Two years in, Rachel Weiss is flying high at Cambridge University. Good grades and great SAT scores helped her land at the prestigious school in England. But more than those was the boost she received from dual enrollment in Colorado Mountain College courses while she was a student at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.
Getting to Cambridge wasn’t easy, however. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, fewer than 3,400 undergraduates are accepted to Cambridge among the 16,000 candidates who apply annually.
It’s even more selective for American students. In 2013, out of the nearly 300 American students who could even qualify to apply to the university, just 23 were admitted. To merely be considered, Cambridge demands from its American applicants the best grades from high school, the highest marks on SAT exams, and a minimum of five exemplary College Board Advanced Placement scores.
Knowing about the fierce competition, Weiss turned to Colorado Mountain College and its concurrent enrollment classes to help her realize her dreams to study abroad. British colleges run on a very different model than ours, and don’t usually accept students straight out of high school, Rachel explains. Her associate degree from CMC helped her over that hurdle.
The CMC classes were offered online, so they were easy to fit into her busy high school schedule. Rachel graduated from CMC in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA.
“The biggest help was the composition class. It was good preparation for essay writing,” she said. “Since I did online classes and since I had a flexible schedule, it got me in the habit of making my own schedule and sticking to a deadline. It was good preparation for Cambridge which is independent study-based.”
Rachel is in her second year of a three year program at Christ’s College, Cambridge, concentrating on psychology and behavioral science. Founded in 1505, Christ’s College is the alma mater of Charles Darwin, father of the evolution theory, and poet John Milton.
Cambridge has also been an adjustment. “We have lectures. I don’t have one professor, but different ones for different topics. We have to do a lot of outside reading on our own,” she said. She meets once a week with her supervisor who is an expert in her field of study. “He makes sure I’m on the right track.”
Grades are based on only one test, at the end of the year. “It’s a lot of stress,” she said.
She also pursues her passion for theater, which she honed in high school.
“There’s a huge theater scene at Cambridge,” she said. Summers spent at the famed Second City comedy club in Chicago, and at Northwestern University studying comedy and improvisation, have served her well. She is now president of the Cambridge Impronauts, a comedy troupe made up of students and local performers who offer unscripted, unrehearsed shows based on suggestions from the audience.
Theater and psychology seem to complement each other. Psychology, she said, helps her get into a character’s head.
After graduation, Rachel hopes to get work in her field and then pursue a master’s degree, either in Chicago or London. And continue in theater. Ultimately, she hopes to become a psychology professor.