Application

 Oxford

 Lady Margaret Hall

 English Language and Literature

 2002

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (8 A*,3 A)

A-levels

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

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

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

Other universities

yes

yes

Probably Exter – firm choice and Southampton – insurance.

Decisions about the application

Because my English teacher in Yr11 thought I could. Because I believed I was clever enough. Because it’s Oxford – just think of the dreaming Spires, the leafy roads, the libraries, the lawns and the sheer number of famous people that have been.

I never really considered Cambridge – it’s much further away and I know more people who’ve gone to Oxford so it seemed more accessible and less intimidating

It’s away from the centre of Oxford so it’s not as cramped. It’s right by the park! It didn’t seem as intimidating as many of the older colleges. And, perhaps most importantly, their alternative prospectus made me laugh

Preparation

yes

My English teachers would probably have helped but I was too embarassed to ask. My Head of Year arranged a meeting with this governor who works at another University. That hour-long meeting was more frightening than my Oxford interviews! She made me feel about 2 inches high.

The form: Just arselick, it won’t do you any harm.

The interview: Look on the college website and find out your tutors’ specalisms – then avoid them like the plague in your interview!

Interview

no

yes

I submitted 2 English Lit essays. One was my Lower Sixth coursework on the comic ending in Much Ado About Nothing; and the other was a homework essay on dramatic tension in A Streetcar Named Desire. The latter was a mistake – see below.

no

I had two interviews, each of 20 minutes. The first was with one tutor and it was just general conversation about my wider reading, my UCAS form etc – quite chatty. The second was more intimidating. It was with two tutors (one wrote while one questioned me, then they swapped). They mentioned one of my essays, my A-level choices and my set texts. ( Another candidate told me in the JCR that one of these tutors was writing a book on A Streetcar Named Desire. Began to regret that essay)

In my first interview: what are your set texts? (I mentioned Forster) What are reading at the moment? (I mentioned Dickens) How does Forster and Dicken’s use of character differ? I then mentioned theatre visits (1984, Much Ado and Twelfth Night). What do you think of Orwell’s 1984? Which of the two Shakespearean comedies is the most uncomfortable? Although the questions look more daunting now I’ve written them down, she was so sweet that I didn’t feel threatened, and the time flew by. The second interview was basically: why physics? Questions about Gerard Manley Hopkins. Did you write this essay question on Streetcar? (Implicit meaning: it’s crap) Do you really think that Stella and Blanche’s relationship is the most tense? But isn’t the tension in the play essentially sexual? Which Forster novels have you read? Is ‘Where Angels’ a lesser novel than ‘Howards End’?

Light grey jacket – because it was 4.99 in a charity shop, and looked smart A purple top underneath – because it wasn’t too low cut Black cords – because they looked smart but not too towny and they were the right length for my lovely black boots.

Impressions

LMH was lovely – there were loads of gardens going right down to the river – I bet it’s lovely in the summer. Didn’t seem pretentious and everyone seemed friendly.
I walked my friend to St Catherines cos she had an interview there – it looked horrible!

When I got my key from the Porters Lodge, the runner I was with looked genuinely impresseed. ‘That’s a really nice room, normally given to 3rd years’. This other guy who showed me to my room was similarly impressed. It was horrible! I guess it was ‘really nice’ because it had an en-suite, but it was in a manky tower block with a dodgy lift, both doors kept jamming, the toilet was tempermental and the matress was paper-thin. I did see some first-year accommodation which seemed much nicer, despite the shared bathroom. It was more social, being along corridors rather than in towers.

Good

God it was good! There were a lot of chips but plently of alternatives. Some of the names were slightly exagerrated ie the ‘vegetable’ stir-fry was essentially onion!

Serious

Really on the ball and helpful – hats off to them! Always there to take us to interviews and answer questions. When I was showed to my room there was no bedding so one student ran off to get me some.

Final stage

Wasn’t particularly upset because I didn’t expect to get in. After I saw all the other people applying for English and how smart they all were, I knew I didn’t have much of a chance.

Looking back

Yeh definitely cos the 2 days I spent up in Oxford were such fun.

OK, here’s my philosophy. If you want to prepare / cram / read before you go for an interview, then by all means do it. BUT once you’re in Oxford don’t hide in your room to cram some more, instead mingle! If I’d taken the first approach I’d have come away with nothing. Because I was determined to make friends, I may not have a place but I’ve made some good friends and have fond memories of Kate Winslet impressions over the river, a hilarious night out and an impromptu meeting with a mammoth..