Application

 Oxford

 Merton

 English Language and Literature

 2010

 pooled, offer made (Mansfield)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

A-levels

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

(A at AS (173 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (286 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (268 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in English Language and Literature

AAA

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I liked the english course the best out of all the ones I had seen because it gave most choice about what you studied. Also my English teacher was very encouraging!

I didn’t like the tutor I met at Cambridge, liked Oxford city better and I preferred the Oxford course because it gave you (marginally) more options.

Maths wasn’t for me.

I liked Merton because it was the oldest college, gave accomodation all three years and had cheap rates.

Preparation

yes

It was minimal, my English teacher checked my statement and I had a single mock interview with a biology teacher!

Start thinking about it early! I left it too late and had to cram all the books on my personal statement into about a week. Nearly burned out but it was worth it because they quizzed me in detail about a few of them. Also, go in knowing a few books (not on your PS) which you have recently read and can talk about: I mentioned a book which, in retrospect I didn’t actually finish reading and had to spend 20 minutes talking about it.

Interview

yes

It was horrific. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, the mock paper panicked me! I got in the exam and found that it wasn’t so bad. Did O.K and got an interview.

yes

That was painful. I didn’t have anything to submit. Eventually had to write a piece because I couldn’t pluck up the courage to submit my coursework (which had been copiously remarked)

no

Had 4. 1 was horrible (see above) the other three were lovely. I really enjoyed discussing my opinions, had thought about a lot of the things they asked and knew the books really well. I had to analyse two poems: one was really nasty, the other much nicer- the first he had to basically tell me what it was about whereas with the second they gave me a tiny bit of prompting and I could see where they were going with it.

The Mansfield tutors were much nicer: younger, interacted more, seemed like they would be more approachable and were generally kind and nice. Whereas at Merton they were completely blank: you just had no idea what they were thinking. I left my interviews wishing that Mansfield would offer because I’d much prefer to be taught by their tutors.

When I went to Mansfield I hadn’t actually, definitely been rejected by Merton. AT Oxford they often send you to other colleges for interviews and whilst at Mansfield I was told that they were interviewing me on the strength of my application alone, independently of Merton.

About the books I’d mentioned: Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ (that was the one I knew nothing about). Then ones I’d put on my PS: ‘Tess of the D’Ubervilles’, ‘In Cold Blood’, ‘VAnity Fair’, ‘Anna KArenina’. I also mentioned Chaucer and had a discussion about whether ‘The Wife of Bath’ was feminist or not.

Had two outfits (in case of two days of interviews)
I had a black pencil skirt and bottle green cardigan which I used for both. Then I had 2 pairs of tights 1 pale pink and 1 stripy (I bottled out of the stripy tights at the last moment). I had a long sleeved unstructured, oversized white shirt which I wore untucked and aflowery (pink) blouse which I did tuck in but only because it was chilly and I was warmer that way.

Impressions

Merton was nice. However, the students did seem very erudite and posh- they discussed articles from the Times (very deep ones) and sat and read textbooks etc. Howeverm they were incredibly nice and helpful and chatted to you about whatever you wanted to know.

MY room was HUGE. However, it was one of a select few. BUT it had a lounge and an en-suite. (It was a bit big for me, my bedroom at home is a box)

Good. Decent portions. Lunch was the big meal. The puddings weren’t as amazing but I’m a little picky.

Scary. Very distant, predominantly older men and didn’t really reveal anything or chat much. The tutors at Mansfield joked with me a bit and made a show of being really impressed (don’t know whether they really were but the effort was nice)

Seemed scarily intelligent. Wide demographic, coming from Cornwall (not a wide demographic) I was amazed by the number of international students! Really nice and friendly, fought over who got to escort students and were always happy to chat.

Final stage

Sick most of the time. Oxbridge has been a lifetime ambition since my cousin went when I was 5 or 6. I was seriously considering reapplying if I didn’t get an offer because I loved the course so much.

Typically, it was never simple. I recieved a email rejection from Merton saying that they couldn’t take my but “understood that another college was likely to make me an offer and to contact them if I didn’t recieve one”. I didn’t know what to make of that, whether it meant I would definitely get an offer or whether they were just saying it. However, after a hellish weekend I recieved a letter from Mansfield offering me a place. (This was all over by 22nd December)

Looking back

Without a doubt.

I think its a bit self righteous to give advice. Everybody’s experience is different. The only thing I would re-do is to get the cute music applicant’s phone number and collect more email addresses while I was there- I was unable to track down any of the people I met when at interview, which was a shame. Oh and don’t tell them you’ve read a book that you have nothing to say about! Keep calm!