Application

 Oxford

 Oriel

 Chemistry

 1998

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (3 A*,5 A,3 B)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Chemistry

A in Chemistry, with an A and a B from Maths and Physics

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I thought I had what it takes to be succesful in Oxford. Collegiate system appealed to me over halls of residence, you find a lot more mixing with people studying different subjects – good for broadening your mind!

Didn’t fancy the NatSci course at Cambridge due to the difficulty in choosing the 4th option after Chemistry, Physics and Maths. Plus Oxford Chemistry is the best in the world imo!

Small & friendly. Good number of tutors to students (there were 3 tutors to 6 1st year chemists when I applied). Prospectus claimed that there was a strong musical tradition with an orchestra and bands, actually not true: there is no orchestra, however the music soc. does things now and then, and to be honest the best orchestras are university wide.

Preparation

yes

We had extra chemistry classes at lunch and I had a few mock interviews.

Spend time researching what a course at Oxford (or indeed anywhere) involves. There are lots of people who lose interest in their degree somewhere through their first or second year, which is a shame really.
Prepare something to talk about in the 3 different areas of Chemistry (Inorganic, Physical and Organic). The interview will probably start with something like “So tell me, what topics have you been covering in Chemistry lessons at the moment” – which is your queue to chat about an area of your choice (whether or not you are actually currently studying that topic at school is irrelevant). Also think of some questions to ask the tutors at the end of the interview (but try not to waste their time with questions that have already been answered e.g. in the prospectus).

Interview

no

no

no

Pretty gruelling schedule – four 30 minute interviews with 3 tutors and a graduate all in an afternoon. But the tutors were fairly nice and tried to set me at ease – starting with some easy chemistry and building up to areas I hadn’t covered to see how I could cope with new material. One interview was pretty horrific, but I guess the others made up for it, so don’t panic!!

Basically the inorganic interview seemed to be based on electron counting (which I was pretty hopeless at at the time), and didn’t rely too much on prior knowledge. Organic was mostly some mechanistic arrow pushing, nothing harder than some simple carbonyl reactions, and a discussion of acids/bases. Physical interview involved some thermodynamics, I seem to remember Le Chatelier’s principle coming up, and talking about shearing in crystals. The fourth interview was talking about my personal statement and why I wanted to go to Oxford.

Shirt, tie, smart trousers. Seemed to be what everyone else was wearing. Don’t think it matters too much, the tutors are there to test your brain, not your sense of fashion.

Impressions

Oriel is friendly, very boaty (although I’ve never set foot in one), quite rich (which helps for things like scholarships etc) and a great place to be!

1st year accommodation is all pretty much the same – might be lucky with an ensuite shower (I was) and I think all rooms have phone & ethernet now. Obviously some of the buildings are very old, so the floor might not be entirely flat and the walls a bit wonky, but generally it’s all good! 2nd years get the choice pick of the rooms and there are some very nice rooms around. In my 2nd year I got an old tutors room – had a kitchen sink and everything! College has just built an annexe down Cowley road – very modern and well furbished and a 5 minute cycle to town. This guarantees you room in college (or annexe) for all years of study should you wish.

Edible but not great

It’s not the best for food, the fabled omnibeast (of indeterminable origin) makes a regular visit to our dinning plates. That said, formal hall food is now of a high standard (and the same price), just means dressing up a bit.

They’re all good at teaching and easy to get on with. They’re willing to put in the effort if you are.

Although it’s a small college, we’re a fairly diverse mix. If you row (or want to) you’ll immediately fit in. But even if you don’t, you should have no problem making a group of friends.

Final stage

I was actually telephoned the day after interviewssaying I had got my place by one of the tutors, which was a nice touch.

Looking back

Yep, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these last 4 years.