Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 Law

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (8 A*)

A-levels

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

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

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

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

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Distinction)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

For my subject, I had the impression that Oxford had a better reputation and record of results. In addition, after visiting Oxford I found I liked the atmosphere of the city and university.

Looking at the information available for the various colleges, and decided what I was looking for (old or new college? large or small? etc). After that, I felt Balliol suited me best. I had heard that applying to a specific college doesn’t negatively affect your chances and so I thought it best to make a choice, rather than submit an open application and leave it to fate.

Preparation

yes

I was given a place on a subject specific open day, and later on, two mock interviews.

Look up all deadlines and course requirements well in advance, and comply with them as soon as possible.

If possible, arrange a mock interview with someone you don’t know well personally, perhaps a head of Sixth Form. This will prepare you for the format of the interview and should make it easier to deal with the real thing. Unless your mock interviewer has specific knowledge of the Oxbridge admissions system, the actual questions will probably be nothing like the real thing, but it should get you into the right mindset.

Before the interview: Set generous margins for error in all travel arrangements to avoid panic. If you have a long journey it may be best to travel the day before and stay overnight.

Don’t worry too much about doing reading in preparation. From my experience, the interviewers don’t expect any specific subject knowledge (although this may only apply to subjects like Law that are not commonly done at A-Level) and you won’t get much of a chance to use it. Try to relax so you can think clearly.

Have answers ready for ‘stock’ questions like “Why do you want to study ____?” These are normally asked at the start to put you at your ease, and won’t make or break you, but giving a good answer will help calm you down and do better.

For the interview itself: Don’t rush. Always allow yourself a little time to think about what you’re going to say.

On the other hand, don’t be so afraid of being ‘wrong’ that you don’t say anything! You’re allowed to change your mind.

Interview

yes

LNAT (National Admissions Test for Law)

yes

yes

I had two interviews. Although I felt vaguely that the second went better than the first, it was extremely difficult to tell how well they went. However, the interviewers were very good at making the experience as painless as possible.

For law, try to avoid giving brief, cursory answers. That doesn’t mean you have to talk constantly, but try to explain yourself clearly to give yourself the best chance of showing your thinking abilities.

One interview concentrated on a text, with the questions revolving around a particular aspect.

The other was a series of hypothetical situations. Decisions had to be made based on the details of the scenario given, and legal definitions (on pieces of card).

I wore smart-casual clothes, as they were comfortable but also gave me confidence.

I would say that as long as they’re comfortable, and you’re happy with the impression they give, it’s not a big issue. No one seemed bothered about it.

Impressions

It was a lot more friendly and less intimidating than I had expected. It wasn’t cliquey or formal and the atmosphere was pleasant without being condescending.

From talking to people, it seems that it varied quite a lot. The room I stayed in was slightly larger than an average hotel room, and wasn’t en suite but had a wash basin. The bathroom was shared with out five other rooms, and there was also a shared pantry. Some of the other rooms are apparently quite a bit better, and worse.

There was a modern canteen next to the main hall, which had a number of choices for every meal, including a vegetarian option. The food there was very good.

In the Junior Common Room there was another ‘pantry’ which was open for most of the day.

I only spoke to a few, an only then in interview, so I’m probably not the fairest judge. But they were friendly and very good at making the interview not too nerve-wracking.

Final stage

Happily, this was only a brief time (little more than a week between my last interview and getting the letter). I tried to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, as it wasn’t possible to tell how I had done and speculation was just worrying.

I’d prepared myself for being rejected, and tried not to be too optimistic when the envelope seemed too bulky to be a rejection. After I read it I was very pleased (surprise), but now nervous about the Summer exams!

Looking back

I think so. Even if I was rejected, it would still have been worth a shot.

Try to enjoy the interview period as much as you can. Even if you don’t get accepted it’s still a great chance to see Oxford (or Cambridge) and meet plenty of people.