Application

 Oxford

 New

 Chemistry

 2009

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

I attended a fairly low ranked comprehensive high school (it was actually in special measures during my GCSEs) and then moved to the shared sixth form for my A levels.

 yes (9 A*,2 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

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

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

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

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

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

Self-taught AS chemistry and maths during my GCSE years, finished them in year 12 with A grades. Also taking General studies. Predicted A level grades A*AAAAAa. ABRSM Grade 8 distinctions in violin and flute performance achieved during GCSE years.

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics (Further), A in Physics

AA, Specified two subjects, effectively giving a four A level offer, which I thought was a little harsh.

yes

yes

yes

Have accepted an offer from Imperial College (offer conditional on grade A in physics) as my insurance choice.

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Reputation, course content, got friends there already, love the city, love the tutorial system.

Cambridge does not offer a pure chemistry degree, and I didn’t really want to apply for natural sciences.

I’ve been really interested in Chemistry since I started teaching myself the AS level in year 10 – the opportunities for research in the 4th year really appealed to me as I’d love to go into academic research in the future.

New College has a great reputation for music and quite a large chemistry group – also it just ‘felt right’.

Preparation

no

Only 5 people applied to Oxbridge out of a year group of around 200, so there wasn’t a lot of extra help available. However our head of year did give us some interview tips and moral support, as she went to Oxford herself.

Read widely around the subject and try to find an aspect that you’re really interested in – I bought some second hand undergraduate textbooks and read all the introductory chapters just out of curiosity (as I’d finished the A level and was getting bored) but it really gave me something to talk about. It’s probably not necessary to do that much though!

Interview

no

no

no

I really enjoyed them! My first (organic chem) interview was actually quite interesting and I found the tutors very helpful and friendly – we ended up getting into some quite deep chemistry before I’d realised it. The second (inorganic/maths) interview was more nerve-racking, as I was less comfortable with the material, but I still feel I did alright.

The tutors seemed to be interested in what I had to say rather than rushing me through the questions as they had done at a couple of my other interviews.

In my inorganic chemistry I was asked to talk about a topic in chemistry I had been studying recently, and as I hadn’t had an chemistry lessons since finishing the A level I attempted to talk about some undergraduate stuff that I had read up on. It could have gone massively wrong, but they seemed genuinely impressed that I’d made the effort to research the subject. I was also asked why I’d chosen that particular college, and about having self-taught AS levels.

Smart-casual, so a short(ish) black skirt, black tights, coloured vest top, black cardigan, casual looking boots. Nothing too formal, but I didn’t want to look pretentious or uncomfortable. I think I wore a white blouse to one of them, but I wouldn’t say I ‘dressed up’ particularly!

Impressions

Beautiful >_<. Seriously though, they were really lovely-looking, and seemed to be really friendly, cosy places.

My room at New College was lovely – I had a double bed, a big desk and a window looking out onto the street outside. I also had a big bathroom, which was a massive bonus! No idea about how it compared to the rest of the rooms though.

On the whole, really tasty, although I can’t imagine wanting to eat there every night/morning.

Interesting, friendly, slightly quirky.

Very normal, if a little geeky. Also very diverse.

Final stage

I didn’t wait long at all – my decision came through the post within the week. I did feel FAIRLY confident, as I wasn’t interviewed at another college and the interview helpers seemed impressed when I described what I’d talked about in the interviews. However I was also quite nervous that the lack of extra interview meant that I was one of the ones who would be straight-out rejected!

I was ecstatic – I had been watching the postman walking up the road, and could make out the New College stamp on the front of the envelope. Very nerve racking. I got the post from the door before my parents realised it had arrived, ran upstairs and saw ‘financial information’ through the address window, at which point I did a little scream, opened the letter and told my parents in a calm voice that I’d got an offer ^_^.

Looking back

Definitely – it was a great experience independently of having been given an offer, and I definitely learnt a lot from the interviews!

Don’t panic, they’re not out to trip you up! And try to enjoy it – if you love your subject, it’ll show :).