Hall of distinction: The divine trinity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2012, 3:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 5:10pm

Students going to Britain or the United States should plan ahead and apply at least a year before. At Cambridge University, the deadline for applications this year is October 15, and applicants will be informed of their results in January.

Dr Andrew Murray, admissions tutor (sciences) at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, visited Hong Kong recently to brief students on what's in store for them at the illustrious institution. He shared some of that advice. What is Cambridge looking for in a potential recruit? The No.1 thing we are assessing is the potential to do well. We think that the people who have such potential should have strong academic records and are passionate about the courses they are studying. They should also be self-starters: students who hang back at the end of a class to ask sceptical questions, or go away after class and read around the subject.

No tutor at Cambridge will say you don't need to know something. It is that drive, that curiosity for knowledge, that we are looking for. There is no "Cambridge type", so we are not looking necessarily for leadership qualities. Some of the brightest, talented people are not born leaders. They are quite happy to work on their own. We are looking for people who will engage with our personalised tuition, people who will respond in a one-to-one situation, and who think critically, and who are not afraid to question their tutors. How should students prepare for their applications? The first decisions should be which course they wish to apply for. The thing that will occupy most of their time when they come to Cambridge is study, so we want to make sure it is a course they are passionate about, and that they are motivated to study it. They should write a short personal statement, which should be predominantly academic.

The advice I would give them is to summarise why they have chosen to apply for that particular subject. We are looking to get a picture of that individual, and perhaps learn of the life experiences that have guided them into this decision. We are interested in things they have read, lectures they have heard and places they visited that shaped their decisions to apply for those courses. References are important. Principals and teachers know the students far better in terms of their educational profiles.

We place excess applications in the pool. Other colleges which don't have many strong applicants can look at the pool and offer them a place. That means it does not matter which college students apply to. No college is easier to enter than any other. We admit the best students regardless of which college they applied to. What type of learning experience can people expect from Trinity Hall? Our real strength these days is natural sciences, engineering, history and medicine, among others. What sets Trinity Hall apart is, it's an extremely friendly college. From my own experience, it is a very happy environment to work in.

Our courses are quite distinct in that you have very broad education in the first year, and gradually become very specialised as you go on. At the end of their course, students are doing an original piece of research.