Application

 Oxford

 Regent’s Park College

 English Language and Literature

 2006

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (6 A*,6 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(B at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted Distinction; gained NA)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, excluding General Studies

yes

Well, I will do when my insurance choice gets back to me!

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Whenever I visited I always came away thinking how great the atmosphere was for studying and living, and having the freedom to be an individual. Also, the teaching system and facilites are pretty much unique, certainly in the UK. Applying there was a challenge!

I prefer the course at Oxford…apart from that it was just a gut feeling. I think I’ve visited Cambridge too many times in the rain!

It’s by far the most exciting, broad and challenging that I could find. Oxford also has strong traditions in fields that are being phased out at other universities, like Old English and Language History. I liked the idea that there are the resources at Oxford to study pretty much anything!

I applied to Worcester having visited a few times -I felt that it would be an inspiring place to study. Having said that, I was interviewed at St. Catz and Regent’s while I was there and would have been very pleased to go to either!

Preparation

yes

I had a mock unseen poetry analysis interview with one of my English teachers -that was the most useful preparation I had since I ended up doing it three times at interview!

I also had a general interview with a teacher I don’t know very well -in hindsight I would have been fine without it, but it was nice to go knowing I’d had a mock!

If you’ve experience of talking to unfamiliar people and/or are generally confident to talk in class discussions, don’t worry about interviewing well, and don’t spend disproportionate amounts of time on this when you could be spending it on the literature itself!

If you enjoy it, read around the literature you have done for AS because this will give you a head start -if you’ve taken linked subjects take advantage of that as well! Focus on a FEW but VARIED periods/genres/authors and try to just read regularly during AS rather than having to cram twenty books in just before interviews! It’s useful to have a rough idea of the literary timeline especially for the unseen poetry analysis bit of the interviews. If you can, go and see plays you’re interested in on stage, or go to an art exhibtion which corresponds with a literary period you’re looking at.

It’s a myth that you need to have read literature from EVERY period and EVERY major author before interviews -you just need to show that you have and do read, as anyone with an interest in literature could be expected to. They don’t care what you’ve read as long as you’ve read broadly and engaged with it.

Interview

no

yes

Two essays. I submitted AS coursework on perception and perspective in ‘The Tempest’ and a recent essay comparing a WW1 novel and play which discussed what ‘truth’ means in literature. Apparently they like to see how your writing has developed, so I sent the AS piece even though I’d done better work since.

yes

At each college I was given unseen poetry to annotate for a few minutes and then discuss.

A lot less painful than I expected! Quite hard to tell how they’d gone, though.

Apart from the unseen poetry analysis interviews, I was mostly asked about my written work. There were some questions connected to the literature I’d mentioned in my personal statement, but nothing at all about my interests/extra curricular stuff -I don’t think they have the time! It helped on several occasions that I’d seen plays I’d talked about on stage, however.

At Worcester:
Can you explain what you mean by ‘perception’ and ‘perspective’ in The Tempest? Why do you think the play is a metaphor for colonialism? Is Caliban an immoral character? Do we empathise with him? Have you seen the play performed? What did you think of the director’s decisions? Why does Shakespeare choose to give Caliban poetry to speak if he is wild? Then there were a lot of random, factual questions about ‘Mrs Dalloway’, which I mentioned in passing and don’t know too well! (It was strange and didn’t happen in my other interviews.) I was also asked to tell them what I’d read, and they questioned me about a few literary movements and the messages of a few works. Then I had to compare two versions of the same W.B.Yeats poem.

At Regent’s I was asked to discuss a Byron and a Larkin poem, explain the argument presented in unseen pieces of Middle and Old English text, and talk about the grammar. I had another poem about a river to analyse at St. Catz which was a metaphor for the life of Jesus. They asked about the literature I’d mentioned in my statement and the essays I’d submitted. Those were much better interviews because it felt more like a tutorial and I actually learnt things about the topics we discussed!

I wore smart black trousers and a purple suit jacket because that was what I felt most comfortable being interviewed in, but people wore various things -I don’t think it matters at all.

Impressions

I would happily live in any of them! In terms of the interviews themselves, at Worcester I felt like a random applicant and intimidated whereas at St. Catz and especially Regent’s Park I felt really comfortable to talk with the tutors because they were so welcoming and unimposing.

My room at Worcester was just an ordinary, nice student bedroom with a shared bathroom. I fell in love with the Cellar Bar!

On the superior side of school food. I also discovered how many restaurants there are in Oxford!

Fairly clinical at Worcester but they were interviewing about forty people! I found it much easier to build up a rapport with the tutors at St. Catz and Regent’s -it was just like any conversation with another person enthusiastic about literature!

Very friendly, articulate, and unconsciously intelligent! Not at all stereotypical.

Final stage

Wondering why they’d interviewed me so many times and unsuccesfully trying not to read anything into it!

I was asleep and my parents woke me up waving letters at me. Very bizzare! I got letters from Worcester (saying they’d pooled me) and Regent’s with an offer at the same time. I felt strange about it for ages! I didn’t know quite what to make of an offer from Regent’s at first, because it wasn’t a college I’d ever considered, but I’m really looking forwards to it now.

Looking back

Yes. When I was at interview I met so many intelligent, sociable and generally great candidates that by end of the first night I’d come to the point of feeling that if I didn’t get in then I’d be pleased for anyone who did in my place. I never thought that would happen!

Take Oxford, the interviews and the outcome either way in your stride as much as you possibly can. There’s a lot you can gain personally from the experience.