Mansfield (open application, allocated college)

 Human Sciences







 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (6 A,4 B)


(A at AS)

(A at AS)

(A at AS)

Other universities


I am giving serious consideration to applying again next year – however stupid and arrogant a decision that may be. Alternatively, I will write to the universities that really appeal to me – Warwick, Durham etc – and just settle for a course that I am less than enthusiastic about.

Decisions about the application

Believe it or not, I wouldn’t actually have chosen to apply to Oxbridge had Oxford not been the only university to run a truly interdisciplinary Human Sciences course.

Having said that, once you visit Oxford, its easy to be swept away so fast that you forget that there is more to life beyond Oxford.

Cambridge doesn’t run an equivalent to the Human Sciences course, so that decison was pretty much made for me.

Initially, I confess, because of the low applicant to place ratio and high number of state-educated students. Although after visiting Mansfield on the open days, a whole host of other reasons became clear. Its a small, tight-knit, friendly college quite close to the town centre yet just far enough away to discourage inquisitive tourists! The architecture is beautiful yet not intimidating like some of the older colleges.. et cetera



Nothing at all

As I didn’t get an offer, I don’t know if my advice is worth much, but it would be a crime to waste valuable space when the personal statement box on the UCAS form is so tiny



There were no written exams but anyone serious about applying ought to do some wider reading in order to survive those verbal exams that Oxford calls ‘interviews’.


submitted two essays on the Sociology of Religion which I was less than satisfied with. As they were barely relevant to the course, I didn’t expect them to be used much in the interview. That just showed how wrong my expectations could actually be.


Both interviews were academic – with very little time wasted on niceties. Although they tried to give the impression that the interviews were informal – candidates were placed on a comfortable couch – I doubt anyone was fooled.

The first interview (at Mansfield) was a little more general, based largely around my submitted writting work. We briefly touched on lots of different subjects from the validity of classifying organisms to the definition of ‘science’ to the conflict between Darwinism and religion. Towards the end, I was asked to interpret a graph taken from the Bell Curve. I struggled a bit here since one of the lines did exactly the opposite to what I would have expected. The second interview (at St John’s) was more specific. Initially they focused on statistics, but soon moved on to human evolution. At one point the questions became so specific that I had to have some prior knowledge in order to proceed (“What happened to the Neanderthals?” was one such question). Considering the level of difficulty here, I was quite pleased with my performance. Presumably the interviewers were less impressed.

I figured that it couldn’t hurt to wear a suit.


The Alternative Prospectus likens Mansfield to Kylie Minogue – “small, yet perfectly formed”. ‘Small, yet perfect’ is exactly how I would choose to describe the college as well.

Its not quite the same as having the run of a whole house, but the accomodation is adequate. My room during the interview period was en suite, but maybe I was just lucky.


Mansfield has – or so I hear – something of a reputation for culinary excellence. I had no complaints.

The only tutors I came across were my interviewers. All seemed genuinely concerned that I be given the opportunity to perform to the best of my ability. Strangely enough, I was beginning to grow fond of the interviewers which makes their rejection that little bit harder to accept.

Of all the universities I have visited this year, it is the undergraduates that set Oxford above the others. Without exception they were welcoming, enthusiastic and forthcoming. Its that ‘little extra something’ that means the difference between a reject and a successful applicant, I suppose.

Final stage

Extremely disappointed, empty, numbed.

Everything I had prepared solidly for over the last year came to and end in just a few benign-sounding words. “It has not been possible to offer you a place at Mansfield College”.

Looking back

Although the interview process was good fun (even though I ended up on the reject heap, it was worth applying just for the free meals..), it didn’t really compensate for the feeling of dejection when I opened that rejection letter.

If I were to re-live that year of my life, I would probably apply to Oxford but prepare myself for a rejection.

Don’t make Oxford the sole purpose of your UCAS application.

Let me be blunt for your own sakes. However good you think you are, statistically you will probably be rejected. Be prepared for that, keep your options wide open and expect nothing to come of your application.

If you expect nothing, you won’t be disappointed, and if they make you an offer, you’ll be over the moon.