Application

 Oxford

 Magdalen

 History (Modern) and English

 2001

 rejected

Applicant

 Other qualifications

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – non-selective

 yes

Other qualifications

In Year 12, the final year (there’s no yr 13/upper 6th in Australia either) I took English, English Extension, Modern History, Ancient History, Study of Religion and Maths.

A A A A B+ B.

Other universities

yes

yes

I’m going to King’s College London to read English Language and Literature. I’m hoping to re-apply to Oxford for postgraduate studies – but not to Magdalen.

Decisions about the application

Again, prestige. Also, I figured that if I wanted to go to England for uni I should try for somewhere really good and academically well-respected, blah blah blah. And it gave me a cheap thrill to tell all my friends that I was applying to Oxford.

I was initially going to apply to Cambridge, but at the last minute changed my mind and decided on Oxford because I thought it was prettier (sad but true).

It looked nice in the prospectus and seemed pretty prestigious – I’m shallow and simpe like that, so the prestige and nice pictures really grabbed my attention. Also, I liked the name Magdalen (hmm).

Preparation

yes

Not really, cause as I was at a school in Australia I figured that no one there was in a position to give me adequate assistance, as no one knew anything about Oxbridge application procedures etc (a little foolish of me, methinks in retrospect).

The interview:

Interview

no

yes

I had to submit two papers for English and two for History. I sent in the work that I had received the best marks for: one history essay was about the Sex Pistols and the ways in which their music was a product of the political/economic situation in England in the late 70s, and the other was about US neo-imperialist intervention in Chile during the Allende administration. As for english, one was an essay on analysing Jane Eyre from a feminist perspective, and the other was an analysis of masculinity in The Full Monty (!) using various literary theories.

no

Oh God. I had two – one for history, one for english – and the history interview seemed to go very well. The interviewers seemed nice and friendly, and I felt pretty relaxed and confident – I fielded all their questions without much difficulty (I thought). But the english interview was a different story, and I can still barely bring myself to talk about it. The interviewers seemed vaguely poncy and distant and I had this paralysing suspicion that they thought I was stupid. Also, I screwed up my answers big time; in the hour I had to prepare beforehand I’d made all these notes on a poem involving a horse or something (I’ve since tried to block it from my memory) and they looked fine on paper, but as soon as the interviewers asked me to elaborate I realised that the poem was a lot ‘deeper’ than I had initially anticipated; and my note-taking time was up. Consequently I panicked, lost my focus and basically started talking shit. This caused me to think, oh my god I’m talking shit and they know it, and it was all downhill from there. I lost my confidence and starting pulling answers out of my arse in a vain effort to fill the awkward silence and come up with something that sounded at least halfway intelligent. They kept probing me with difficult questions and the more I struggled to answer them, the more panicky I got – I kept thinking ‘I’ve fucked this up’ and I couldn’t think on my feet properly as a result. I was totally humiliated and in a homicidal mood for the rest of the day.

In the history interview, the first half was spent talking generally about a typical week in history class at school – what did I do, etc – and also I was asked to expand a little on my Sex Pistols essay and how I had researched it etc. Then I was asked various questions about an extract I had been given 20 mins before the interview. In the english torture session, the entire time was spent asking me about the ‘deep inner meaning’ of this damn horse poem. I didn’t have one of those short, informal interviews – I was so depressed after english that I lost interest in checking the board half way through the day and went home.

I didn’t want to appear to desperate to impress – just normal smart casual type stuff. So on my first day I wore a skirt and turtle neck and on the second I wore good jeans and a nice jumper.

Impressions

I loved Magdalen, it was very picturesque and had a real air of history about it (cliched but true).

In my ‘pre interview pep talk’ they all seemed pretty nice, down-to-earth and fairly approachable; maybe a bit poncy.

Friendly and very helpful. Nice and chatty too, though I think my fear might have led me to babble inanely to the ones who walked me to my interview rooms.

Final stage

I honestly wasn’t expecting to get in so it came as no surprise, but it still made me question my abilites and alleged talent for english. I was very disappointed. I still haven’t received the ‘interview feedback’ (though I dread to read it) and my rejection letter made me feel like dog poo because of the way it was phrased – like they expected me to go out and impale myself on a fence just because I didn’t get a place. Anyway, even though as I said I hadn’t been expecting to get offered a place I was very pissy for the rest of the day. It came as a bit of a blow to my ego and having to tell people the news wasn’t too much fun either.

Looking back

Yes, but I would apply to a different college at Oxford. Part of what attracted me to Magdalen in the first place was the fact that it’s one of the big prestigious colleges, but franky at the time of application I was too short sighted (and infatuated with the pretty prospectus pictures) to realise that this also translates to mean highly competitive and thus very hard to get into unless you’re really, really good and/or super confident. I was neither. Why would I apply again? Because I really did want to get in and I think if I’d chosen a different college I might have had a better chance. That’s entirely speculative, of course, but it’s what I like to think.

Please, please consider your choice of college *very carefully*! Unless you’re brilliant and very confident, I’d stay away from the really prestigious colleges as they’re very hard to get into because of the competition. Give yourself a better chance – don’t be taken in by prestige and pretty pictures! Also, prepare as well as you can for your interviews (practice oral criticism etc), get help with applying even if you think you don’t need it, and stay focused. Good luck and try to have fun; it is a once in a lifetime experience.