Application

 Oxford

 Magdalen

 Biological Sciences

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 France

 Independent – selective

I am French/English, I went to school at St.Paul’s School, Barnes. I applied in 2007, got rejected, took a gap year, reapplied, and it worked out !!

 yes (6 A*,3 A,1 B)

A-levels

(A at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

(B at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

(B at AS; predicted A; gained A at A2)

I took Perspectives on Science at AS, and wrote 18,000 word essay on the ‘How Science has Approached the Origins of the Universe’. (A)

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

yes

yes

I got offers from Imperial College both years, it is without doubt one of the best scientific institutions in the world, however I couldn’t take staying in London.

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Kudos, because my friends applied, etc; theres no escaping the social label of an oxbridge type, no matter how much people say it is not the case any more. It makes a damnable temptation, but hey, im only human.

Architecture; I love the ancient buildings.

Atmosphere; There is a vibrant intellectual buzz about the place which infected me upon my first visits.

Academic; most important: the amazing academic resources and tutorial system.

Social; I’d rather be in a place where its easy to strike up an intellectual conversation, preferably when drunk.

Natural Sciences was my first choice, but there’s a written exam… I can shine in interviews, but there will always be people sharper than I for the TSR.

Honestly the best biology course in england. a very wide base, with great options later on. Genetic Engineering, Neuroscience, etc

I got rejected from New College in 2007, so I said to myself I wouldn’t reapply to any of the ‘big old ones’. However I was going to be away in December 2008, so I looked for colleges offering early interviews. Magdalen was the first and only one I found, so I fired off an email and Bob’s your uncle, early interview booked for October 15th. They even sorted out a second interview for me at Pembroke.

I thought it was throwing myself into the deep end, but in the end I performed well and came out on top!

Preparation

yes

They did mock interviews back in 2007, but this year I went out of my way to prepare myself.

Preparation WILL help your chances. Some people say preparation is a silly waste of time – that is so wrong!

I came back from New Zealand early September, and revised the A-level syllabus like mad until October. Its crazy how much you forget after you walk out of the exam hall (I can barely even start to solve a differential equation now…). I learned what was on the syllabus and extended it using my copy of Campbell-Reece Biology. If you are pre-a levels definitely look up what is on the syllabus fir the rest of the year.

I went to a lot of lectures and public discussions at the Royal Institution, which helped give some useful anecdotes.

I arranged a mock interview with a teacher in another school which was invaluable in letting me find my feet.

I also did some Voice-Coaching and posture exercises. It may seem excessive for some, but don’t underestimate the impact on your presentability and how you structure your thoughts and speech. Tactically, it helped me a lot.

Do look up what your interviewers specialise in, but avoid stalking… I made the mistake of researching my New College interviewer in too much depth and trying to be clever by suggesting a cure for HIV-AIDS, which subsequently got demolished…

Interview

yes

No

yes

No

yes

No

Pembroke: Started off by talking about mitochondria, and the free radical theory of ageing, we probed that until I was way out of my depth. Then he showed me a picture on a screen. I thought it was a blood vessel because it was red, in fact it was a cell nucleus… Always enquire about the size of the thing in the image!

They have discovered that the nuclear membrane invaginates to get closer to certain genes. We the discussed what/how/why/where this was going on, and how we could experimentally enquire into the phenomenon. I came up with the method they are currently attempting to use… with a little prodding of course.

Read up, or have a think about experimental design before the interview!

interviewer was very nice and welcoming, but intellectually rigorous.

Magdalen: First question was ‘Tell me about our immune system…’ They were impressed I knew about the action of interleukin-2, This is why you need to know the syllabus AND beyond! Got given succulent plants (again! same thing happened last year in Hertford) to talk about their adaptations. Spent the rest of the interview talking about genetics in systematics and species definition, then about how to theoretically harness photosynthesis for energy production.

They were a little more stern, but very welcoming as well.

Don’t freeze! and don’t try to say a million things at once! This is where voice coaching helped me immeasurably.

Know your stuff!

‘What is the role of mitochondria and are there any secondary effects?’
‘Surely then mitochondria should have been replaced with something more efficient…?’

‘Design an experiment to determine which genes are responsible for and are affected by the invaginations of the nuclear membrane’

‘Tell me about our immune system…’

‘What are the evolutionary adaptations of this plant ?’ (looked like a cactus but it wasn’t)

‘How can we use the genomes of two species to determine their evolutionary relationship?’

Lastly, more of a discussion equally between the two professors as with me, ‘What are the problems with harnessing the electrons directly energised by photosynthesis’.

Smart casual leather shoes, non baggy dark jeans, shirt, socks…

Impressions

Soo beautiful, a tad grand aye, but nothings perfect 🙂

Professional, frank and friendly.

Final stage

tried to ignore it until december…

did a little jig outside the bar

Looking back

my gap year is turning out quite nicely so yes, it was worth it even if I didn’t get in.

Cram your brain full of facts! But also train with solving riddles and forming hypotheses. Be happy and excited when you go into the room.

best of luck!