Charlotte wrote this at the end of her second year studying English here at Christ's College, Cambridge. She is from Barnet in London, and took A-levels in English Literature, Geography and Maths.
What advice would you give to sixth formers considering an application for English?
I would advise prospective students to read widely and develop interests that are not confined to your school syllabus. You can reference these interests in your UCAS personal statement and it's a good idea to be prepared to talk about them if they come up in interviews.
I would also recommend reading a comprehensive guide to English Literature – preferably one that deals with different verse forms, genres etc. so that you have a broad understanding of different types of literature before applying.
What papers did you study this year?
The course has changed a bit since, but I sat Medieval, Shakespeare, Long Eighteenth Century and Practical Criticism papers; I submitted a dissertation for the Renaissance paper; and I submitted a portfolio of essays for the 1870-present day paper. In my year, Medieval and Shakespeare were taught in first year, but the papers were sat in second year. I did these papers because they were the prescribed papers for Part I English Lit.
What was your timetable and workload like this year?
I had two supervisions per week (one in Practical Criticism and one in a period paper) and there were around twenty-four lectures on at the faculty per day - you have to pick which you think will be relevant to you (your Director of Studies is someone you can consult). We would also have group classes occasionally and in Shakespeare term, there were mixed College seminars held at the faculty. More essays were set for Practical Criticism than last year and we had to write our dissertations during term time whilst also being taught two other papers.
I initially found balancing my workload really difficult; but then I started volunteering with a local charity to help create a timetable for myself, and as the term progressed I soon got into the swing of working. Second year has been very different to first year: I have taken my work far more seriously so have devoted more time to it. Creating the portfolio of essays was difficult, but I was happy with my finished product so found it very rewarding in the end. Although it has certainly gotten more intense, I have found this year far more stimulating and I have always still had time to spend with friends, go out and join societies.
"Creating the portfolio of essays was difficult, but I was happy with my finished product so found it very rewarding in the end."
What have you most enjoyed so far about your time at Christ’s?
My favourite thing about Christ’s is the amazing people; whether friends, supervisors or porters, I have met a huge range of intellectual, supportive and caring individuals who have made my time here so enjoyable.
Whenever I'm not working, I spend a lot of time with my friends (going out for coffee, drinks, clubbing etc.) but this year, I have also been a member of the art and design team for the Christ's May Ball so have been devoting time to that as well. Being on the committee meant I got a free ticket too - a much cheaper alternative to just buying them!
Do you know which papers you’ll be taking next year?
I will be taking Tragedy and Practical Criticism as compulsory papers but have chosen to take the Contemporary and Material Renaissance papers as well. I chose these papers because they are both very different to those I sat in first year and have a broad and quite weird scope: the Contemporary paper allows me to look at graffiti and song lyrics among other more typical instances of contemporary literature and Material Renaissance leans towards Art History in its interest in objects and manufacturing in the Renaissance period.
"the Contemporary paper allows me to look at graffiti and song lyrics among other more typical instances of contemporary literature."
Do you know what you want to do after Cambridge?
I might apply for a Master’s at Cambridge, but if I don’t I will take a year out to teach English abroad and take time to travel before possibly pursuing a career in advertising.
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.