Sunday, December 16, 2007

So, tell me a little about....

The admissions interview season is more or less over, so we can at last spend a few days frantically trying to do some of our own work before Christmas. I still remember my own interviews, so this time of year causes some serious flashbacks and I find myself sympathising a great deal with the various candidates who come along and have a go at answering tricky questions in a new and probably intimidating environment with rather a lot at stake. For my part, I hope I do what I can to make the experience reasonably pain-free without stinting on the level of care and seriousness that we apply to the decision-making. It's important for the interview to be revealing of what the various applicants would be like were they to be admitted, so it can't be too cosy.

Like all Classics applicants, I was interviewed at not just the college of my first choice (Clare) but at another place assigned by the Faculty. For me, this was Trinity, and the Trinity interview came first, on the morning after a v. hard test in Clare (which involved a chunk of the nastiest Latin I have ever read; or at least that's how it felt... I don't think there was a verb in the first sentence. Silver Latin, eh?). I had to find my way to Grange Road after a night freezing in a room in Memorial Court. Those were the days before central heating and certainly before en suite facilities -- all now demanded by the paying undergraduate clients and certainly by the lucrative conference facilities. I remember talking to my Trinity interviewer about Herodotus and Thucydides, and wondering how different they were -- even making up something about their prose style. I couldn't read a word of Greek at that time, so it was all a bit off the cuff. At the end, the interviewer told me that he reckoned I had a good chance but Trinity had so many of its own applicants that I probably wouldn't end up there. Fair enough. I hadn't applied to Trinity anyway; but it's interesting to note that that sort of talk is definitely -- and rightly -- verboten these days. (It may well have been verboten even then...)

Then three interviews at Clare, with the Director of Studies and one of the college lecturers, with the person who would eventually be my tutor, and with a Professorial fellow in Classics. These I remember less well, but I was certainly asked if I agreed with Quintilian's assessment of Livy's prose style (ummmm, well.... mumble....) and whether I'd prefer to know a little about a lot or a lot about a little. I have no idea what I said to that. Quite a full day, though.

Still, I think I enjoyed it. At least, I enjoyed the obvious time and attention being paid to my application. And that is still the case. The decisions are taken very carefully and with a great deal of consideration of each candidate's various strengths and weaknesses. It's a shame we cannot take more people, of course, and then there are people to whom the course or the method of teaching we offer are not well suited. In fact, if there is one piece of advice that I would insist upon for potential applicants it is that they all need to look carefully at the course they apply for. Make sure you know what it involves, what it does not cover, and the sort of work you will be doing. All that information is easily available, but it is surprising how many applicants appear not to have spent much time looking and thinking about what they are signing up for...

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