Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 History (Modern) and English

 2006

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (2 A*,5 A,5 B)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(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 B; gained A at A2)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted Merit; gained Distinction)

(predicted Merit; gained Distinction)

Other universities

no

Decisions about the application

i’d always thought i would. it’s one of the best universities in the world and i perceived it as more rigorous than the same course at other universities.

i never even considered cambridge; i was never tempted to. i’d visited oxford and liked it, and it was the closer to home of the two.

i wanted to apply for law but was unsure that i’d enjoy it, so i decided to apply for subjects i’d already studied. i picked english and then at the very last minute chose to apply for history and english as i didn’t like the idea of no longer studying history.

i wanted to apply to another college but it didn’t offer history and english, so i picked balliol because it was the nearest college to my original college of choice.

Preparation

yes

a mock interview with a historian and a mock interview with someone about english.

for preparing for interview — read and re-read anything you mention in your personal statement. re-read the essays you’ve submitted; my history interview revolved entirely around my essay, which i hadn’t expected as my mock interviews had focused on the personal statement. also make sure you photocopy any essays you intend to submit. i submitted a handwritten essay and didn’t photocopy it — so if that’d been discussed at interview it would’ve been a problem.

Interview

yes

i had to sit the HAT.

yes

submitted two english essays and i believe one history essay; the english essays were my as coursework (perhaps a mistake, as it was 6000 words…) and an essay i’d rushed in time to meet the deadline on william blake as part of my a2 work. my history essay was a piece of a2 work again rushed to meet the submissions deadline; i wrote about the relationship between fascist italy and nazi germany during the 1930s.

no

i had one english interview and one history interview; i found the english interview the most enjoyable and felt more at ease.

an hour before my english interview i was given two unseen passages to read through; in the interview i was asked to choose and analyse one. aside from that exercise, i was then asked about some of the texts i’d chosen to write about in my personal statement. my submitted essays weren’t discussed aside from one of the interviewers saying they’d ‘very much enjoyed’ one of them.

my history interview focused on my essay; they said they hadn’t thought it was very clear and asked about several different aspects of the topic.

english — what interested me about some of the texts i’d named in my personal statement.
history — asked about my essay, asked what (if any) historians i’d read, how i thought certain groups of people had been affected by mussolini’s policies (as this was the only a2 unit i’d studied so far).

i wore a black jumper, grey trousers, and silver flat shoes. i wanted to dress smartly (i’d been advised not to wear jeans by my school) but didn’t want to be overdressed or be uncomfortable in what i was wearing. i didn’t see anyone interviewing for similar subjects with a suit; most people were either dressed smartly or casually in jeans etc.

Impressions

i’d visited trinity and balliol. both were beautiful, but on visiting balliol i knew i’d applied to the right college for me. it felt very welcoming, not too big or too grand, but not too small either.

i stayed in staircase four, i think, and my accommodation was a smallish bedroom with a large adjacent study/living room.

on the whole, quite good.

they were all very friendly, welcoming, and helpful.

Final stage

i got quite anxious and had to indulge in retail therapy, haha! honestly, the week or so between returning home and getting my letter was pretty hellish; i jumped every time the phone went, eagerly checked the post, and on the day i got my letter ended up retrieving it from the sorting office rather than wait for the postman so i’d know before school.

i found out via letter; i was disappointed but the rejection wasn’t unexpected. the worst bit was telling my friends i hadn’t got in as they were all so lovely to me about it, and had expected me to be successful.

Looking back

definitely — i made new friends through the interviews, enjoyed the challenge of analysing unseen texts and discussing them with academics, and had a nice break from school. as well as that, the experience was particularly key to me as it gave me the confidence to reapply for another subject — i realised during my interviews that whilst i enjoyed history and english, i didn’t particularly want to study either at university.

try not to worry about it too much; just enjoy the interview process for what it is — a chance to discuss your subject with others who share your interest in it. the experience can be a lot of fun rather than horribly stressful; you get to have a few days off school and make some new friends whilst being in a beautiful city.