Application

 Oxford

 Hertford

 History (Modern)

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (10 A*,1 A)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(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)

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in History

AAA, Including history and excluding general studies (which I don’t take anyway).

yes

I am planning two once I hear from all my other choices.

yes

yes

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Because I love the city, the prestige of the institution, I liked the college system. I like the tutorial system and that there is more contact time than at most universities.

I was originally considering applying for history and english and Cambridge don’t offer joint schools. I later decided just to apply for history but since I had been to Oxford open days &c. I had already decided I wanted to go there.

I have always wanted to do history. I decided to apply for straight history rather than history and english because of the range and variety of the history course, I didn’t want to be limited in what modules I could take.

I found it quite difficult to choose a college, so the reasons are quite superficial. I wanted to go to an old college, Hertford is in a brilliant location next to the Bodlian Library and the History Faculty, I also love the bridge.

Preparation

yes

I had a mock interview with members of the local Rotary Club which was given to every to every one in my year. It was based on the information in in my UCAS form, especially my personal statement, however it wasn’t particularly academic and not at all like my actual interview.
I teacher in my school who studied maths at Oxford gave me a mock interview on an essay I’d written, it was helpful as he knew the style of questions that would be asked however he wasn’t a historian.
My history teacher went over some past HAT papers and discussed them with me.

You can’t really do too much to prepare as you never know what they might ask you. The main thing is to be prepared to discuss anything that’s in your personal statement or the written work submitted. I was asked to talk about the books I’d mentioned in my PS so never mention anything you haven’t read or don’t really have an opinion on. Mock interviews are helpful in giving more confidence to approach interviews however they are unlikely to be like a real Oxbridge interview. After the interview I had with the Rotary Club they advised my to include more extra-curricular activities I could talk about. Oxford are not really interested in this sort of thing, the interviews are really a discussion about the subject with some academics. If you want a mock interview the best person to give it too you would probably be your subject teacher.
There is plenty of information about the application process on the Oxford website and from other sources. It is a good idea to have researched the process thoroughly so you have an idea of what they are looking for.

Interview

yes

I had to sit the History Aptitude Test in my school in early November. Looking through past papers (available online) really helped my as I knew what style of questions to expect. Again, there is not much you can do to prepare because it is not a knowledge based test, but I certainly helps to be familiar with the style of questions and do a few practice papers.

yes

I had to submit and essay on any historical topic. Mine was on how the Spanish Civil War affected the relationship of Germany and Italy. I was a homework essay set by my teacher and the length was about two an a half typed pages. One of my interviews was based around this so if you have to submit any work be sure it is something you feel confident to discuss.

no

I had two interviews at Hertford. The first was about half an hour spend discussing my essay with two tutors. The second was about twenty minutes and was based on my personal statement/ a general discussion about history, again with two tutors.
The tutors were all really friendly and I felt totally comfortable, though very nervous. I felt they went quite well in general. I didn’t go away feeling I had done badly, but I wasn’t really sure if I had been good, or just mediocre.

I can’t remember a great deal about the interview on the essay, but I remember it deviated quite a lot from the actual content of my essay, which was just used as a starting point really. I found some of the questions quite difficult and had to pause to think about them. One of the main things discussed was the importance of ideology, and whether was a significant factor at the time of the Spanish Civil War or something that is given more emphasis in hindsight. I was also asked to what extent the League of Nations was the foundation of the UN.
In my personal statement I had written briefly about my interest in vintage clothes and the history of fashion. Unexpectedly this was something they seemed very interested about in both my interviews. In the interview on the essay I was asked how fashion in the 1930s might reflect the political/economic situation. I also talked about how fascist regimes might use clothing as a form of propaganda and was asked whether I though such regimes used clothing to oppress women.

Fashion was also the first thing I was asked about in my second interview. I talked about women’s clothing in the 50s/60s and its connection with feminism. I was then asked about men’s clothing and ended up talked about teddy boys and mods and the relationship of fashion with youth culture and class. I was really pleased when they asked me about fashion history in my interviews as it is something I’m extremely interested in and know a lot about, so I really enjoyed talking about it.
I was then asked about the books I had mentioned in my personal statement, one on the middle ages and Ian Kershaw’s biography of Hitler. I compare Kershaw’s view with that of Alan Bullock and I was asked whether I thought that historians in the present day face a continual sort of self-doubt, or skepticism about history.

I just was my normal clothes because I don’t believe they care too much about what you’re wearing. All my normal clothes are fairly smart any way as I always wear vintage dresses and things.

Impressions

I had a really great time there. Everyone was really friendly and the college was beautiful.

Because there were a large number of history interviewees, we weren’t in the college itself but some accommodation about ten minutes walk away. The location was a bit annoying as I’d been looking forward to being right in the centre of Oxford.
The room was a decent size and there was a sink in the room with drinking water and a toilet and shower shared with one other room (there was no one in the other room while I was there so I had it to myself). I was freezing on the first night because I couldn’t figure out how to work the radiator but once I did it was fine. Overall I was perfectly comfortable and have no complaints.

Again, no complaints.

Really friendly, I enjoyed talking to them.

I didn’t see that much of them but they all seemed nice and normal, but quite stressed because they were trying to organize getting everyone to their interviews on time.

Final stage

I got my letter just over a week after my interview. Over the first couple of days I couldn’t stop thinking about it and kept going over the interviews and thinking of things I wished I had said or could have said differently. Then I calmed down a bit and didn’t think of it too much until a couple of days before I was expecting the letter, I rushed in to check the post each day and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was trying to prepare myself for rejection to minimize the disappointment if that was the outcome.

I was at home alone on a Saturday morning when I heard the post come through the door. I had been expecting to hear so I rushed through to check. When I saw the letter from Hertford was so scared. The envelope was very thin so I thought it must be a rejection, when I opened it and read that I had an offer I threw the letter across the room in excitement. I had to re-read the letter before phoning my mum and grandparents to let them know.

Looking back

Definitely

If you feel that you’d be happy at Oxford you have nothing to lose by applying. I had a great time at interview so it was worth it for that alone. I didn’t see any evidence of any of the stereotypes or rumours about Oxford when I was there.
The main piece of advice I have is make sure that the subject you are applying for is one that you love and are truly enthusiastic about because this will show in your interview.