Application

 Oxford

 St John’s

 English Language and Literature

 2001

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (7 A*,3 A,1 C)

A-levels

(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)

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

Other universities

yes

yes

Probably go to Leeds or Sussex – somewhere with not so much work pressure as Oxford and loads of nightlife. . . its not like I wanted to go to Oxford anyway…

Decisions about the application

Lots of reasons, the brill job prospects, the gorgeous buildings, the tutorial system, but most importantly – Hugh Grant went there.

Went to an oxbridge conference in Birmingham and the Cambridge tutors seemed stuffy. One woman kept saying “. . . which is rather fun” after everything she said so it put me off Cambridge.

It was right next to Debenhams.

Preparation

yes

Yeah once a week we practiced talking about an unseen poem for the interview.

The form: I dont really think it makes much difference if you fill in the extra bit on the Oxford form. Just try and say something reasonably original.

The interview: The interviews dont really test your knowledge or understanding of the texts you’ve studied as much as they test your ability to think on your feet, so know your stuff but practice interview techniques most of all.

Interview

no

yes

An exam essay on Death of a Salesman because I like talking about that play, Midsummer Nights Dream coursework because it got the best grade and an essay on John Donne because I’d mentioned him in my personal statement. They didnt ask me about any of the essays.

no

When I arrived the porter gave me two poems to look at. I was told I had 2 interviews and in the first one I could choose which poem to talk about, in the second I had to talk about the other. I had my first interview with 2 professors sitting in a big room with papers all over the floor on a really low squashy sofa. While one talked at me and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgeways the other took notes on me then they swapped. It went quite well. My second interview was kinda the same but with different professors and without the friendliness. One of them interrogated me for twenty miutes on a the second poem which I just clearly DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! They kinda looked bemused the whole time because my interpretations were so obviously wrong to them! When the interview was finished, the prof sighed and said, ‘Well, I can see why you didn’t want to talk about this poem in your first interview.’ Which was a bit harsh.

Nothing about my written work, nothing about my interests or why I wanna do English at Oxford etc. Questions like ‘Do you think Shakespeare was incapable of writing a more complex play at this point in his career?’ and ‘ Why did you like Howards End?’ In my first interview they did all the talking and I kept trying to give them my opinions but I couldnt get a word in! In my second, they kept asking me ‘what is meant by line 15 in the poem?’ I didn’t know but they wouldnt give up – talk about flogging a dead horse!

Pinstripe trousers and red polo neck jumper. Smart… yet comfy.

Impressions

Gorgeous.

All the rooms were brilliant – all the prospective candidates went looking round everyone elses rooms and they were all big and nice, especially the one I was in, with sink and fridge in the room.

Good

I got a pork chop and I don’t like pork but I ate it anyway because I didn’t want to make a fuss.

Three were really nice and freindly and enthusiastic, one was … none of the above.

Really nice and welcoming and helpful and approachable. (Thanks to the lad who carried my suitcase for me up all those stairs!)

Final stage

I was certain after my second interview that I hadn’t got in, so by the time the letter came I’d forgotton all about it really. When there are 35 applicants for 7 places you’ve got to be amazing at interview!

Looking back

Yes definitely. It was so good staying there and meeting all those new people. Its a real confidence boost to be able to say you got an Oxford interview, and it feels good after you’ve done something that scares you.

Don’t set your heart on it, know your schoolwork well, be yourself and if you are not naturally confident just pretend to be cos no-one knows you anyway!