Application

 Oxford

 St Hugh’s

 English Language and Literature

 2007

 offer made

Applicant

 Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers

 post-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes

Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers

( predicted B; gained B)

( predicted A; gained A)

( predicted A; gained A)

( predicted A; gained A)

( predicted B; gained B)

( predicted A; gained A)

( predicted A; gained A)

( predicted B; gained B)

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

Accepted Oxford offer; withdrew applications to the other four universities (I didn’t need an insurance as I was post-qualifications).

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Prestige, job prospects, liked the look of the English course and the city.

Mostly gut instinct. Also, I preferred Oxford as a city and I felt drawn to my college more than any Cambridge ones.

Literature is my greatest interest and I knew I would enjoy studying it for three years.

St Hugh’s seemed to view a) Scottish students and b) post-qualification applications in a positive light – I was both. I also liked the gardens and the location (north Oxford is lovely). I went on an open day where everyone was really friendly, including the English tutor whom I met.

Preparation

no

Had very little help from my school, partly as I had left by that time, and also as they don’t send a lot of applicants to any English universities (including Oxbridge) so didn’t have many experiences/words of wisdom to share.

Know the texts in your submitted work and personal statement well – most of my interview consisted of questions on them (though they were rarely standard questions). Read widely to make sure you have other books etc. to talk about and, if possible, get used to talking about literature to other people.

Interview

yes

I sat the ELAT at the end of October. It was the first year this had been used as part of the application cycle. I found it enjoyable, as the question was broad with lots of scope for creativity, plus it felt like another chance to prove my ability.

yes

I had to submit one essay: I used my Advanced Higher English dissertation from the previous term for this. It wasn’t mentioned at interview at all but, like the ELAT, I saw it as an opportunity to show them what I was capable of.

no

The first consisted of ten minutes or so discussing two poems which I had been given about twenty minutes beforehand. This was quite fun (in hindsight…) as by the end of our discussion we had managed to conclude that one poem meant something entirely different from the general understanding of it (from an endearing love poem to a masterpiece in manipulation!) The rest of the time was spent talking about works from my personal statement, or works that came up in the course of the conversation.

My second interview involved several abstract and slightly unusual questions (though not completely unrelated/obscure) and discussing a George Eliot passage they had given me beforehand.

Particularly memorable ones include “do you subscribe to the view that Jane Austen actually hates people?” and “Let’s talk for a moment about the nature of tragedy”. All of the questions in the first interview were literature-related (i.e. no general ones).

In the second interview I was asked what I thought about a court case which had involved the banning of certain books except to academics, and why sentences with the same meaning can have very different connotations etc. These touched on the philosophical and were a bit nerve-racking, but I think they just wanted to see my thought-processes and how I dealt with new ideas.

Dark green top over black vesty thing, grey trousers, black shoes – was smart-ish but not uncomfortably formal.

Impressions

It was generally very nice; people were friendly, facilities seemed decent etc.

My room was en-suite and pretty spacious with a good view, but I think they mainly get allocated to finalists/graduates. The other rooms I’ve seen look fine too though.

It was alright, certainly edible with a good amount of choice.

I genuinely liked all of them.

Really friendly and looked after us well.

Final stage

I was pretty sure I hadn’t got in because all the other applicants had seemed really confident and bright, plus there were about 40-50 people for ten places and I didn’t see any reason for me being in the top ten.

I received a phone call at about eight o’clock at night; he told me they’d like to offer me a place, then just said they’d be in touch with reading lists etc. and to have a good year. I was pretty shocked and think I might well have hung up without saying goodbye, oops.

Looking back

Definitely, I’m really excited about going. I enjoyed my interviews and found them a valuable experience in their own right.