With a current average grade of 8.4, Sjors Altemühl (22) will this year complete his Bachelor Econometrics and Operations Research at the Faculty of Economics and Business. With this degree he has been admitted to the Master of Advanced Studies in Applied Mathematics at the prestigious University of Cambridge. “Unbelievable to get the chance to study in a fairy tale place like Cambridge," says Sjors. Why did he choose to apply, what got him in and what is his secret to success? And his future plans? An interview.
Congratulations on your admission to Cambridge . What was your first reaction when you heard?
I was visiting a friend on his exchange programme in Brazil when I received the good news. My first response was to tell him, and we went for a drink together that night to celebrate it.
You are going to study in the MAst. in Applied Mathematics, why this choice?
Next to Econometrics and Operations Research I have also done a Bachelor in Physics at the University of Groningen. I was looking for a master at a high level in which I could continue studying both branches of science. Since this master allows you to choose your own courses from a broad range of areas it was a perfect match.
What do you think is the main reason that you are admitted to a master's degree at a leading university such as Cambridge?
I have the impression that the selection procedure for this particular master is mainly grade orientated, and I would therefore say the main reason is my good grades for both studies. But in my opinion for most studies, and almost all scholarships and jobs, extracurricular activities are just as important. However, always supported by good grades.
As a student in high school, why did you choose to study EOR, and why in Groningen?
n high school the subjects I was most interested in were mathematics, physics and economics. Since I have always been more attracted to applications of mathematics than mathematics for its own sake, I already knew quite early that I either wanted to study EOR or physics.
Although it was not my initial ambition to complete both Bachelors, I wanted to study at a university that offered both studies as to be able to defer my final choice. The only cities in the Netherlands where this was possible were Amsterdam and Groningen. Since Groningen was already high on my list due to its active student life the decision was not difficult.
Did you get any (work) experience alongside your BSc studies at the Faculty?
I have organized two career events for several study associations of the Faculty of Economics and Business and the Faculty of Natural Sciences. However beside my studies I have mainly been active outside of the faculty, in particular at my tennis club TAM and at the University of Leiden, where I gave exam trainings in economics to VWO high school students. Especially the latter has given me a lot of satisfaction, and skills which I could not have learned in my studies.
What are (currently) your plans for the future, after Cambridge? Where would you like to work eventually?
I am not sure yet about my plans after Cambridge, but currently it is not my ambition to do a PhD. I feel slightly attracted to start my career in business, in particular in the energy and environmental sector or consultancy. However over the past years my plans have never been the same for long and I can hardly expect them not to change in a place like Cambridge. But important conditions are that it combines analytical thinking with more general skills, gives me the opportunity to always keep learning new things and gives me the option of working abroad.
Do you have tips for FEB Bachelor students who would like to get as far as you?
For me the key to obtain good grades and combine study and leisure were not long study sessions in the weeks before the exams, but always doing a little bit every day. This meant that even after a big night out I tried to do some work the next day, if only for a few hours. All these hours add up to a significant number, as a result of which I never really had to work much harder in exam weeks than in other weeks. And once you are used to never doing nothing on a day it is amazing how much you can do without ever feeling stressed.
Furthermore, evenings with friends, housemates, etc. were paramount to me after a day of work, and I tried to miss them as little as possible. I made sure I studied when I had nothing to do to make sure I always had time for friends when something came up. This meant that if a barbeque, party, or something else came up I always had time to go. But yeah, if your exam is in three days and you still have eight chapters to go, that is kind of difficult…
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