Application

 Oxford

 Somerville

 English Language and Literature

 2003

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (1 A*,1 A,1 B,2 C)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(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)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in English Literature

AAA

yes

yes

N/A

Oxford first choice! I’m still waiting for offers/rejections from UCL and Bristol. Otherwise, I have to visit Oxford Brookes and Reading unis to see if I like them enough to put one of them for insurance

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I had many- and I questioned them all, because people kept asking me “Do you really want to go to Oxford or do you just want the prestige?” My reasons are: I love Oxford, I could get the grades, I’d be like a duck in water teaching myself, and most importantly I love English with a passion and want to study with people who feel the same way.

I never really considered Cambridge, to be honest! Oxford was the only one. I’m completely in love with the city.

The website makes the point of saying that people who go to Somerville love it there, and I want that out of wherever I study. Also, the library sounded great (and is! it’s like something from another world!), as did the location and the fact that it was dedicated to women’s education for so long.

Preparation

yes

A few nuggets of advice, but that’s it. I’m the first Oxford applicant in my sixth form ever, one applied to Cambridge last year and another did this year, so my school isn’t really experienced in the matter.

The form: Check your school has them, for a start! My head of sixth form had to ring up and get some sent, because as I said, I’m the first ever Oxford applicant. All I wrote in the extra box was an explanation of why my GCSE’s are fewer and of lower grades than probably everyone else’s (I was ill and took them in a matter of months), and how this was a learning experience for me. Obviously this won’t apply to 99.9% of those reading this.

The interview: Love English, love reading, love it all! If you’re given any pieces of paper along with the passage you’re given, read it because it’ll help. I thought I hadn’t done very well at my interview and wished I’d had more practise at discussing literature aloud, so if you are reading this and hoping to apply, speak out more in class and corner your teachers in debates!

Interview

no

yes

Two essays: One was an AS essay on Snow Falling on Cedars, because I wanted to show progression in my learning and novels are my favourite area of study. The other was a homework essay on The Duchess of Malfi, and I sent that because it was very recent, and is not a novel, so they could see how I handle drama.

no

I had two, and each was with two interviewers, one male, one female. All four of them were doctors. Beforehand, I’d been given 25 minutes to read a piece of writing. In the first, it was a piece of Byron, in the second, it was Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway.I was asked questions about the pieces I’d been given, my essays, and the literary stuff on the personal statement.

It was very much like a discussion, only with more questions! First interview: What did you find interesting about the passage? Is a regular rhyme scheme a must in comic poems? What poetry do you like? (I said Plath, and told about my art project in which I made a visual representation of Lady Lazarus) What do you think Lazarus represents? (I got it wrong. Ooops) In your essay, you discuss Americanism. Do you think that this is harder for us to understand, coming from England? How would Catcher in the Rye’s impact change if it were in a third person perspective? You mention that your favourite book is 1984, what do you think of Winston? Second interview: What do you find interesting about this passage? Some more Q’s about the role of the punctuation in it. You didn’t say anything in your essay on The Duchess of Malfi about Bosola, why was that? What do you think of their relationship (my essay was about politics and personal relationships involving the Duchess)? What are the differences between Marlowe and Webster? (I said Marlowe has gaudier stagecraft, and Webster’s is more subtle) But surely Webster is pretty obvious, with Ferdinand’s poniard. (In that respect yes, but it serves more of a purpose. Marlowe verges on tacky!) You mention the difference between reading academically and reading for pleasure. What do you think is the difference? You say that you maintain a website. What have been your experience of reading text(s) online? Have you read anything from earlier than the Elizabethan/Jacobean period? (I said no, but that I wanted to get the Canterbury Tales in the bookshop but they only had translations, and I thought that was cheating!) That’s about all the questions I think, I’ve probably forgotten some.

I wore a dress, a cardigan and girly shoes. I was by far the most formal person that I saw, even though I wasn’t as dressed up as it sounds. It obviously didn’t matter though, because I’d changed into black and pink glittery trainers and was caught without a pen when I was unexpectedly called into my second interview, and I still got an offer.

Impressions

I loved Somerville! I thought the college looked nice, but not intimidating. I suppose the big concrete block of accomodation helped with that! The bar was really cool, with paintings representing most of the Seven Deadly Sins on the walls.

I was in Vaughan, easily the ugliest building I saw in Somerville. The room size was good, with lots of plugs, a desk, shelves and a sink. It wasn’t exactly the Ritz (not that I’ve been there) but I’ve stayed in worse uni accommodation.

Good

I’m a picky eater and I found it okay, so that means it must be good. The best bit was the coke machine, just like one in a cafe. I’ll enjoy that if I make my offer!

I found them nice, younger than I expected. One was particularly enthusiastic, which I always like in people.

The ones I spoke to were reassuring. When one of the students took me up to interview, he got me a chair to sit on and everything! I was very impressed. Most of the boys at school (apart from my boyfriend and the ones I’m friends with) would rather throw the chair at me!

Final stage

I got it today, and I was woken up from a dream about getting the letter to find that it was here! I saw something about financial stuff, and I thought oh my (bleep)ing god! I had to read the letter to be sure. I still can’t believe it. Me, at Oxford?! Then my mum called my dad, then I rung my boyfriend… it’s so parallel universe.

Looking back

Absolutely. I had a fantastic time, I loved most of my fellow applicants so I hope they all got in too! Even if I was going to do it again and not get a place I’d do it. Plus, I’d never know if I didn’t!

If you love your subject, go for it! I did despite the fact that I have 5 GCSEs, that two of my A-levels are seen as crap and unworthy subjects, that I come from a school that has never sent anyone off to Oxbridge, that I had no Oxford lessons or an English tutor. Despite all this, I had something they liked and so could you.
On the other hand, keep it all in perspective. I found out that my father has cancer two days after I came home. If I’d got rejected, then it would have been nothing in the bad news stakes compared to that.