Application

 Oxford

 Keble

 English Language and Literature

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

I went to several schools starting Year 7 in a private school, changing to another private school, then after my GCSEs I went to two state schools, one a top state college the other was a school in the 5th worst borough in England.

 yes (2 A*,4 A,3 B)

A-levels

(C at AS)

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

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

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

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

I have not accepted it on UCAS because it has not shown up yet but I do intend to go to Oxford.

no

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I have always wanted to go to Oxford. It is one of the best places to study English Literature, it is steeped in history and many of the world’s greatest writers, politicians and actors attended. The fact that it is viewed as one of the best universities in the world also added to its appeal. I have a desire to be at the top.

There was no contest – Oxford is a city and I am a lover of cities over the countryside. That being said I do love the fact that Oxford is not a LARGE city. The fact that Oxford came first before Cambridge, I think on a subconsious level added to the appeal. Furthermore Oxford is more renowned for being the University for the arts whereas Cambridge is seen as the University for the sciences as generalised as that may seem.

I have had a lot of trouble in regards to choosing courses as I am very indecisive. I loved all my AS level courses – English Literature, History, Politics and Philosophy. I was possibly best at Philosophy but a lack of revision and laziness meant I “ploughed” my exams and as a result was reluctant to try and take it further as the C at AS level would forever be a hindrance. I then thought that History and Politics was what I wanted to do before then changing to English Literature. English and Drama are subjects I hold very close to my heart, that I resonate with on a very personal level. I am always writing poetry or prose so to me I felt that this was the right course to do. In an ideal world Oxford would have another PPE course which stood for Philosophy Politics and English Literature, that would have been my dream.

My A level English teacher went to Keble college and said that it was less discriminatory against state school applicants than perhaps other colleges might be. It is also large and diverse with a load of theatre and drama taking place there, all these things appeal to me.

Preparation

yes

They gave me mock interviews.

Yes. Make sure you really love your subject, make sure it’s what you really want to do. Oxbridge professors interview huge numbers of applicants they can tell who has a genuine interest and desire for their topic over those who have been convinced it was good. Furthermore read up and around your subject thoroughly and close to your interview dates. Do mock interviews with people you perhaps do not know very well and get used to expressing yourself eloquently and fluidly. Be calm and do not worry that you are inferior to anyone else who has applied who perhaps has 10A* and 5A at AS level. I know someone with those qualifications who was rejected. I was given an unconditional offer during my gap year despite only 2A* at GCSE and a C in my AS levels.

Interview

yes

Yes – I had the ELAT, a written test for Oxford English literature applicants.

yes

I sent in a piece of A level english literature coursework that was one mark shy of full marks.

yes

No.

My first interview went awfully, I was close to tears after it. My second interview went exceptionally well.

For both interviews I was sent to collect an envelope half an hour before containing poetry or prose that I was to analyse prior to the interviews. In the interviews I was expected to talk extensively about them which I did and I was then asked generally about what I like to read outside of school.

In my first interview I was asked to talk abotu mythology, there was a brief reference to mythology in the poetry I had been given prior to the interview. I was also asked why I wanted to study at Oxford and at Keble College. They then asked me to talk about literature I read outside of school. My second interview asked questions about the prose and then went on to ask me whether I thought that a certain author I had mentioned in my personal statement (who had written a bestselling novel followed by a flop) was a good writer or whether her novel has simply captured a general ambience of the time.

I wore smart trousers, flat shoes and carried a jacket that I think I wore to my second interview. I wore smart clothes that were not too smart because it shows that you take it seriously. At a job interview one would assume you would wear smart clothes and I thought it was necessary to do the same here. However I did not want to be too smart.

Impressions

Keble was easy to get lost in! Several of the buildings looked identical and at night haunting. However the architecture was impressive, vast and almost beautiful. I have visited Worcester, I personally think it is one of the most beautiful colleges with a beautiful lawn. At both the students already there was very friendly and conversational. At Keble it was all-accomodating with a pub quiz for all the applicants planned and prepared by the students. It was large and the JCR was a friendly place.

The room I stayed in during my interview was large very mahogany coloured with an ensuite bathroom that had a shower, a sink and a toilet. It was quite attractive and spacious; the room had a large desk and equally large cupboards and wardrobes.

We (the applicants, the students and I think the lecturers) were given catered meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served and the applicants had it free.

Impressive. In my second interview I was somewhat in awe of them, one of the women was not easily impressed which made you feel pleased when you got a rare smile from her because you knew you had said something significant. The other interviewer was the woman who had lead to me to analyse the difference between a really great writer and the author of an ambience-capturing book. In my first interview I felt intimidated by the tutors. The main interviewer was nice but seemingly unimpressed or uninterested and the other tutor smiled in a comforting way meanwhile another wrote rapidly on paper. At the same time they were friendly and laughed at certain moments which made me feel at ease.

They were like ordinary people – they laughed and were easy to get along with. As it happens it I ended up spending most of my time with the applicants so unfortunately I cannot give a more detailed description of them.

Final stage

Oh goodness! I did not think about it for a while and then I was just counting down the days. I thought the interview letter would come on the 22nd but it didn’t. My friend from another college got his acceptance letter early on the 23rd but as I left for work early I had to wait until I got home that evening. I was anxious. I did not want to be rejected, I was replaying the first disastrous interview over and over in my head and juxtaposing it with the one that went really well wondering which would be more significant. And I just tried to have faith that I would get in. It was hard though and nerve-wracking.

I read the letter finding out I had got accepted and I was ecstatic – I did not even read the whole letter, just the first two lines. I ran around my house screaming and showed it to my mum and sister, woke up my dad and showed it to him and then began texting everyone I knew as many of them were waiting to here my results as well.

Looking back

YES!

Yes. Don’t give up. I applied once for History and Politics and was rejected during my A2 year. Before my interview I realised that I was wishing I had applied for English Literature and in a way it was good that I was rejected because I had the chance to apply for the course I really wanted to do the next year. My advice is to ignore the advice of people who have not been to Oxbridge. Many well-meaning friends told me that I should have been preparing since Year 9 and had no chance without straight As and A*s at GCSE and AS level. None of that is true. The final three As obviously you do need and I suggest you get an A in your chosen subject at AS and an A or A* in it at GCSE. However just be confident and seek help from teachers or previous applicants or Oxbridge students. From AS level year you should be reading around your topic and building up a portfolio of knowledge as it were until you get to the time you apply. Oxbridge aren’t after people who are good at learning information and churning it out in exams or essays. They want individual thinkers and people who are progressive and analytical. So those skills are what you should focus on over getting one hundred percent in your exams. There are people who will do that and get accepted but that does not mean you won’t.