Xinhua is from Henan, China and has just completed his final year studying Maths here at Christ's College, Cambridge. At school, Xinhua did A-levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics.
How easy did you find it to choose a university course?
I made the decision to study Math very early - I think if you find where your interests lie, it isn't much of a problem. I think that mathematics is an elegant subject, you can find a lot of fun in it when you dive deeply into it.
There are differences between courses. I have a friend at Imperial College, for example. We compared the Math courses in these two universities and I felt that the Cambridge options are harder and deeper in depth. Also, examinations here are very different from other universities - Cambridge Mathematics mixes all different topics in an academic year for each paper, while at other universities, they would normally have each paper on a separate topic.
How did you choose your College?
I did some research and found that Christ's is not too large a College, and also doesn't have too many tourists so the grounds are quite quiet, which I prefer. Christ's has lived up to what I expected. My favourite place on the grounds is probably Third Court, because I can sit on the benches and enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful flowers. I am also really grateful to my Director of Studies, Dr Hunt, who is also the Senior Tutor of Christ's - he has helped me a lot in my academic work.
What advice would you give sixth formers considering an application in Maths?
I think it is important to be prepared for STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper). Also, try to keep a good mentality and stay confident. I don't have any books I would recommend, but take more STEP past papers if you can!
"Christ's is not too large a College, and also doesn't have too many tourists so the grounds are quite quiet, which I prefer."
What did you think of final year maths this year?
Of course there are big differences between the first and final years. In first year, all students study the same course, while the options widely diverge in final year: people have different favourite topics, and you can choose from about thirty-five different options. Equally, final year options are more in-depth and so are reasonably harder. For the timetable itself, there isn't really a big difference between the years; we have lectures in the morning and supervisions in some afternoons - the standard timetable for 'mathmos'.
This year I found CATAM (Computer-Aided Teaching of All Mathematics) quite interesting and I did enjoy it. I consider myself to be an applied mathematician, and the courses I have chosen this year are almost all from Theoretical Physics.
How do you normally organise your work?
Normally I would list all deadlines ahead, and make some one-week plans. I think this works well, so I didn't change this organisation style much over the years. I have managed a reasonable balance of work and other things in my life. Usually, I firstly try to finish my plan, and if I manage to get ahead, I am able to do something else.
In terms of preparing for an exam, from my perspective, I think an organised plan (or timetable) is very helpful. I am not saying you should stick on your timetable and carry out it exactly, but at least you know where you are going. I think my exam term went well, and I was really happy with my results.
Looking back over your time at Cambridge, what do you feel like you have gained from being here?
I think the most valuable thing are the experiences I have had here in my life. In many years time, I'm sure I will still look back and tell myself I had wonderful years in Cambridge. Personally, my favourite memories of my time here are the nights when I was studying in my room alone - I was always so excited if I figured out a problem or understood some new knowledge. I am not a social animal and I actually quite enjoyed the time with myself. I seldom regret my decisions, and can honestly say I am satisfied about the past years.
"In many years time, I'm sure I will still look back and tell myself I had wonderful years in Cambridge."
Do you have any plans post-graduation?
I can't say what I will miss most, I will miss a lot here. There is a career service, which helps students after they are graduated. I was hoping to get a job with scientific research, and I am still hoping to. More immediately, I have applied for the Mathematics Part III course in Cambridge, so will hopefully be doing a Master's here.
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.