Yale is easier than Columbia

Yale and Cambridge: Two Germans tell how they got to the elite universities.

Veronica, 18, is doing her bachelor's degree from Cambridge

The University

I really wanted to study abroad and Cambridge is an extremely good university: small classes, a close relationship with the professors and lots of opportunities to get involved. I visited Cambridge as a child and I've wanted to go there ever since. Only in the last few years have I been drawn to America. I applied there to Columbia University and the University of Chicago, the latter also accepted me. I was also accepted from University College London, Kings College London and the University of Edinburgh. In the end, however, I decided on Cambridge because it is the best university I had promised and it costs significantly less than the American universities.

When I was in school, I was always busy. I always had to be among the best so that my editing would be enough for Cambridge and at the same time take part in other high-level activities such as sports, theater or the debating club, because extracurricular involvement is also desirable. Still, I don't feel like I kept canceling things to study. You just have to stay up longer or work more effectively than others. This summer I did my International Baccalaureate (IB), a kind of international high school diploma, at the Munich International School.

After school, I actually wanted to take a year off. But then I was afraid that I would not plan enough activities and that I would not experience enough. Now, four months after finishing school, I am very happy about my decision, as I can already see how bored I am and that I finally want to go to university. I'm also looking forward to moving out and being more independent. My resolution for Cambridge is to learn as much as possible about university life there. Of course, I don't want to neglect my subject, but in the first year I want to make sure that it doesn't take up most of my time.

The degree course

I never had an absolute dream job. During my school days, I had a mini job in the research department of a hospital for five years. There I entered and analyzed data and prepared blood tubes. I also did an internship in an ice cream parlor in Sardinia. I used to want to be an actress. My role model is Emma Watson. Not only because I envy her acting skills, but also because I am impressed by her social commitment and justice campaigns.

Now I'm more interested in international law and politics than in acting, and I could well imagine a career at the United Nations or an NGO. So I chose law. I'm interested in the subject and the application of its principles in world politics and in dealing with human rights or humanitarian crises. With my degree, I would like to have learned the legal mindset and expanded my knowledge of international law and diplomacy. I also hope that I can make contacts for my further training, internships or jobs. If I wanted to work as a lawyer in Germany, I would also have to take the German state examination, but only the exam.

The application

I had to write an essay for which, however, there was no specific question. Instead, I should report as much as possible about my skills and achievements in 4000 characters and justify my interest in the subject. I've written about how a trip to Tanzania changed my political stance, the Model United Nation conferences I attended, and my involvement in the cross country running and athletics team. I worked on the essay for a long time, but it was doable.

By far the most difficult part was the two half-hour interviews on site with two professors each - especially because I was very busy at school at the time. You couldn't really prepare either, as they wanted to see how to deal with an unfamiliar situation. I felt like it went terribly. I think they took me not only because my school grades were good, but also because I was very passionate about getting involved outside of school.

The commitment

The day the email came, I was having a ski race. After the race, I looked at the email together with my best friend and was shocked: I thought I had no chance of getting in. My best friend was spontaneously more excited than I was, because I knew that it was initially just a so-called "conditional offer". In order to actually get in, I had to achieve at least 41 points in my IB, which corresponds to a 1.1 in the German grading system. The real joy and relief then came with my testimony in July.

The costs

The application costs were limited, as I only had to pay the travel expenses for an interview in Cambridge and did not have to present any certificates.

Note d. R .: The bachelor's degree in Cambridge costs around 10,500 euros per year. There is also accommodation for 3500-6500 euros and other living expenses. According to the university, tuition fees for students from EU countries could rise in the coming years due to Brexit.

The reactions

My parents and friends were proud and a little amazed that I made it. It was clear to them how little chance there was of getting in and after the selection interview I didn't look particularly confident. Many of my extended family have heard of Cambridge, but some don't quite understand the difference it makes to go there and not to a normal German university.