Jack McConnel, Angus Strachan head to Cambridge University in Michaelmas Term 2013. Jack McConnel will go to King’s College to read Middle Eastern Studies and Angus Strachan to Clare College, to read Theology. Maddy Redmayne, who has an offer to read Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Magdalene College, hopes to join them.

Both boys found time during their busy Gap year to answer some questions about their choices, preparation and plans.

Angus Strachan (standing) and Jack McConnel (left), Dinner Debate 2011

JACK McCONNEL

Jack has always had an interest in Arabic and the Middle East since 9/11, when he remembers being introduced to Islam as a force for evil, and he was intrigued by it. His journey to Cambridge really started when he won the St John’s Quincentenary Essay Competition (‘Yemen: Arabia Infelix?’) and got to spend a week studying at St. John’s College. He did apply to St.John’s but says of King’s: “It is supposed to have a fantastic music scene, as well as a very active student journalism scene – both of which I would like to take advantage of. The two colleges are the poles of Cambridge University.” Mrs Corry, Head of Modern Foreign Languages, studied at King’s and said: “I recommended it to Jack because I thought it would be the perfect match!”

In terms of preparation for his interview, Jack says that it isn’t enough to just read the ‘in’ book a week before. “You need to indulge your geeky interests on a regular basis! Actually, I think that is something that has changed at Sedbergh recently – it has become a lot less necessary to be ‘cool’ and I think that being different (to a degree, of course!) is actually more of an asset now and less of a pitied drawback!”

“I wasn’t intimidated by the people who interviewed me at King’s. My interview was fascinating, in fact. The people I met inspired me and their questions made me think about things in a different way. If my tutors are similar, it will be an amazing experience. I’m also looking forward to the societies, orchestras, newspapers, buildings, radio stations… the ‘everything else’. Cambridge strikes me as being very vibrant.”

Before Jack takes up his place at King’s College, he will spend three months in the Sultan’s School, Muscat, as part of a ‘cultural diplomacy’ exchange, organised by the Anglo-Omani Society, then a month in a language school in Cairo, “then I’m going to hop around the Middle East: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Yemen, Tunisia, and then I’ll take a ferry to Italy where I will bump into another OS to go to the Opera in Verona.” Jack was most insistent on pointing out that just three marks out of a 400 mark A Level History Course made the difference between going to Cambridge or not. Reluctant to be held up as an example, he said, “If I had had half an hour’s less sleep the night before one of my History exams, then I probably wouldn’t be going to Cambridge. I firmly believe that getting into Cambridge is more about showing a deep and genuine interest in the subject than anything else.”

ANGUS STRACHAN

Angus is the fifth of six Strachan boys to go to Sedbergh, all Hart House. He follows his elder brother Frederick (2003-2008) to Cambridge, and William who did his MPhil in Real Estate Finance. He loves Cambridge for its traditions, structure, collegiate community and beautiful architecture, and felt that only somewhere like this could he continue to live in a similar environment to the one he has enjoyed at Sedbergh.

He was aware that he didn’t have multiple A*s predicted but felt confident about dealing with the aptitude tests and interviews, and puts his success down to the mentoring he had from School chaplain Rev. Paul Sweeting and his Housemaster, Mr Griffin. Angus gained much from Rev. Sweeting’s TGI Thursday group, where he learned to analyse, empathise and articulate.

He is currently in Ecuador, working on a charity project  in the Amazon Rainforest, the cloud forest and the coast and plans to travel around the world with a Sedbergh friend before term starts later this year.

Of his interview, Angus said: “The experience was intense – I had two interviews at two different colleges – and both were entirely focused on the subject, Theology. The questions were very probing but I felt hopeful. I feel that Sedbergh must take credit for me appearing to be capable and quietly self-confident; I didn’t feel nervous.”

“I found it very difficult to choose the right college but Clare College was recommended to me and I was really inspired by my surroundings when I arrived, the night before my interview. I felt very strongly that getting a place would make a difference to my life, even though I already had an offer from Durham and would have been really happy to go there.”

“I chose Theology because I’m interested in its practical application. I would like to work in a leadership role in Foreign Affairs one day and feel that a study of Theology enables a better insight into people and their cultures, in order to deal with present day concerns and likely future developments. I plan to make the most of being at Cambridge, both the course and everything else that being a student there offers.”

We wish both boys well.