Lily Rose Morris-Zumin joined Ashbourne College in September 2016 on a 100% Drama scholarship. She graduated in 2018 with an outstanding A*A*A in A-level English Literature, Geography and Drama and secured a place to read English at the University of Cambridge.
We had a chance to catch up with Lily Rose and learnt about her A-level studies at Ashbourne and her preparation for the application and interview for Cambridge.
How did you find out about Ashbourne and our A-level programme?
I learnt about Ashbourne through some friends. I was having interviews with some other colleges and considering several options before I decided on Ashbourne. I particularly liked Ashbourne because the application process and interview were more interesting and challenging than other colleges. I felt that I was kept on my feet and required to do several assessments including Maths, English and Critical Thinking as a part of the scholarship application. I preferred this challenge and felt more of an achievement when I succeeded. I also found the staff to be very enthusiastic about their subjects and the students seemed happy and comfortable at Ashbourne.
What was your favourite A level subject? What did you find the most fascinating about it?
Although I enjoyed all of my A-level subjects, my favourite would have to be English Literature. This is also the subject that I will be studying at university. English facilitates the exploration and analysis of some of life's greatest philosophical questions and allows me to take a more introspective approach and question individuals' emotions. The analysis of language and meter to convey sentiment fascinates me alongside the use of language as an instrument to control people or diminish them.
Tell us one thing you would do differently in your time at Ashbourne
I would have considered my choice of A-level subjects more carefully when enrolling at Ashbourne. Although I enjoyed all of my A levels, I feel doing Drama held me back slightly in my university application. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was an excellent creative outlet. Still, I would advise students applying to top universities to consider that ‘non-facilitating’ subjects can put a slight setback in your application. The sad truth is that more creative subjects seem to hold less weight. But again, it depends on what you want to study at university.
Please share with the class of 2021 some takeaways or advice from your own experience
I am quite an anxious person by nature, but I managed to stay calm during the run-up to A levels and the exam season. I think this is because I trusted my instincts and stuck to how I understood my study style. I revised best in the crunch down period right before exams. Throughout the two years, I had come to learn the most effective ways to revise that worked for me. My advice would be to find these little tricks, also to practise the things you are most scared of because they are probably the ones you know the least well.
What do you consider the most essential factors to ace the A-level exams?
The best advice I can give is to do as many exam questions and past papers as possible. If you are doing an essay-based subject, complete as many essays as you possibly can under timed conditions. I found many people were making essay plans but were scared of writing the actual essay itself. I was like this previously too, but I forced myself to write essays because once you get into a rhythm, you will no longer fear it in the exam conditions. When you sit down in the exam, the task is much less daunting. For other subjects, such as Geography, there are only a certain number of questions that you can be asked. If you practise past papers rigorously, you will likely come across questions in the real exam which you have previously practised in the past.
Do you have any memorable stories, favourite quotes or advice from your teachers?
Our English teacher, James, told us upon our graduation that it was an important time in our lives because we can make any decision, the world is our oyster. That prospect is both extremely exciting and terrifying.
How did Ashbourne prepare you for your university application and undergraduate study?
Ashbourne was very helpful in my application for university. I joined the Oxbridge Programme and had a dedicated tutor, Will, who oversaw my application and helped me with my personal statement. He also addressed any questions I had about the application process. When the interview stage arrived, I was given a practice interview that really helped me prepare and feel confident for the real event. After the mock interview, I was given feedback which was extremely helpful and helped me focus my answers more clearly on the day.
What do you think of Ashbourne extra-curricular activities and trips? What were your favourites?
Because I was a Drama student, we often went on trips to see plays in order to write about them in our exams. I thoroughly enjoyed these trips as I was surrounded by my friends in a relaxing environment outside of school. When I first started at Ashbourne at the age of 16, the college also arranged a duck tour of London to allow students to meet each other before the year began.
If you were to add an activity or student club, what would that be?
I always wished there were more sports teams for girls as I came from a school where I previously played lots of team sports. At Ashbourne, I really missed team extra-curricular activities and was a bit jealous the boys had the option of a football team where they could play fixtures against other colleges.
What made you choose to study English at the University of Cambridge?
I started my English Literature studies at Cambridge University in October 2020. My journey to get into Cambridge was quite a long one, but I had such a strong motivation to reach this goal that eventually I made it possible. Apart from the very strong academics and reputation of the university, it was the place where I felt most at home and excited to return to. All of these factors together made me very determined and I am extremely excited and slightly nervous to begin my university journey this year.
What are your plans and targets for your undergraduate studies?
For the first year, I plan to focus on working, volunteering, travelling and reading as much as possible. I also moved to Rome at the beginning of 2020 for two months and was working there teaching English to young children. I plan on focusing on receiving the best degree I can in my undergraduate and then possibly continuing to do a masters in the future. I am unsure what I wish to pursue as a career, but I have quite a few years of education ahead of me to decide.
Tell us about a recent book that you read outside of your academic curriculum or an extra-curricular activity that you participated in at university.
As I had a gap year before I began my university course, I asked my college to send me a preliminary reading list so I could begin the course with as much relevant material covered as possible. I read Dante's Inferno and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I’ve also just finished a novel called Stoner by John Williams. This book was not on the reading list, but I found the narrative very interesting and some of the books on the list are quite intense, so it is important to keep a balance.
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