Application

 Oxford

 St Hilda’s

 English Language and Literature

 2003

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (1 A*,5 A,1 B,1 C,1 D)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

AVCE Double Award art and design

Other universities

yes

yes

Depending on UCL, I’ll go to Exeter and spend the 2nd year in San Francisco at Berkeley (yeah, baby!). Insurance choice, possibly Reading.

Decisions about the application

Who can argue with their academic reputation? Vanity too, I suppose.

Oxford was prettier and further away from my parents! Also, I garnered from my research that it would be slightly easier to get into than Cambridge (I was wrong).

Seemed less stuffy and friendlier than the other older and more traditional colleges. The pictures in the prospectus were nice too…

Preparation

no

None at all. I resent this.

The form: Make sure you’ve read all the books you’ve claimed to and have done plenty of research on your chosen interests (you will be asked this at interview).

The interview: 1. Know your Shakespeare!
2. Pester your school and get plenty of practice on oral criticism, esp poetry. This is really important.
3. Know your texts that you mentioned on your UCAS statement
4. Have a good idea of poetic periods (e.g. romantic, modernist), though both my poems were 20th century.
5. Relax. If you do this, you are (unlike me) less likely to forget things and go blank.

Interview

no

yes

2 essays: one on ‘Jumpers’ by Tom Stoppard and another about Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.’ The latter was rushed, so not great.

no

Each were half an hour. I was not asked why I wanted to go to St Hilda’s or Oxford, which I thought a little odd, but most candidates were open applicants, which explains it.
In the first interview, there were 2 people, both taking notes on me (very disconceritng). We discussed Thomas Hardy (badly, for my part), an interest mentioned on my UCAS statement. Afterwards, one tutor gave me a poem (an incredibly dull one), on which I had little to say.
Note: you are not allowed to know who wrote the poem, so you cannot put it in context. They asked me what date the poem was likely to be written at, judging by its form and style.
I was also asked what books I have read this year and to my horror, I went completely blank, despite being a prolific reader!

The second interview, with one tutor, was more bearable, though she seemed hell-bent on discussing Shakespeare, which I had not studied on my A level course. We talked a little about reading interests and there was another poem (groan)…

Shakespeare questions, ones on the narrative structure of Emily Bronte, the ‘metaphysical philosophies of Thomas Hardy’, etc

Black t-shirt and jacket with new agey scarf, smart-ish jeans and heels.

Impressions

Friendly students, nice tutors. Pretty grounds (though less inviting in December – cold).

The rooms were a good size, though looked like standard civil service accommodation. Bathrooms weren’t great: reminded me too much of school. Room furnishings were ok, but the bed was uncomfortable and the thin blankets were not sufficient for December.
However, this could just have been my building.

Good

Vegetarian options pretty good, especially salads. The soup, however, looked like it had been taken from a bog.

Nice, wanted you to relax, but in retrospect, you could tell whether or not you had disappointed them (its all in the eyes, my friend).

Lovely, very friendly and helpful. There were a few obviously snooty types, but I avoided them.

Final stage

I was expecting it, so I wasn’t that upset. If you don’t get in, don’t brood too much: there are plenty of other universities that have courses of the same quality as Oxbridge ones. Also, I don’t believe in reapplication: don’t waste another year of your life.

Looking back

Hmmm, Oxford interviews have been a valuable experience, no matter how dispiriting. If you don’t at least try, you’ll spend years wondering ‘what if…’

Read comments in interview section. Additionally, make sure your essays are of quality and not rushed. Relax and just do your best.