Application

 Oxford

 Exeter

 History (Modern) and Politics

 2006

 pooled, offer made (St Edmund Hall)

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 FE College

Until sixth form I attended a grammar school. However shortly into sixth form I switched to a small independent school which I proceeded to drop out of. After some time out (18 months) I eventually returned to my AS at an FE college which is part of a university.

 yes (6 B,4 C)

A-levels

(B 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)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted Distinction; gained NA)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, They didn’t specify which three of my four A levels I was required to get A’s in to meet the offer, nor did they include my AEA as a condition. Also the offer made to me was for just history whereas I had applied for combined honours.

yes

yes

no

The other top 5 university I applied to for my subject was Durham who rejected me.

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I thought it would be an amazing place to study. Not only that people told me I didn’t have a chance, and I enjoy proving people wrong. I was also particularly entranced by the collegiate system and the idea of tutorials as that environment and style of learning I find most beneficial.

The fact that Cambridge may not have been able to overlook my GCSE’s and I preferred the atmosphere at Oxford, it felt more fun and sociable.

Originally I had applied for a variation on politics or international relations at all of my other 5 choices, however Oxford doesn’t offer straight politics. As a result I had to put down combined honours and have little interest in philosophy so PPE wasn’t an option. However when they offered me single offers I took a lot of time to think about it and I realised I preferred history as a discipline. Also my ultimate aim is to join the FCO and this degree course at this institution will help me progress with that after graduation.

It looked small and friendly and was in a good location.

Preparation

no

If you are applying for history look at the online HAT tests, I hadn’t and regretted it later.

Interview

yes

I had to sit the HAT test. Its far less scary than I expected it to be and I did actually enjoy sitting it, even if there were obscure stories from 11th Century Iceland!

yes

They requested an A2 level essay. This was problematic for me as we hadn’t yet been set one at my college. As a result I submitted an AS essay. They had no problem with this (I explained at my interview) and in fact it was beneficial as much of the interview was based on the topic of my essay which was one I had enjoyed and felt comfortable talking about.

no

Terrifying! I had a streaming cold and between that and nerves was a bit of a wreck. However they tried to ease me into it and the third interview at Teddy Hall I found massively enjoyable even if I did have 15 minutes to get changed and get there due to late warning. The whole process was intimidating but fortunately I made really good friends with the three girls I was room sharing with which eased me through the process.

Most of the questions centred around my essay in the history interview although they did ask me one question related to an activity on my personal statement (membership of an archaelogical society, which they followed up with – what does archaeology have to do with history?). Politics was entirely about what I chose to talk about within what I’ve studied as there was no written work submission requirement. Although the scary french research assistant asked me what the cause of wars was and gave me three options to choose from, the only problem being I agreed with none of them so babbled rather incessantly.

Trousers and a shirt, with a cardigan. I wanted to be comfortable but still at least minimally formal. Being dressed slightly more formally helped me focus during interviews and I felt more confident. When not actually in the interviews though (which was most of the time) I reverted back to jeans and a t shirt.

Impressions

Exeter seemed lovely if a little confusing to find rooms in (its all done by staircase and some of them seemed quite hidden). The porters in particular were absolutely lovely as was the scout for our staircase who kept telling us not to worry and giving us the gossip on the tutors we were due to be interviewed by.

The room we were staying in would have been amazing for two people. It was a large lounge with its own bathroom and two tiny bedrooms. However as there were four of us in there and two of us on camp beds it was slightly more uncomfortable.

It looked horrible, as a result the four of us ate out for every meal.

The history tutors were both lovely (as were the ones at Teddy Hall) however the politics tutor I found more intimidating as he kept requiring yes and no answers and cutting me off.

They all seemed nice and laidback, they kept having a laugh with us and were always willing to give me directions and they walked me to my interview at Teddy Hall so I wouldn’t get lost which was nice.

Final stage

Obsessive. It was only a week and a half or something but it was all I could think about. Before interviews I hadn’t taken it that seriously but the interviews made me really want to be there so all I could think about was when the letter would come as they had told the date they would be posting them.

I got a phone call from my mother telling me I had a place. I was overwhelmed and shocked. I also had a lot of thinking to do as it wasn’t the original course or college I had applied for.

Looking back

Yes, without a doubt. Even if I hadn’t gotten in it was an amazing experience. The HAT test and interviews both compelled me to think and look at things in new ways and I fell in love with the university during the process.

Don’t be too intimidated. The place and people can be overwhelming at times, just try and hold onto the fact you deserve (although are not entitled) to be there and they are looking for potential not how many millions of things you’ve done. Also its always worth applying, based on my GCSE profile I shouldn’t have stood a chance but without taking the whole thing too seriously I applied and crossed my fingers – and it seems to have worked.