Application

 Oxford

 Oriel

 Classics

 2009 (deferred entry)

 offer made

Applicant

 Other qualifications

 pre-qualification

 overseas

 N/A

 Grammar School

A very comprehensive school with around 20 year long courses each year, in all fields – literature, languages, history, sciences, arts…

 yes

Other qualifications

I took the American SAT tests:
SAT Reading – 700
SAT Writing – 660
SAT Math – 760
SAT Subject (French) – 800
SAT Subject (Latin) – 800

Details about the offer

 conditional

I need the 5 on my Matura which is fairly easy to get.

undecided yet

I have to wait for the decisions of my American school choices

yes

N/A

See above. I will decide based upon the financial aid given, and the course structure…

Decisions about the application

I wanted the best European university, and I wanted it to be a beautiful, old one with an amazing reputation. Worldwide, an Oxford degree values more than a UCL one, even though they are fairly similar in the UK.

Sciences –> Cambridge
Humanities –> Oxford.
Everyone knows that. 😀

It’s the love of my life.

I chose Merton, based on looks, reputation and endowment. Got extra interviews at Oriel and Exeter and ended up at the former (Oriel).

Preparation

no

I am the only Oxford applicant in my city, let alone in the school.

Yes. For Classics:
1) Study vocab for the translation tests – you’ll have to concentrate on that as you won’t have much time to think about grammar.
2) Repeat the basics of ancient history – periodization, main people (caesar, sulla, marius, dracon, solon, hadrian…)
3) Prepare EXTENSIVELY in literature – if you wanna feel really prepared, be sure to know to place each author in his period and to know who were his influences/friends/enemies/idols, know ALL the works they’ve done and the basic plot in them. For tragedies, work a bit in the field of psychological analysis of the characters (Antigone’s heroism, Oedipus’ suffering…) and for The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid, know the plot of EVERY book.
4) If you don’t have one already, pick a favourite author and read some books about him (the series Ancients in Action are very good – concise but with important scholarly opinions about the main authors in both Gr. and Lat.), and try to steer the conversation in that direction. Try to impress with knowledge of many aspects of a certain writer. No knowledge of ancient philosophy is *really* needed, but if your philosophy interview (if your college has one) is based upon an ancient philosopher, it would be helpful if you knew the basics of his teachings.

Interview

no

yes

You have to submit 2 graded essays. I did one on Hadrian (the basic “life and deeds of ___” essay) and one on Antigone as an archetypal heroine (basically characterization + some comparisons with modern women). Our country doesn’t do essays in Classics so I had to mail the tutor and she just told me to ask the teachers to assign me something, so I did. Anything with a grade on it will do. Each of my essays was around 1400 words (7-8000 chars). Try to make them innovative (different aspects and the oh so important CONTEXT) and fresh.

yes

There is one exam for Latin and one for Greek.
If your taking Classics IA (both lang.), you’ll have to do one after the other.
They both last one hour and are composed of two parts – one prose translation and one verse translatione. The use of dictionaries is prohibited, so be sure to know your A-level vocabulary, and even do some extra learning if you feel the need to. Here are some extra vocab lists to look at:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/~amahoney/latin_vocab.pdf
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/~amahoney/greek_vocab.pdf

The texts vary from year to year. Mine were like this:
LATIN PROSE – Cicero – De re publica 2.7
LATIN VERSE – Paul the Deacon – Epitaph to Hildegard (google it)
GREEK PROSE – Arrian – Alexander’s Anabasis 2.25
GREEK VERSE – Euripides – a fragment from Antiope (!!!)

basically, you have around half an hour for each of these, but it’s manageable. 🙂

I had so many of them! Two at Merton, two at Oriel and one at Exeter. Generally, I did well in the literature interviews, not so well in Ancient History, and horribly in philosophy. And I do mean horribly.

MERTON:
1) History&Philosophy – I got one of Cicero’s letters to look at. The tutor asked me to tell her what can we learn out of this letter and why is it important to historians. This is very important for all history interviews! Try to grasp the context of your excerpt, when, why and to whom it was written; why was it preserved until this day, what do we learn from it. Expect those kinds of question. Philosophy was harder than imagined – I got asked about the philosopher Parmenides’ stance on how we define “nothing”. See below for precise questions. The philosophy tutor is intense in the way he asks questions, but lovable and non-frightening.
2) Literature – The latin and greek tutors at Merton were ADORABLE! See below for questions.
ORIEL
1) Philosophy&Literature – the worst one I had. The philosophy part was based on logics. I can remember one example: “Is this correct: That tiny dot on the horizon is my house. I live in that house. Therefore, I live in a tiny dot.” Basically, you had to find logical faults and think a bit, nothing special or needing extra knowledge. The literature one was (for me) very stressful, as I kinda disagreed with the tutor on his opinion of Catullus, which I guess they ended up liking as they’ve accepted me. He was more subject-related thant the ladies at Merton, asking more precise questions about the author (for example, if you’re talking how you’ve liked one poem, and disliked another, he will find reasons to tell you why the other one is better than your choice so prepare to defend your stances).
2) History&Literature
The literature part was me talking to a classics tutor about an English poem I got to analyse. It was Keats’ “On viewing the Elgin Marbles”. He asked me what some of the lines meant. He asked what do I think the “Eagle” meant in the poem (look it up) and how is the general mood of the poem, what emotions does Keats convey etc. The history interview was with a history tutor asking about the different perceptions of what historiography meant to, let’s say, Herodotus, Tacitus and the modern historian. I had to know a lot about the ancient historians and their works and what the works were precisely about. Lovely tutors, though.
EXETER
1) Literature – This tutor was very, very, VERY nice and you feel NO fear talking to him. He left a box with classics-related picture books in the waiting room so we wouldn’t think about the upcoming interview. He was polite, friendly, open to different understandings of work and a generally nice guy. He asked me to talk about a favourite author I hadn’t already discussed earlier. We talked about Antigone and Horace’s satires. He leeds you through the interview and there they actually read my PS carefully and concluded that I liked staging Greek plays so they asked me how I would stage the prologue of Antigone. Other than that, only the Merton literature tutors referenced my PS in the interview – they said they read I love architecture, and why was that important for Classics.
And that was it! 🙂

ANCIENT HISTORY PART:
– What can we conclude from this letter from Cicero to Apius Pulcher about their relationship?
– How did Cicero’s Letters survive to this day? Who do you think saved them? (His slave or something…)
– Do you think there’s a differnce in Cicero’s rhetoric style and letter-writing style?
——
– What is the difference in Herodotus’ and Tacitus’ histories?
– Which one do we find more alike to what a History means today?
– What else can we conclude from reading an ancient historians work, except the facts (his critical point of view, who he (dis)liked etc etc etc)?
PHILOSOPHY PART:
– Parmenides says we cannot think about what isn’t, we can only think about what *is*. If we agree that Zeus doesn’t exist, that he *isn’t*, can we think about Zeus? [“No.”] Well, is that really so? and then we led this very cringeworthy discussion about “is” and “isn’t” in which I got completely lost.

– Logical questions about several types of relations. The Reflexive relation, the Symmetric relation and the Transitive relation. (On wikipedia you will find examples for these relations, in the interview we discussed such examples – e.g. “why is the relation *x loves y* not reflexive”? they do explain you what each relation means, so if you’re concentrated, it shouldn’t be hard. It was for me, though.
LITERATURE
– What authors and what books did you do?
– Favourite author and why? [Catullus.]
– Do you find Catullus insincere because he addresses his love poems to many boys and girls?
– Similar questions about the poems of Catullus I mentioned I liked.
– In the part of Horace’s Sermones 1.9 you’ve done, how does Horace act regarding the annoying follower around him? What does that tell us of Horace as a person?
– What are the differences in harshness between Horace’s Satires and Juvenal’s?
– What is the importance, in the prologue of Antigone, of placing the dialog between the two sisters at the very beginning in the play, and why not just put Creon first, so that he can tell us all that’s important about the play’s background? (dynamics,dialogue,more passionate etc etc…)
– How would you stage the prologue of Antigone? (I mentioned in my PS I loved staging Greek drama)
– What is the significance of Antigone being physically led off stage? (didn’t know that one, something about the similarity of that to a marriage procession?)

Regarding all questions – they always revolve ONLY about what you have translated in school or at home, and they are never unexpected (like jumping from Catullus to Cicero for no apparent reason) – the conversation proposes additional questions and so they come up. But in all of them, there is enough room for steering the interview in the direction of AT LEAST a period/genre/author you would like to discuss, if not a particular work.

Now listen to me VERY CAREFULLY: *** *** It is OK to come in Jeans!! *** *** There were huuuuge debates prior to the interviews about jeans and they were all bs. More than 50% of the people wore jeans with a jumper or shirt or both, and the rest wore suits. In each way, you won’t feel as if you don’t belong. If your college doesn’t strictly tell you in the interview letter what to wear, just wear whatever you like as long as it’s clean. I had warm jumpers, dark clean jeans and new, black, decent Nike shoes. Nothing fancy. And I DID get in. Nobody will reject you because you wore jeans. 😀

Impressions

I spent time only at Merton, and the interviews at Oriel and Exeter went extremely fast so I didn’t get to look around. Merton felt really nice, the people aren’t geeky as the stereotypes say. Don’t be shy to come to the JCR, in about 10 minutes, someone will pop up and talk to you, and it’s amazingly easy to make friends. There’s Jenga, Wii, books, newspaper, tea, comfy chairs etc. Also, the JCR organized a pub quiz, a G&D’s night (local icecream shop) and a cinema night.

My room was amazing. Big desk, normal bed, sink, heater, chairs, mirror, spacey, comfortable. Shared bathroom, but it’s no problem, people just walked in and out of wrapped in their towels, very friendly

Very, very, exceptionally great!

Mostly lovable, some were amazing, yet some were cold and distanced, but very professional nonetheless. Don’t worry about those things. 🙂

Really helpful. They are always there to take you from point A to point B, to interviews, to Hall, to tell you about great coffee shops, where can you buy something, where to find an internet caffe, etc. They try hard to make all of the interviewees mingle and they succeeded.

Final stage

You only have to wait 2 weeks, so it’s not that bad, but still, I was a bit nervous. However, the 3 extra interviews widened my chances, so I was happy.

I first got the e-mail from Merton (on the 19th) saying they are not accepting me, but “it’s highly likely that another college will, so if you don’t receive an offer, call us back”. A couple of days later came the expected e-mail from Oriel. I was really glad, even more so because a lot of the people I thought did better than me didn’t get in.

Looking back

Absolutely. It made me realize just how much my knowledge is worthy, what my place is and what I need to improve about myself. I made new friends and saw amazing sights. It’s unimaginable!

1. Prepare well.
2. Prepare some more. Work will keep the panic away.
3. Translate with concentration.
4. Don’t be shy, act boldly in interviews. Take a stance!
5. Don’t be affraid of extra interviews. They are GOOD NEWS!

Oh yes – and don’t be late for an interview! That almost happened to me! 😀