Application

 Oxford

 St John’s

 Computer Science

 2001

 pooled, offer made (Somerville)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Grammar School

 yes (8 A*,4 A)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Information and Communication Technology, A in Mathematics, A in Physics

yes

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I am very academically able and get good grades, so I thought i could get in. The reputation was also important to me and I really wanted to be able to have an Oxford degree when seeking employment.

Oxford was more convenient, I could get to it easily by car or train. I also liked the atmosphere a lot in Oxford, although i didn’t visit Cambridge.

I went for an open day and quite liked the atmosphere there. It also has good facilities and is close to the centre of town and the science area.

Preparation

yes

I had one practice interview with the headmistress, which in fact turned out to be completely different from the real interviews.

Brush up on your mathematics and logic. The specimen papers for the Maths test are nothing like the real thing, so be well prepared for anything.
A good thing to revise, even if you haven’t studied it, is permutations and combinations, these seem to appear a lot.

Interview

no

no

yes

I had to take the Mathematics exam which is taken by all students studying Maths based subjects. I prepared by revising all of my A-Level maths work. I had only done single maths so I could only revise those topics which we had covered.

I had four interviews, two for Mathematics (one at St John’s and one at Somerville) and two for computer science (again, one at St John’s and one at Somerville). All of them, apart from the Computer Science one (because I couldn’t find the room and got there late) started off with some general discussion about why I wanted to study Computer Science and why I wanted to come to Oxford, then went on to logic/mathematical problsm.

Why do you want to study computer Science? Why do you want to come to Oxford? Plus logical problems involving such things as geometric series’, combinations and probability.

I wore a smart blue shirt with pen in breast pocket, black jeans with belt and dark school shoes. This outfit combined with neat hair and glasses made me look quite proffessional and well organised without looking like I overdressed for the interview.

Impressions

St Johns: Aesthetically pleasing with old buildings and lots of lawn. Good facilities including common rooms, bar and video room. The students seemed to be friendly and organised a lot of enterntainment for the candidates.
Somerville: I did not see much of this college and what I did see was only by night, but it appears much more modern. Beware, the room numbering seems to bear no resemblence to any number sequence I am fammiliar with.

The accomodation at St john’s was good, the room I had, in the North Quad, was relatively small, about 15ft by 10ft, equipped with wardrobe, bed, desk, chest of drawers, fridge, radiator + heater, chairs, shelves and sink.
There were toilets on every floor and showers on every other floor.

Good

Beware, one night we were served stilton and broccoli soup, which I ate, but most people turned their noses up at. Don’t try asking the waiters/waitresses in formal hall what the food is, they will either come out with ‘food’ or ‘I don’t know’

They were right where they were supposed to be, sitting in their rooms. 🙂 The tutors at St Johns were OK, the Computer Science tutor was quite nice, but the Maths tutor was not that friendly. The totors at Somerville were very nice, they were friendly and we managed to have some informal discussion as well.

The ones at St Johns seemed alright, although we got very little chance to talk to them. The Somerville students appeared to be very helpful and provided services such as escorting visitors to the correct interview room.

Final stage

I had left before the postman arrived on that Wednesday morning. When I got home, I found two letters on my table. One was from St John’s, the other from Somerville. I opened the St John’s one first, a fairly thin envelope. It said ‘I regret that we are unable to offer you a place at St Johns…’ at which point my heart sank, but it continued ‘I understand, however, that another college is likely to offer you such a place and if you do not receive such an offer, please write to me’.
The one from Somerville was thicker and contained serveral sheets. It read ‘I am pleased, on behalf of Somerville College to offer you a place to read Computer Science’. It also detailed the offer requirements and the costs of studying at Oxford.

Looking back

Absolutely, even if I hadn’t been given an offer, the interview experience and practice working under pressure will prove invaluable in the future. Knowing that you got in is also the best feeling in the world.

Make sure you choose carefully your college of preference. Its a good idea if its one you like. You may not get in to that college, but at the very least, you’ll probably be spending a few days there for interviews. Also, fill in the ‘Additional Information’ section, its another chance to write about how good you are.

Try to get as much interview practice in as possible and brush up on your Maths, if you are taking a mathematics course.
Even though it says not to dress up too smartly for interviews in the little booklet they give out, make sure that you look neat and professional, as first impressions can make a lot of difference.
Go to as many college open days as possible and try to meet the tutors that will be interviewing you later on.
Find out where the interview room is in plenty of time to be able to get there, so if you get lost, you won’t be late.