Application

 Oxford

 Magdalen

 English Language and Literature

 2001

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (4 A*,1 B,5 C)

A-levels

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

(A at AS; predicted B; 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

N/A

Well, right now its all riding on UCL. If I don’t get in there I’m re-applying through UCAS next year..[sad I know] And I guess I may have another crack at it in the event of UCL falling through.

Decisions about the application

Umm…seemed like the logical thing to do, plus pressure from rents etc. Mainly my own impetus though. I was attracted to the prestige [I’m vain like that]

Although my teacher advised me that Cambridge had a more ‘continental’ approach to English and was frankly better, I opted for the erm…academic glamour of Oxford [its also prettier]

Umm…because I was a fool? Seriously, it had muchos prestige and grabbed me in the prospectus

Preparation

yes

A little…we had a laughable interview from the Rotarians, plus an old latin master who had attended Cambridge way, way, way back when. He gave us an interview each and I also had a go at some oral criticsm…not much though.

The form: Yeh…don’t dress it up, and if you are applying for literature based subjects don’t be too adventurous when it comes to the authors and poets you like.

The interview: Relax, but make sure you know the ins and outs of any author you may have mentioned on your statement. Also do practice oral criticism with a teacher if you can… And try to appear confident, it really does help.

Interview

no

yes

Umm…an essay on Wuthering Heights whch I’d done in 6 1 for AS simply because the examing board gave me full marks. The other was a rush job I did the day before the deadline on Dickens and women [sigh] What ever you do, make sure you have work ready and prepared long in advance. Otherwise you’ll end up rather like a small boy in an Indonesian sweat shop desperately trying to get it done on time.

no

The interviews were in retrospect misleading. I had three. My first two were at Magdalen. In the 25min one I had to discuss a poem along a circus theme. It was fairly relaxing and quite enjoyable. At one point I got a bit stuck, but in the main it was good. The interview went on for longer than expected which I felt was a good sign. There was a fairly informal atmosphere, however the tutors were very quick to push you. The second lasted barely ten minutes and was more personal, the tutor referred to my personal tastes, why I liked this or that. I then had a third interview at Brasenose, [another college] which was reputedly a VERY GOOD SIGN. The interview was a discussion of one of my strong points, Dickens. I genuinely enjoyed this interview, and came out feeling really positive…and smug.

Some wierd ones. At one point I felt one of the tutors was being irritatingly pedantic. I felt the poem described a circus of some kind, howver as he was quick to inform me, the poem depicted a fair. [hmm] Umm…I was asked about Terry Eagleton with reference to the poem [marxist perspective]…here I floundered but managed to waffle my way out with a very dubious answer [my speciality]. The second interview was as I said a dissection of my literary tastes; we discussed Conrad, Keats and Dickens to a degree. It was ok. The third was more of a discussion than anything else, it was not so much question and answer.

HAHA…I was to my horror mistaken for a public school boy. To this day I regard with deep seated embarrassment the fact that I wore cords and a checked shirt…I should have taken a pipe for good measure. I felt like something out of Brideshead Revisted…

Impressions

I loved Magdalen, there was a palpable sense of history to the place and I could have walked forever in the grounds. Brasenose was smaller and more centralised but nevertheless just as impressive in its own way.

The rooms were comfortable, sizable and warm. The toilets were clean and convieniant. What more can you ask for? [yawn]

Awful

It was worse than my school meals. Foul…at mealtimes I merely had an orange and then dined out at Ahmeds Kebab van down the road.

Suitably academic with a worldy air. Fairly easy to talk to and not too aloof. The lady at Brasenose was very pleasant.

Umm…funny. It was my first real encounter with public school kids. On the whole they were fine, very funny. There were some frankly ridiculous and irritating characters, but on the whole it was cool to talk to people with the same interests as me.

Final stage

Umm…I had expected to get in. For about 5 minutes I felt like shit. And then I just relaxed and faced the task of telling everyone [thats the worst part]

Looking back

Yeh. I am confident that it was my choice of college not my innate ability that yielded a rejection. Magdalen was heavily oversubscribed. I don’t know whether they send the same post interview letter to all the ‘rejects’, but mine was very reassuring. I was told that my ability was well up to the standard expected of an Oxford student. At the same time though, I didn’t get in. [I blame it on the college]

Unless you are the next Martin Amis do not apply to the big prestigious colleges. They will inevitably be oversubscribed and you will drown in the sheer number of able applicants. I read someone’s profile here before I even made an application, their advice was the same. I ignored it. Ignore this at your peril: Be very careful about your choice of college.