Application

 Oxford

 Jesus

 History (Modern)

 2006

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 N/A

 Independent – selective

 yes (13 A*)

A-levels

(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 A at A2)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, Must include history

yes

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Somehow at school it was always assumed I would, and then when it came to applying, I went and looked and realised what a wonderful place Oxford would be to study.

To be perfectly honest, because I have family links to Oxford and it never really occurred to me to go to Cambridge instead. Also I think I prefer the Oxford system to the Cambridge tripos one.

Because I love the subject.

I wanted to break from ties and go for an entirely different college to my parents. On open day I wandered into Jesus and everyone was realy friendly and the atmosphere was nice. As good a reason as any to pick it, I thought. And it’s central, which appealed also.

Preparation

yes

We had lessons for half an hour once a week from September to December. They weren’t particularly detailed and certainly not subject specific (there were only 6 of us applying to Oxbridge, and for 4 different subjects) but they were useful at times.

Reading is vital and dont underestimate how important it is. But don’t get hung up on reading every little thing that has ever been written about your subject. I started going that way and it panicked me. In the end barely anything I read was relevant. (That doesn’t mean you can afford not to read though!)

Interview

yes

I had to take the HAT (history aptitude test) on November 1st. I actually quite liked the paper but I still felt very worried waiting to find out if I had an interview. I would definitely suggest that looking at past papers in some detail would be useful.

yes

I had to send one marked essay of A-level standard. I sent one on Bismarck’s foreign policy. Whatever you do, make sure you know your essay well. I was hardly asked about anything else in both of my interviews.

no

Far, far more relaxed and friendly than I expected. The time flew by, as 20 minutes really isn’t very much. I had two interviews, each with two women.

Before the second interview I had 20 minutes to prepare a historical passage. I had to pick one of three. I spent almost 10 minutes deciding which to choose. That was not clever. I also analysed the language a little too much I think (the danger of being an English student). Don’t forget it’s a historical passage, so history and context is the most important thing!

In the first one I was first asked what my AS and A level syllabuses consisted of. I was then questioned on my essay, and it felt more like a history lesson than an interview, only I felt like I was teaching her, in an argumentative kind of way! Then right at the end the other woman asked me something about my AS-level coursework. My folder went to the examiners last January so it had been nearly a year since I had looked at it. The answer didn’t go too well.

In the second interview we started off with discussion of the passage I had chosen. At a couple of moments I felt like an idiot because I think my passage of thought was just coming out of my mouth! But the interviewers were friendly. They didn’t push me to answer too quickly, but didn’t leave me sitting in silence either. Then it was briefly back to Bismarck.

Black jumper with a white shirt underneath, smart trousers and high heeled ankle boots. I wanted to look formal and smart, but I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable in a suit.

Impressions

It was lovely. People were very friendly and the JCR was a nice place to be when there weren’t interviews or preparation to be done. Free tea, coffee and juice, a pool table and Sky TV!

My room was a very decent size and comfortable, with a sink, desk, bed, cupboards, chair etc. There were about 12 rooms on the floor sharing a toilet/shower block, plus one separate shower room.

Very good, wide variety and they would happily give you whatever you like – pasta and chips, anybody?

Those that were in my interviews were incredibly friendly and made me feel quite at ease (as much as is possible in an Oxford interview!)

I didn’t meet that many but those that checked me in were very friendly, encouraging and welcoming. They were also effusive about Jesus College, which was a good sign.

Final stage

I knew I would only be waiting for 2 weeks maximum. The week after the interview was my last week of the autumn term and school and there was so much going on that I honestly didn’t think about it too much. My interview was on a Thursday. The following Friday (a week & a day later) a good friend of mine got an offer from another college. I had been expecting to hear the next week, but all of a sudden I had this feeling that it would come on Saturday. It did. (Only 8 days since I had left Oxford!)

It was a big envelope and I could feel multiple sheets and a small boooklet inside. I have to confess this got my hopes up. I was still shocked, and over-the-moon, however, when I read the words, ‘I am delighted to tell you…’.

Looking back

Yes, definitely. But I would possibly attempt to manage my stress levels a little better. Even though Oxford genuinely wasn’t my be-all and end-all, the work that went into the test, essay, and then the interviews still got me slightly worked up.

Do read, prepare, and so on. It’s no good thinking you can just turn up at the interview without any prior work. However, do put everything into perspective. It is a fantastic experience, even if you don’t get in.