Application

 Oxford

 Hertford

 Modern Languages

 2007

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Comprehensive School

 yes (7 A*,4 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)

Advanced Extension Awards

(predicted NA; gained Merit)

Details about the offer

 conditional

AAA, Asked for AAA including French, excluding General Studies. AEA pass not required.

no

Very hard decision at the time but I turned Oxford down because their course was unsuitable for me. I thought it was likely that the teaching approach and content would stop me enjoying the course. Such a course at such an institution leads to a lot of in

yes

yes

Decisions about the application

At time of applying I had no idea where I wanted to study. I wasn’t particularly harbouring a desire to study at oxford. Applying to oxford landed me with an early UCAS deadline and a potential interview in the future. This gave me something to aim for as far as improving my french was concerned and was a big motivation. I applied out of curiosity too.

I preferred the city and the location. Cambridge’s equivalent course was modern and medieval languages which didn’t appeal

…I applied for French at all my choices.

Hertford’s size appealed to me. Location wasn’t too important as long as it was in the city. Hertford advertised itself as a friendly college and it wasn’t as perceptibly snooty as colleges like Merton/Christ Church. They would have accommodated me for the duration of my course – vital considering they don’t let you have a part time job while you study.

Preparation

yes

The answer for whether I was given extra help is yes and no. I didn’t buy ‘get into oxbridge’ courses or get mock interviews at school. My preparations centred around my own work for the AEA (reading as much as possible and writing practise). Subject teachers helped with this. Apart from anything else, I had to submit two pieces of writing and I wanted to submit something french and analytical… about a french text.

You have to already be in the mindset of wanting to improve your French on your own. Read a variety of texts – french newspaper websites can be dry so also find a french blog or something that interests you. Read short stories and plays. Try poetry. Think about what you read and write about it in french. Ask a teacher to set you open-ended essay questions. Make notes on new grammatical structures and informal language you pick up. Watch videos on french tv channel websites. Do all this safe in the knowledge that you are doing yourself a favour whether you get an interview or not!

Interview

no

No

yes

two pieces written work

yes

grammar test at interview

You will most likely get two interviews of 25ish minutes. This is more than you might get in a job interview so see it as a good opportunity to sell yourself.

My interviewers were friendly enough but above all were clearly passionate about the subject matter. I was given half an hour with a short text before one interview and another short text minutes before my other interview.

I was asked to comment on aspects of the texts. Beware of opening your mouth before thinking something through – they have the nasty habit of asking you to explain what you mean / why you think that in mid-flow. 5 minutes of french conversation which was general in nature until I was asked to explain something about two composers I had unwittingly brought up and for which I did not have the vocabulary! Don’t be afraid to ask them how to say things. I’m quite sure I hadn’t ever spoken worse french than in that interview.

Shirt and tie. Whatever they say about smart casual, at least look like you want the place.

Impressions

Rooms vary hugely. some old buildings, some modern. All rooms that I saw were relatively spacious but you could clearly see that Hertford spends little of its budget on making first years comfortable!

Food nothing to write home about – not stunningly good, not inedible. What did you expect?

Only spoke to the four who interviewd me. Approachable, considering you are there as a candidate to be scrutinised, and desperately keen on their area of expertise. They are human beings. They were younger than I expected.

The few that were handpicked to help candidates were fit for purpose – helpful and encouraging.

Other candidates – just as nervous as you, mixture of people but you are likely to get on with enough people at least for 3 days, whoever you are. Some real oddballs but it wouldn’t be Oxford without them!

Final stage

Glad to get the process over with, had no idea what they thought of me so put it out of my mind.

I didn’t expect to get an interview, let alone an offer, so I was extremely shocked to read the decision letter and hear I had a place. Felt a complete fraud and couldn’t understand why they had picked me! I felt a deep sinking feeling as I realised I’d have to decide what to do with the offer!

Looking back

Yes – improved my french considerably, now in position of knowing that oxford isn’t for me rather than wondering.

Don’t be afraid to road test THEM to see if they suit you. Don’t expect oxbridge degrees to open thousands of doors – consider how relevant to the workplace your chosen degree may be. Do you have a specific career in mind? Would Oxford be means to an end? Don’t be blinded by people who (teachers are dangerous ones for doing this) talk of how wonderful it would be if you went if the people in question have not been to Oxbridge… Don’t be too freaked out if your company while at interview is weird because you don’t know which ones will be selected. Careful what you say in your personal statement because if you talk a load of claptrap aimed at Oxford then are you giving an accurate picture of yourself for the other unis?