Application

 Oxford

 Wadham

 English and Modern Languages

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (5 A*,3 A,2 B)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(C at AS)

(A at AS)

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in English Literature, A in German

AAA, No excluded subjects: English Literature and German as two As of three (the other being English Language in my case).

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I asked my mum when I was seven what the best university was. She said Oxford and Cambridge were the best. I decided Oxford when I was around 14 or 15.

Cambridge didn’t offer English&German as far as I could tell, and Oxford just seemed nicer. Might do a postgrad at Cambridge later on.

Couldn’t decide between English and German – originally just wanted to do English, but realised I liked German just as much, and that they were essentially the same subject.

Has a reputation for social liberalism (gay rights, feminism, left-wing politics) and informality, eg. no formal hall. Also seems like the place to be socially. Also has its own pub and theatre and music festival.

Preparation

yes

Some very vague suggests (‘read the Economist’ and ‘think about Barack Obama’, despite not applying for economics or politics) which didn’t help very much. One terrifying mock interview for English which was far harder than the real one.

You can’t really prepare all that much anyway – just be open minded and ready to argue with people (in a nice way).

Not to be elitist, but basically… you’re either Oxford or you’re not. I think the people who get in are the ones who think about everything and are naturally curious.

Extra-curricular stuff is definitely misunderstood – they don’t want five-time-under-21s-tiddliwinks-champions. It’s extra-curricular things that they want, but still academic things. I write poetry and have done work experience in Germany, for example – not curricular, but still in relation to English and German.

Interview

yes

ELAT, yes, for English.

yes

Two essays for German, one for English – there was some confusion, I only found out it was two rather than one for German when I e-mailed in.

The English one was way over the 2000 word count they asked for, 3500 more like, but it didn’t seem to matter.

yes

One very simple half-hour test for German grammar. Everyone sat together, it wasn’t intimidating, and the questions were challenging at times but definitely not out of my league.

Really really fun – I had to pause half way through to tell the tutors how brilliant it was! Although my first interview was at the top of a staircase where servants used to live, and had a really low doorway. Whacked my head as soon as they called me in… stylish.

The English one was a bit more tricky and a bit more interrogative than the German one, but still really enjoyable. The tutors were fantastically friendly, you could tell they were testing but they did it in a nice way.

Well for German I had to read a text and prepare before reading it out to the tutors, and then we discussed some of the techniques that the author (Julia Stein, I later found out) had used, metaphors and prophetic fallacy and such. Certain words I was asked to translate, at times I disagreed with the interviewer about exactly how to interpret them. Then we talked about literature in German more generally, especially the things I’d mentioned in my personal statement and written work. Kafka came up a lot, we both seemed to like him.

In English I had a poem to read and discuss. The questions were generally about the themes in the poem and the poet’s particular choices (‘One Art’, I think, by Elizabeth Bishop). I’d wondered if perhaps it was Philip Larkin on first reading, and we talked about what made me think so and what, if anything, might have dissuaded me. Then again, they asked more generally about literature and what I liked and didn’t like. At one point he said ‘So you’re a modernist, then, perhaps?’ and I just went ‘Erm… apparently!’

Some of my more interesting colour combinations – the first one was a pink and silver striped shirt with a light blue polo over, and then the second an orange polo and a green jumper. Both pretty bright, and jeans both time with my personalised converse (painted with coffee and with my initials biroed on, respectively). Wore my ‘communist jacket’, a khaki one from H&M in quite a military style that I’ve customised extensively since getting it, but took it off both times when I came into the room as a psychologically manipulative gesture.

Impressions

Very informal and friendly – very gay, actually, I think there were about three straight men in the place. Nice food, although quite hard if you were a vegetarian, and the meals were really easy, you just turned up: I constantly felt the catering staff seemed to find everyone else incredibly proletarian.

Everyone else’s rooms seemed really nice, but I had the worst one in the college – it was right next to the entrance and on street level with Parks Road outside, and wasn’t double glazed, and was really small and cold, and you had to Walk Through The Toilets to get into it. Eurgh.

My friends who also applied got the awesome ones in the new buildings – split level, so the bed was on a little area where you go up a ladder, and there was this enormous window the whole height of the wall which looked out over Oxford. Fantastic.

We usually ate in the hall every evening, with breakfast and lunch in the new refectory. Good stuff actually, not too heavy but still substantial enough to get us all through interviews.

Very very kind and lovely as far as interviews went, although one of the admissions tutors did feel a bit frosty. Takes all sorts though, maybe she was just having a hectic day.

Brilliant – completely ready to join in with people and have a good time. ‘Friends’ was very popular on the JCR telly. Can’t wait to be there!

Final stage

I think in hindsight I sort of expected to get in – I generally feel people who are rejected know after interviews, and people who get offers aren’t really sure. I sort of told myself not to second guess it, though, ’cause I didn’t want to set myself up for a fall.

I didn’t run round the house dancing. Much.

Looking back

Year 12, you mean? Well Oxford had been my ambition for years, so definitely yes.

Go for it – if you think you have any chance, even if you’re not sure, still try. You can always decide afterwards whether you want to go somewhere else, provided you get an offer, and it really isn’t as hard as people say.