Application

 Oxford

 St Peter’s

 Geography

 2001

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (9 A*,1 A,1 B)

A-levels

(B at AS (50 UMS))

(A at AS (60 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (60 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (60 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(B at AS (50 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAB, Excluding General Studies

yes

no

1. Oxford – Geography – AAB [exc Gen Studies]
2. Sheffield – Economics & Geography – ABB [inc Gen Studies] Rejecting offers from LSE, St Andrews, Lancaster & Reading.

 offer met

Decisions about the application

The prestige and great value of an Oxford degree. Being in an institution where those around you share your interests.

Oxford had appealed to me as it is a fantastic city, the historical buildings make such a change to Middlesbrough! Oxford *arguably* does not appear to have the same degree of arrogance as is perceived at Cambridge.

I think St Peter’s provides the perfect balance between work and play, there appears to be a greater concentration on extracurricular activity. Fantastic location – cross the road and there’s the city centre – HMV, Virgin, Waterstones, McDonaldes etc at your doorstep!

Preparation

yes

Hardly. A half an hour talk before setting off about what to expect. I hear about the top independent schools employing consultants to teach students how to deal with interview technique etc… I find it is better to just be yourself! Worked for me.

The form: Maybe just a short section [5 lines] about what is so special about the degree course at Oxford. Or maybe your UMS marks at AS Level for that subject? Do NOT say that Oxford / your college is fantastic… Professors are unlikely to be impressed.
The interview:Know the entire of Geography well including topics not on your syllabus – I read through a GCSE Geography revision book & leafed through A-Z of Geography to know more about topics not done in school. Showing motivation and enthusiasm is essential – show interest in the topics. Maybe argue with the interviewers, i.e. pose a contrasting opinion – very impressive provided that you can justify your argument.

Interview

no

yes

2 Geography essays. Harnessing Energy in Nepal [14/15] and Burglary [23/25]. These two essays were the most appropriate for what was asked – two 3-page essays [I had got full marks in a couple of essays but it’s more important to submit essays which you can confidently talk about in an interview].

no

First interview was on Human Geography, with two interviewers. Half an hour long, I was given an extract to read 1 hour before [Global Inequality from The Economist].

Second interview was on Physical Geography – one interviewer, 30 minutes long. Given an extract to read 1 hour prior [Global warming from nature.com].

Human Geography: Firstly questions about my website (one of the interviewers had had a look, a surprise as I hadn’t given the URL on my statement!). Then the history of my town & Anglo-Saxon settlement. 5 minutes discussing the article [Market echange rates, PPP, methods of obtaining data etc]. Public / private spaces. Population – Sustainability & Dependency. South Korean culture. United Nations. [A very challenging but satisfying interview, many things I said were quickly contradicted so I had to justify my arguments]. Physical: Focussing mainly on the article. Ecosystems. The rainforest – determining the age of trees. Climatic change – the ice age, and Pangaea. Methods of collecting such data.

Shirt, tie, blazer, grey trousers. I was not going “all out to impress” with a suit which they would know I would not be comfortable with; I was comfortable in a blazer.

Impressions

St Peter’s was just fantastic, the people I met were really interesting and there was absolutely no arrogance or spitefulness, people I met genuinely saying “I really do hope you get in” etc. The location was great too.

The college JCR was very laid back, like a 6th form common room – people watching The Simpsons on cable TV daily etc!

I was in Matthews building. I thought it was OK, the room was quite spacious, plenty of desk room, own sink. The idea of shared bathrooms for entire 8 week terms was not too appealing though.

Excellent

Being vegetarian, I found food here to be variant and top quality. Chips twice daily. Nice selection of desserts etc. [However others did not agree regarding food].

The Human Geography tutors really were pushing you, getting you to deal with unfamiliar situations and be able to fully justify your arguments and opinions [I felt quite pleased at the end that I had been able to argue etc]. However they seemed to be enjoying hearing responses and justifications of arguments. The Physical Geography tutor was good in the fact that he taught you a lot during the interview, it was a lot like a tutorial.

People I met were, as I said, great. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met, from across Europe. There was no arrogance or snobbery whatsoever, people genuinely wanted to see the best in everyone.

Final stage

Relief. I now had a greater incentive to work hard at A Level. But I was not complacent, getting AAB from my AS Level performance is not guaranteed. It has obviously not sunk in, I do not feel ecstatic, 2 hours after the letter I’m writing this form!

Looking back

Yes certainly, even if I would not have got in it was a fascinating experience. However the worst thing you can do is think “Oxbridge or nothing”, because if you get rejected you could be highly depressed [at a time when you may have January exams].

Show great motivation and enthusiasm in your interview. Be familiar with your entire syllabus for a subject (just read a GCSE revision guide which gives you a general overview of each topic). Enjoy the experience – do not stay in the college, go out. Go shopping. Go to the cinema. Go to the bar. Meet new people.