An Interview With...

Rianna Man, a current Year 13 student at my old school, Radyr Comprehensive. Rianna has applied to study architecture at Cambridge University this coming October.

Why did you decide on Cambridge rather than Oxford?

I decided on Cambridge over Oxford because they don’t offer Architecture at Oxford.

What was the application process like? What were the easier or harder parts?

I wouldn’t say the application process was especially difficult, just long and drawn out. The summer before I applied I started writing my personal statement and also did some work experience to help my application. Then, an added aspect to applying for my course was preparing a portfolio over several weeks to present during my interviews. It felt like it took about a year for it all to be over, especially with added talks and prep that I made an effort to attend in Year 12. 

How did you decide on your college?

For me, the college wasn’t the most important part of attending and I didn’t really think about it until it was time to choose one. The night before I had to pick, I probably spent a good five hours just reading The Tab college rankings and using Google Maps to figure out the shortest walking distances. It was definitely worth choosing in terms of personal preference over trying to think tactically because I think the drive to attend the college you pick definitely contributes to your passion to attend. After much thought, I picked a more informal college with good kitchen facilities and short walking distance to my lectures. 

Did you feel prepared for your interview? E.g did you have any mock interviews and did they bear any resemblance to the real thing?

I did feel confident that I’d done as much preparation for my interviews as I could. It was pretty difficult to find many resources on architecture interviews at Cambridge, so I focused on just knowing my portfolio and personal statement really well, which turned out to be hugely beneficial. I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to a local architecture firm for a mock interview and it was very helpful, even if mostly to mimic the one on one formal environment with an adult in the field. Breaking that barrier, even with someone who knows as much as you about the process, is infinitely better than going in cold.

Did you at any time feel disadvantaged for not coming from a private school?

I never felt at a disadvantage coming from my school but I can recognise the privilege I have coming from a strong Sixth Form that actively encourages Oxbridge applications and has external resources like the Seren Network to help its students. They really backed me and all seemed to know the result on acceptance day.

What was your interview like? Could you give a brief run through? Were there any suprises or parts you felt went really well or quite poorly?

There were two interviews and a two part task that took place over two days at Cambridge. For architecture, there is a general interview, a drawing task and essay, and a subject interview. The general interview was very personal statement focused and so was quite comforting as it was about things I already knew. There was a surprise in this interview though, as I was asked about some external material briefly, but there was no right or wrong answers and I couldn’t have prepared for it, so it wasn’t a deal breaker. The drawing task and essay were a bit more intense as they were under timed conditions. Then, in the subject interview I feel like I spoke constantly about my artwork, but again this was work I had created myself and knew intimately. Overall, nothing traumatic or crazy happened and I wasn’t surprised that no one had written about the experience online since it all seemed very straightforward.

How do you feel about going to Cambridge in October?

Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to accept the offer until quite late. I was waiting on another offer first, then made up my mind, so I hadn’t been considering what it would actually be like to go. But, now I can’t wait and I’m getting really excited about my college, so fingers crossed I get the grades. 

Is there anything you're particularly nervous about?

I think I'm nervous that I'm underestimating the course. Especially with architecture; its nothing that I've ever really studied before so I have no idea how good I'm going to be, especially surround by such smart people. I'm kind of worried I'll be dropped in at the deep end when I'm so used to being pretty good at school. It's going to be great to be really pushed and get out of my comfort zone so in the long run it's better that I scare myself and come out better on the other side.

A huge "Thank you!" to Rianna for taking part in this interview and a huge good luck to her in October!

Disclaimer: All words except questions posed (purple) are Rianna Man's and I take no credit for her responses. All opinions voiced are Rianna's and do not represent the opinions of I or any third parties either socially or commercially. If you would like to discuss Rianna's opinions please feel free to comment below or email me at


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