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American at Cambridge

ab2002ab2002 600 replies46 threadsRegistered User Member
Hey! I’m a sophomore, and I am currently looking for schools. I’m very interested in Cambridge after doing a ton of research. I predict to get around a 1470 on the SAT or a 33 on the ACT. I am interested in Politics and International Relations. I will have 6 APs in my subject done by the time of applying senior year. What can I do to try and maximize my chances of getting in for senior year?
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Replies to: American at Cambridge

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6727 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited April 2018

    Be sure that your family can afford it: there is little likelihood of any meaningful financial aid.

    Read.Read.Read. History/politics/IR stuff that is genuinely interesting to you. Start reading The Economist, nearly (but not obsessively) cover-to-cover, regularly (it's an expensive subscription, but your school might have a subscription and your library certainly will).

    Over the next year:

    Decide whether you want HSPS or HisPol (look at the course descriptions **carefully** and look at the example pre-interview assessment tests- see if one or the other suits you better).

    Do some homework on other courses that you would be happy with, both in the UK and in the US. You can apply to up to 5 courses in the UK with the exact same application. Edinburgh, St Andrew's and Durham are other usual suspects for Oxbridge applicants.

    Spring of Junior year:

    The pre-interview assessments are in late Oct/early Nov of your senior year, but you must be registered for them by Oct 15, and depending on where you live that may have challenges, so check that out and make plans.

    Both courses require you to submit (relevant) written work- essay / term paper type thing. Start keeping an eye on your assignments for ones that you could use to submit with your application.

    Get familiar with UCAS (the online application site- lots of useful info on there about writing your Personal Statement (PS)( *really* different than a US college essay), the Letter of Reference, etc).

    Summer before Senior year

    Work on your PS and work through the past papers for whichever assessment test you will be doing.

    paging @aclicbiade, @PurpleTitan, @MYOS1634, @Conformist1688 - anything else you can think of?
    edited April 2018
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1596 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited April 2018
    Your predicted SAT score is a bit low. Try to wait to take it until you are confident you can get (hopefully well) above 1500. Retakes are viewed less favorably in the UK, and you have to list all scores for all exams taken, whereas in the US most colleges expect you to have a couple of attempts.

    Similarly, make sure you get 5s on your APs. Don't take APs if you are not reasonably confident of getting a 5, its better to have fewer of them, even if that risks you receiving a conditional offer instead of an unconditional one. Since APs are much easier than A levels, getting anything less than a 5 (equivalent to an A) in a subject you want to study won't look good. APs in unrelated subjects are fairly irrelevant, so a 5 won't help and a 4 or less could be detrimental.

    Conversely your school grades are usually completely irrelevant, except that you will need a letter of reference from a teacher in your subject saying (effectively) that you are their best student in the last 10+ years, and that teacher's view may be colored by your overall school record and class grades. Start figuring out now who that teacher will be and go above and beyond in showing them your interest in their subject over the next 18 months. Remember that less than 100 US students are admitted each year for all subjects combined. Effectively you would have to be the best student in your state in your chosen subject (although of course not many apply), so you should certainly be the best in your high school for the last several years.

    Look for ECs in your subject. Sports are irrelevant, clubs are irrelevant if they aren't related to the subject. So for politics/IR join political organizations, do an internship with a local politician, start writing for a political website, etc. You need to show that this subject is what you live for and therefore is what you prefer to do in your spare time given the choice.
    edited April 2018
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