Application

 Oxford

 University

 English Language and Literature

 2008

 pooled, offer made (St Catherine’s)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – selective

 yes (7 A*,2 A,1 B)

A-levels

(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 Classical Civilisation, A in English Literature, A in History

yes

yes

no

Applied to UCL but rejected.

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I wanted to study English at a top university, I attended an Open Day at Oxford and really liked the college, and although I was initially doubtful about whether I had a chance my teachers were very encouraging.

Quite trivial reasons – I knew that they were both brilliant universities, but I was sort of drawn towards Oxford, and I just liked the look of it. Instinct, I suppose.

It sounds clichéd, but I’ve always loved English, and there was never any question of doing anything else.

I chose Univ because it’s one of the larger colleges, I liked the fact that it’s the oldest college, and one of the tutors is an expert on Shelley.

Preparation

yes

I had weekly tutorials with an English teacher, which were very helpful. My school also organised a mock interview a week before the real thing.

READ READ READ. Know the writers you’ve mentioned on your personal statement as well as possible (ie: don’t mention Virginia Woolf if you’ve only read Mrs Dalloway) and read widely. Don’t stick exclusively to certain genres or eras, because you’ll feel silly if they ask you what Victorian novels you’ve read and you can’t answer.

Enthusiasm – you may feel the need to restrain yourself at school or at home because you’re worried about looking like a nerd, but Oxford want people who are genuinely enthusiastic about their subject. Don’t worry about getting carried away or digressing a bit if it means you’re showing your enthusiasm.

Be prepared to justify your arguments. Some critical reading might help to give you a few ideas (although remember to avoid regurgitating someone else’s argument), but if you have a strong opinion on a certain text or writer, consider /why/ you feel that way. I struggled in one of my interviews when I tried to justify liking Heathcliff…

Interview

yes

ELAT. Don’t worry too much about preparation – concentrate on your reading instead. Having said that, make sure you’re familiar with the terminology, because while the examiner is interested in your ideas, he/she won’t be impressed if you forget basic terms like “metaphor”…

yes

I submitted my AS coursework on Hamlet. I didn’t discuss it in the interview, but I’d advise re-reading your essay several times beforehand, just in case.

no

The first interview (poem analysis) was all right, the second interview (general interview) was slightly stressful because the tutor didn’t seem to respond that positively to my answers, and the third interview (poem analysis and general interview at St Catherine’s) was really enjoyable.

There weren’t very many general questions (apart from “Why Oxford?”), and most of the questions were on specific texts mentioned in my personal statement. I spent at least half of my second interview discussing Wuthering Heights, which I hadn’t mentioned on my personal statement.

In the second interview I was asked what I’d read recently – I started rambling on about Victorian literature, and for half the interview I talked about Wuthering Heights. I was asked a rather challenging question on Middlemarch, but then the tutor asked me about my thoughts on Shelley, and we discussed Ozymandias and a few other poems, before finishing with a discussion of Eliot’s The Waste Land.

For my first two interviews I wore a dress (kind of smart casual) and black pumps, and for the second interview I wore a skirt and a black shirt and pumps.

Impressions

I really liked Univ – it’s a beautiful college and the students were friendly and helpful. However, despite the fact that I was initially upset about being interviewed at St Catherine’s (I didn’t realise it was a good thing being interviewed at multiple colleges) when I got there, I loved it. Once I got over my initial reaction to the architecture (not the prettiest college), I realised that the atmosphere was actually much friendlier than Univ, the JCR was nice and big, and I got on well with the tutor who interviewed me.

The accomodation at Univ was fine – large room with a sink, desk, cupboards, chairs etc. An en suite bathroom would have been nice and the room was quite cold at night, but it wasn’t too bad.

Not very nice. I’m a fussy eater, though, and at least there was a decent range of food.

I liked the tutors at Univ but I don’t think I got on as well with them as I did with the tutor at St Catherine’s. Which is just as well, really…

I didn’t talk to many of them, but they seemed friendly and willing to help.

Final stage

I was nervous but I was expecting a rejection and I was lucky to have a couple of offers from other universities that I really liked, so I didn’t get too worked up.

On the day I expected the letter to arrive I was working all day so I didn’t get home till 7pm – I was in suspense for hours! I got a letter from Univ on the 19th saying that I’d been pooled to another college, and the acceptance letter from St Catherine’s arrived a few days later.

Looking back

Yes!

If your grades are good, if you’re willing to work hard and if you’re passionate about your subject then apply. Don’t get to stressed out about it, don’t get your heart set on it and if it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.