should read Michael Palmer.. His books are fantastic.. though you may not want to step in a hospital after reading his medical thriller..

The Angry Medic said...

oh yeah, douglas adams is a legend here. I did try reading Silent Treatment once, but then I figured at the rate I'm going, I'm gonna be committing most of the murders in hospital, so I decided not to get ahead of myself :P hope the interviews went well!

Dan said...

i think "this girl" is being ridiculous. getting 5 A s is peanuts. just because you can get 5 A s doesnt mean you can win the nobel peace prize. what bullshit. some people are just out to get any news coverage, even if it's all bullshit.

but i do agree with you, not getting into cambridge isn't the end of the world. in fact, it may mean you get to keep your sanity.

Dan said...

oooh... and you're gonna get spam from posting your e-mail in plaintext on your blog.

Mother Jones RN said...

I'm glad I never had to take that kind of a test. The worst thing that I've taken was the state boards to get my nursing license. It was back in the days before computers. (Yes, I'm old). The test took two days to take, I had to travel 300 miles to a testing center, and there were 500 people in the room, talking the test. Then I had to wait 3 months to find out if I passed the test. Now kids turn on a computer, answer a 100 questions, and find out if they passed the same day.

So much for the good old days.

feera said...

you couldn't POSSIBLY be talking about me, because i wasn't freaking out at all. nope. couldn't care less about cambridge.yep.
and stop getting're a terrible drunk.and blame THAT for not brushing your teeth.tsk.
barnes was really cool tho.

The Angry Medic said...

oh yeah, Barnes is really cool. never said he wasn't. right up until about the time he sends out all those millions of rejection letters :(

and I do NOT get drunk.I am the paragon of propriety. and a really nice guy at that.

ash said...

paragon of propriety?

*muffled laughter*

anyway, i agree that 5A's is peanuts. especially if you want to apply for medicine. Medicine isnt for smart people - its for people who work hard, and have good communication skills.

Jason said...

Nice picture of Dr Barnes speaking at my old sixth form college in Farnborough. He is indeed a nice bloke.

Kate said...

Wow... I think I wrote that exact same kill me now note... on that exact same heme lecture. I think we're twins separated at birth and shipped to different continents.

Anonymous said...

i'm going to be interviewed by dr barnes. how's he like? is he a Christian, btw? and is Cam predominately Christian? just wondering.. haha thanks

Dan said...

agnes isn't a supermodel. not tall enough.

The Angry Medic said...

Jason: ooh, sharp eyes! the photo was indeed taken in farnborough. strangely enough Dr Barnes has elected not to place an official photo of himself on the website.

Kate: where are you my twin?! what're you doing on a different continent when I need you HERE to prevent me commiting suicide?! *goes hysterical*

yq: To summarise, Dr Barnes is, as Jason said above, a nice bloke. He doesn't pressure you or talk down to you, and no matter how you interview, he'll try his best to make it a comfortable experience for you. (Even if he is sniggering and ripping up your application form behind you :P) And no, I do not think Dr Barnes is Christian, or at least not an actively practising one. Cambridge has in fact one of the highest rates of atheists in the country--1 in 4 Cantabrigians do not believe in God (statistics from a study last year). But there are loads (and I mean LOADS) of Christian talks, activities and support groups here, and the Christian presence in the university is very strong. I wouldn't worry about anything too much :P

Anonymous said...

Looking at the picture - love those T cells!

Anonymous said...

thanks! although back where i come from, 3/4 who believe in God equalifies as alot=p

Dan said...

agnes isn't a supermodel. not tall enough.