Simeon is from Yambol, in south-eastern Bulgaria and took the Bulgarian Diploma at school, for which you study a lot of subjects (Maths, Literature, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Russian, Philosophy, History, Geography...). He wrote this after completing his first year studying Computer Science at Christ's.
In this profile, I have decided to focus on my course, College and the application process for Computer Science, though do see the other student profiles for more information about College life and activities you can take part in.
What attracted you to Computer Science?
What got me into programming were the competitions I did in Informatics, so I had chosen Computer Science as my main interest long before I applied to Cambridge University.
Did you have any concerns about applying from Bulgaria?
I was worried that having studied in the Bulgarian school system, my Mathematical background wouldn't be firm enough and I wouldn't be able to catch up with the material. For example, in Bulgaria we don't study Integration or Matrices. Coming from a different educational system made me slightly nervous about whether I'm going to cope with the pace of other students. Owing to my awesome Maths supervisor, however, I managed to catch up and my performance was satisfactory in the exams. My supervisor explained things clearly, and would go over and over again if I didn't get something from the first time.
What do you think of the Collegiate system at Cambridge, where every student belongs both to the University of Cambridge and to a College?
I think that the collegiate system makes Cambridge a richer place to study at. Every College adds its own flavour- the architecture and its history to begin with. It also adds a friendly competitive spirit in sports or education, which makes you feel part of a team.
How did you choose Christ's College?
Christ's was the first in the list of Colleges and the internet said it has the best porters. The location, the size and the architecture (from what I had seen on photos) might've also been a factor. I didn't have the chance to explore Cambridge before applying, but I somehow made a good choice and I'm very happy with it.
I didn't know what to expect, but I am pleased with what Christ's turned out to be. Both socially and academically, there is not a thing that has disappointed me here, and I have received all the support I asked for.
"I didn't know what to expect, but I am pleased with what Christ's turned out to be."
How did you find the application process?
The application process went smoothly. I wrote my personal statement, applied through UCAS, filled in my additional questionnaire(s), sent my transcript, and some time after that got invited for an interview in Cambridge. The interviews and the written test were well organised. I also got accommodation in College when I came for interview, which was a good opportunity to explore it. Then, on 11th of January (I think), I received an e-mail explaining that my application was successful. To be fair, that was the most confusing bit. I didn't expect it!
As for the interviews, I had two interviews and I was certainly nervous. Nevertheless, I tried to focus on the questions and did my best. I had read that the interviewers are interested in the process of thinking, and might even ask a question which is beyond the expected knowledge, so I tried to think out loud and attempt to solve the problems even though I was not sure it would lead to the solution.
They did ask questions which are impossible to answer, unless you had read the thing somewhere, so this bit matched my expectations. On the other hand, I expected them to ask more school material related questions. Since I came from different educational system, I was satisfied to see that most of the questions were like puzzles so that students from all educational systems can attempt them.
"I was satisfied to see that most of the questions were like puzzles so that students from all educational systems can attempt them."
What preparation did you do for your application?
Since I knew that my maths would be very important for Computer Science, what I also did in preparation for my application was to try to catch up with the UK material as much as possible - I watched calculus tutorials online etc. Then, to prepare for the Admissions Assessment, I checked what was available on the official admissions page on the website. It had helpful information about the Admissions Assessment.
I also had a mock interview with a third-year CompSci in Cambridge. This was also precious since it showed me what the interviews look like. If you can't organise that, though, there are also films online.
What advice would you give to future prospective students?
If you are unsure whether to apply to Cambridge, do it - it's actually not as terrifying as it looks (it's not terrifying at all!). Also, as well as reading the course information (here, here and here), if you can read student profiles or connect with people in Cambridge, do so - it is useful to ask them how you should prepare and what to expect. There are a number of open days. Also, make sure you request a room in College the night before your interviews and explore!
Please be aware if you're considering an application that our student writers describe their experiences. Although the majority of the information stays the same, some details may change from year to year. Do read the student profiles in combination with our undergraduate admissions pages for full information.