Application

 Oxford

 Christ Church

 Music

 2008

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – selective

 yes (10 A*,1 A,1 C)

A-levels

(A at AS (245 UMS))

(A at AS (270 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (288 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

(A at AS (294 UMS); predicted A; gained A at A2)

Music Grade 8 piano & clarinet – distinctions

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in German, A in Mathematics, A in Music

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

I applied because I know it is one of, if not the, best university for my subject, and I know that if I come out of Oxford with a good degree it will stand me in a good position for the career I wish to pursue afterwards.

It was based on my subject course and the people I met who worked with my subject.

Because music is what I want to do with my life – it is the subject that comes naturally to me and that I enjoy the most. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

I chose Christ Church because it is big and has more students than other colleges doing music. I based my decision also on the tutors doing my course in the college.

Preparation

yes

All I did was a bit of outside-the-curriculum research/reading. A teacher practised informal interviews with me and prepared me for a few questions that might come up, but never actually did in interview.

Make sure you know what books you’ve said you’ve read in your personal statement, and make sure that even if you haven’t read them when it comes to interview, that you at least know the important points from the book and can talk about them and link them to something you know about.
Don’t stress in terms of trying to cram everything possible in – for music, it is impossible to know the entire history of music, even after a 3 year music degree, so it’s more about finding your interests and being able to talk about them enthusiastically and relatively knowledgably to strangers.

Interview

no

yes

I had to submit 2 essays, one on music and the other on music or another A level subject, and an example of harmony/counterpoint. I also submitted my AS composition, but a composition portfolio is optional.

no

It is impossible to know how well the interviews went. Overall, I felt I’d done the best I could, and that’s what you should aim to do. At times, I felt like I was struggling, but I knew the tutors were trying to push me as far as I could, and so I just tried my hardest to think of everything intelligent I had to say!

Unluckily for Oxford music applicants, usually your second choice college interviews you as well, as well as the third and possibly fourth, so I had 5 interviews as well as an audition. One interview will most likely be entirely based on a written extract. I felt this went rather badly to say the least… I tried my hardest to answer the questions as best I could, but there was only so much I could say before I ran out of ideas. My second interview at my chosen college went well in my opinion – I had to talk about one of the essays I had submitted, and some ideas thrown at me by one of the tutors, and then I had to analyse a score with the other tutor, and try and place its context. I was called back for a third interview with Christ Church, which was unnerving, but I think they had run out of time before to ask me everything they wanted to ask, so I was asked about a book in my personal statement, and I then had to link it to musical works. The interviews at other colleges differed – I had one at LMH, which was fairly brief, and I was asked a couple of questions about one of my essays and a couple of questions about myself and that was it, whereas another interview with Jesus/Lincoln lasted over an hour, because I had to talk about a written extract and a 7 page score, as well as the usual questions on my personal statement, my essays and some ideas that had stemmed from the topics we’d been talking about.

Questions on essays/personal statement/books very much depends on what you’ve written/read. Apart from that, I didn’t get any of the ‘weird’ questions you hear about, but some I was asked were about how different aspects of music could be improvised, i.e. even when you have a score, can music be improvised; a gender debate in Beethoven’s 1st piano sonata (I had played the first mvt for the practical audition) – I was asked if I agreed with the statement that the first subject was masculine and the second was feminine; why German is a useful subject to study when doing music; how the sonata developed through the classical era etc etc etc… All my questions really came from what I had written about previously in my personal statement and essays and from the books I said I’d read, so really it’s important to focus on what you want to talk about. It’s very easy to steer the conversation to something you know about.
Overall I’d say whatever you’re talking about, try and sound enthusiastic, and try to enjoy it as much as possible. The interviews are just as much to see if the tutors think they could teach you as to how much you know.

I wore suits mainly because I wear suits to school everyday and that’s what I feel comfortable in. I felt it was a fairly formal occasion and wanted to wear something to reflect that, but it really doesn’t matter as long as you feel comfortable – I had a friend who went to his interview in shorts and flip flops!

Impressions

It was amazing – it is so easy to fall in love with the place in interview week, especially at Oxford as Cambridge only require you for a day. I met some amazing people there who I still keep in contact with, and now I will know a few faces next year (as long as I get the grades to go there!). Christ Church especially is such a beautiful college so as hard as it seems, try not to get too taken with the place as I know quite a few people who were so disappointed when they unfortunately didn’t get in.

Well Christ Church is definitely the rich college – the room was spacious, I had an en suite toilet/sink/shower, a desk, a bedside table, a wardrobe and a fridge.

Delicious! Interviewees get breakfast, lunch and dinner all free. It’s so easy to get used to being served on at dinner, especially in the Harry Potter great hall! Tea, coffee and biscuits etc was also provided in the JCR for inbetween interviews.

The two tutors for Music are so friendly. Out of all of my interviews they made me feel at ease the most. It was easy to talk to them and I enjoyed engaging in debate on topics I found interesting.

Very friendly and very helpful – they’re there to make sure you have a good time and to make you feel at home throughout your stay. At Christ Church we even had entertainment (Singstar and pub quiz!), kindly put on by the undergrads. The ‘welcome panel’, as they were called, made sure you were made aware of any interviews put on the notice board, and were in the JCR (junior common room) at all times to make sure you had someone to talk to whenever you felt like it. It was very helpful to have the undergrads around, as there was at least one person representing each subject, and it was useful to talk to the subject representative, as they can put you at ease about your interviews, and let you know what the tutors are like etc.

Final stage

It was all I could think about. I was so anxious about it, which is silly, as there was nothing more I could do, but it’s natural to think about it. I persuaded myself to think I would be receiving a rejection letter, but even then I still thought there could be a slight chance… It’s impossible in that waiting period to tell you not to think about it, but it does help to try and take your mind off it as the anticipation only makes opening the letter more nerve-wracking.

The letter was meant to have arrived on the Saturday, and many of my friends from interview had received theirs and had unfortunately been unlucky, so when mine hadn’t arrived I assumed it would be coming on Monday and it would be bad news. My kind mother woke me up on the Monday morning with the letter and I told her to take it away as after all that wait I didn’t want to open it. She sat there with me and said, it’s a no, and I just kept telling myself I haven’t got in. (By the way – don’t judge the decision on the bulkiness of the envelope – everyone gets one letter on a single sheet, either way). After preparing myself for a no, I opened it, read the first line and couldn’t quite believe it. All I could read (I was shaking too much by this point) was ‘I am pleased to inform you on behalf of Christ Church…’ and the ‘AAA at A level conditional offer’. I made my mum read it to double check while I ran off to ring just about everyone I knew. I know I’ve made this out to be practically the most important event in my entire lifetime, but to me it was. The important thing is not to let it affect you. If you haven’t got in, you can go somewhere else and do just as well, or you can reapply the year after, it’s not a big deal. If you have got in, then it’s a pleasant surprise and you can celebrate that, and that’s when you can make it out to be a big deal, because you’ve worked hard to achieve something.

Looking back

Definitely. Even if I hadn’t got in, the interview week was a fantastic time. I met some lovely people, I got to stay for free in one of the most beautiful places in England, and I had the chance to talk about the subject I’m most passionate about with people who really knew what they were talking about.

-If you want to apply, apply, and if you don’t then don’t. Don’t let it be anyone else’s choice – you’ve got to really want to go there.
-Make sure you choose the right university and the right college, and as silly as it sounds, the right subject. Again, don’t let anyone else make these decisions for you.
-If you don’t get an interview, don’t worry about it. It’s not because you’re not good enough, it’s just they were particularly oversubscribed in your subject that year, so make positives out of going somewhere else, or if you really want Oxbridge, take a gap year and reapply.
-If you’re lucky and get an interview, really listen to everybody when they say enjoy the process. Prepare as much as you feel necessary before going, and take your personal statement and your essays and a couple of books with you. Don’t spend interview week stressing on how much you don’t know; the more you try to cram then, the less it will work, and the more stressed you will get about it, and you will begin to underperform. Have fun while you’re there as well – take the opportunities to socialise and go to the pub, or go for wanders round Oxford, you never know what friends you might make and what fun you might have!
-As hard as it sounds, don’t stress about anything. Be friendly with the interviewers, and remember they only want to get the best out of you. Be prompt for your interviews, but not too early as you will only get yourself worked up. Be nice to other applicants too – you’d be surprised how far a ‘good luck’ goes to the person who has their interview after you.
-About the letter deciding your fate for the next three years, don’t get too worked up about it, what will be will be as they say.