I chose to apply to Clare because I loved the college from when I first visited it. It manages to be old and beautiful, whilst also having fantastic accommodation, a great bar and an incredibly relaxed atmosphere that is perfect for unwinding in. However, the real appeal of Clare is its character- it honestly is one of the friendliest colleges, with a fantastic musical heritage, a society for everything you could ever think of, one of the best May Balls in the university and a perfect location. Tell people you go to Clare and they are guaranteed to “ooh” and say that it is “so nice”, which is the college’s greatest strength and honestly a true reflection of what it is like.
History at Clare is brilliant, the history fellows are really welcoming. You will have a few meetings a term with the other historians in your year (Clare normally takes between 7 and 10), as well as individual meetings with your Director of Studies, and larger informal gatherings with all the Clare historians. Clare is truly lucky with its fellows and connections, and you will be supervised by some truly remarkable people- but don’t be daunted! History is a really friendly department in general and especially at Clare, where the small department are all very close. Clare is also perfect for history as the college has a brilliant library (the FML) and is also very close to the faculty library (the Sidgwick) and the University Library, which is brilliant for those late deadlines!
Interviews are incredibly daunting. I know it is clichéd, but honestly remember to keep perspective, and if possible, enjoy your interview! It isn’t the inquisition some of the rumours make it out to be: when applying for history at Clare you will have two interviews, each with two fellows. You will be asked to send in two essays (from your school work, not specially written) which will be the focus of your first interview, as well as some more general questions on which periods you are interested in (if there is a period you’d really like to talk about, send in an essay on it and/or mention it in your personal statement- play to your strengths!) The second interview includes a small test, where you will be given a short source before your interview, with some time beforehand to study it. During this interview you will discuss the source and history in general. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE TEST. Your interviewers will not expect you to know everything about an unseen source! What they are looking to find out is how you think, not what you know, and how you use facts and ideas. They are also simply looking to you as a person, to see whether you would be happy at Clare! The best advice to interviews therefore is honestly just to be relaxed, yourself, and confident when you go in. Read your essays and feel assured discussing them; actually read any books you have name-dropped in your personal statement (!) and show as much genuine and sincere enthusiasm for the subject as is appropriate to you!
It is SO important to stress that not all your time at Clare and Cambridge is academically based. My experience at Clare so far has been wonderful, and it’s the ‘extra-curriculars’ than really make your experience at Cambridge great. Since I’ve been here, I’ve played netball and hockey for the college (which offers teams for all stages and commitment levels), tried rowing, worked at the ents, done tours for the Access scheme, been a member of the design team for Clare May Ball 2009 and had an absolute blast. There honestly is an activity for you whatever your preference- whether you are a sporting god (try out for the uni teams or have a fantastic time playing for the college), a fantastic musician (Clare has a fantastically talented and well-renowned choir and orchestra, as well as open mic nights), a talented actor or dramatist (Clare Actors do an event every term and the annual panto is a complete scream), an organising whiz with creative flair (get involved with the May Ball or Clare’s ‘ents’, our fantastic club nights in the atmospheric cellars).