Sanchit - Economics
Sanchit is from Harrow, London, and wrote this after completing his second year studying Economics here at Christ’s College, Cambridge. At school, Sanchit sat A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Economics and Physics, as well as doing an Extended Project Qualification on the UK 'Productivity Puzzle'.
What attracted you to your course?
I think I was attracted to the Economics course at Cambridge specifically because of how mathematical it is. I wanted to understand the mathematical foundations and logic behind the Economic theories which I studied at A-level, and this is something that I have really enjoyed learning about!
Here's an example: in A-Level Economics you will have come across the idea of supply and demand curves, and why they are upward sloping. In our Microeconomics module, we derive equations for these curves, starting with a consumer’s optimisation problem (using a Lagrangian), then using some calculus to work out the change in demand given a change in price, and then getting the exact equation. It might sound a little complicated, but when you learn the theory properly from the ground up, you appreciate really how rigorous it is, and also where the weaknesses lie (specifically, what assumptions you are making when you are doing the maths!).
The level of mathematical rigour with which we study problems really sets Cambridge’s Economics course apart from those at other universities, and in my opinion, really helps us understand Economics so much better, as we not only develop an intuitive understanding of issues, but can also prove all our hypotheses mathematically.
Why did you apply to Christ’s?
One of the main reasons was definitely the location! Christ’s being a central College means that everything is nearby - lecture sites, shops, clubs, and friends from other Colleges are all really close. It’s so central that when you search Cambridge on Google Maps, the pin actually drops on Christ’s!
I also visited Christ’s on a College Open Day, and really liked the size and feel of the College. The College being medium sized meant that I was confident that I could get to know everyone, and all the student helpers seemed to be super friendly! Of course, my thoughts were all confirmed when I saw Rocket, the Christ’s College cat – and knew instantly that Christ’s was the right College for me.
I would genuinely very much encourage anyone reading this to apply to Christ's. It's really well located, has lovely people and is one of the strongest Colleges academically, particularly for Economics, which means we get strong academic support and tutors. You can't really go wrong with any Cambridge College, but since you have the opportunity to choose at the time of application, I would recommend Christ's wholeheartedly.
"The College is so central that when you search Cambridge on Google Maps, the pin actually drops on Christ's!"
And has the College lived up to your expectations?
I would say Christ’s has exceeded all my expectations! Everyone I’ve met here is really friendly, including the staff – especially the porters, who are really fun to chat to and very helpful if you ever need anything! The size of the College has meant that I have met almost everyone in my year. For Economics, in my year there were seven of us, and the small size of our group means that we have all become really good friends.
The location is super convenient, just as I’d hoped – if I’m meeting friends from other Colleges, we tend to meet at Christ’s because it’s in the middle of all of our Colleges, which is really practical for me. Lectures aren’t far away at all, and the Economists in my year usually end up walking as a group to our lectures as well.
What do you think of the collegiate system in general?
I think it’s a fantastic system, as it really helps you meet such a variety of people. I’ve got friends in Christ’s across all subjects and years, and that’s thanks to the College system, which really allows us to mix with people who do different subjects. In addition, each College has such different history, architecture, even style of formal dinner that it makes the Cambridge experience a hugely diverse one, which makes it all the more interesting!
How have you found the course?
I was a little bit worried about the History and Politics modules in my first year. These modules make up 40% of the first year course, and I hadn’t studied either History or Politics since Year 9 (when I was 14), so I was a little bit worried when it came to these essay based subjects.
However, I didn’t struggle with this at all, and in fact enjoyed them quite a bit. This is because we actually applied all the theory that we cover in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Maths and Statistics, in History and Politics, and really got to see why it is useful. For example, one of the questions we look at is “Why Did Britain Industrialise First?” – why is it that some machines were adopted first in the UK and not in countries like France? Here we applied the optimisation problems that I mentioned before, but for producers. In the UK, coal was significantly cheaper than in France, and workers’ wages were higher. As such, it made sense for industries in the UK to invest in machines using cheap coal, and that’s one of the reasons why the adoption rate of technology in the UK was higher than in France. This is a little simplified, but you get the idea – the theoretical models we learn in other modules are applied, and this really helps us develop an appreciation of how useful these models are.
The reason I didn’t struggle with these modules is because ultimately, they fall under the remit of Economics - the essays you write have economic theory and reasoning underpinning them. Our politics supervisor once said: “this is an Economics essay, not a Politics essay; put in your theory and diagrams.” As such, if you’re concerned about struggling with essay writing, don’t worry at all – you still write Economics essays with economic theory in the History and Politics modules!
"If you’re concerned about struggling with essay writing, don’t worry at all – you still write Economics essays with economic theory."
How did you find the application process?
On the whole, I found it alright. There were lots of steps, the big three being the UCAS application (with the early deadline of October 15), then the Economics Admissions Assessment, and then the interview, after which it’s just waiting to hear back! The College’s communication was really good throughout, and I didn’t feel lost or unsure at any point.
For the Admissions Assessment, there are example questions in the specification and I also practiced using past papers for the Thinking Skills Assessment (used by Oxford), as well as some of the papers for other subjects like Natural Sciences. Whilst the exact same stuff doesn’t come up, it’s really useful to have the practice, particularly given the time pressure!
I had a mock interview which my school arranged, but that was really quite different to what the real interview was like. I also looked over the points I mentioned in my personal statement, and in the essays I had submitted, and ensured that I could respond to any points if I was challenged on them.
The interview itself wasn’t really what I expected it to be. It wasn’t like a normal interview, where you might be asked why you applied to Cambridge or questions like that. I had two interviews, and in these interviews, I was really tested on the way I think. I would be given a problem or a topic, and I would be tested on how I try to solve the problem, and how I reacted when things changed in the problem. It was actually a surprisingly interesting experience!
What specific advice would you give prospective applicants?
If you get stuck on a question on the Admissions Assessment, don’t waste time - move onto the next question, or you may not have time to answer them all! In addition, in the interview, try to relax and enjoy it. The interviewers are nice people, and will be the people who teach you throughout your degree – they’re essentially seeing how well you would do under the supervision system. So think aloud, voice your thoughts, and don’t be afraid to be wrong – if you are, your interviewers will help you get to the right answer!
Before you came, what were you looking forward to and what were you most worried about?
I was looking forward to a new challenge – making new friends, learning a lot more about my subject and enjoying university life! That being said, I was worried about the academic pressure. Everyone I know and everything I read said that Cambridge is very intense academically, and it is; but I would honestly say that I settled in really well and quickly. What helps is that everyone is in the same boat and nobody really knows what to do when you first arrive, so you get used to everything quickly and easily!
What is your favourite thing about the College? And least favourite?
I really like the community feel at Christ's. It means that you genuinely get to know pretty much the whole of your year and lot of people in the year above and below you. Additionally, the Economics community at Christ's is really strong. Each year bonds well as a group, and there is a fair bit of inter-year socialising too, which also makes it really easy to get academic support from peers. I very much enjoy life in this College, which makes it hard for me to pick out things I don't like so much!
This year I lived in Second Court, which has huge ensuite rooms. I think they’re some of the nicest in College! My room was spacious, ideal for hosting drinks and having friends over. Christ's accomodation is generally very well priced, with nice rooms, which is another really nice thing about the College. I hope I get the room I stayed in this year next year too!
"Christ's accommodation is generally very well priced, with nice rooms."
What do you do when you’re not working?
My primary extracurricular activities have been the India Society (which I was President of last year), and working on my internship applications.
As President of India Society, I lead a society which has over 500 members, and ran a huge variety of events, with one almost every week. We had everything from dance classes and yoga workshops, to food-based socials, club nights, and even speaker events. But the stand-out events were definitely our Annual Ball (by far the best value ball in Cambridge!) and our garden party. This commitment actually took up a lot of my time, but it has been incredibly rewarding to see events which the committee has spent a lot of time planning come to life, and see everyone having a great time. I would really recommend joining societies - they're so incredibly worth it to meet new people and experience a lot of different things, whilst having fun!
My other big time commitment has been with internship applications. I've spent a lot of time writing up applications and doing interviews for internships - this ultimately led to me getting my first choice, but it has been a long process.
How do you spend your holidays?
In short vacations I tend to sleep a lot and recover from the intensity of the Cambridge term, and have a real break from the workload. In my first year I went on the Varsity Ski trip in December, which was super fun with so many people from College going!
During Long Vacations (i.e. summer holidays) in both first and second years, I did internships, which took up most of my time, and then went on holiday abroad.
I personally don't do too much work during the vacations, though some people do, as I much prefer to use it to relax and take a break from work, but some needs to be done (e.g. finishing off work for supervisions etc).
What are you looking forward to next year?
Next year I'm most looking forward to the social life, which I've missed over summer! It's really lovely to live in close proximity to all your friends and see them on a daily basis, rather than just weekly over the holidays.
In terms of academia next year, I’ve chosen the Development and Industry papers. I picked Development because I genuinely think Development Economics is one of the most fascinating areas of the subject and can really help us answer the questions about the large disparity in wealth across countries. Industry is a paper which discusses market competition and how firms behave, and I picked it because it both sounds interesting and also will help me with my future job!
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.