Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

 1999

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Independent – selective

 yes (9 A*,3 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)

Other universities

yes

N/A

Reapplying to Cambridge. Interview in a few weeks.

Decisions about the application

Great universities. Sets you up for the rest of your life.

I had pretty much set my heart on Oxford from quite early on. I preferred the course at Oxford to the one at Cambridge, had friends applying with me, and liked the town atmosphere and environment much more in comparison to Cambridge.

I was very silly. It was the best college for PPE, and rather than playing the game strategically I just went for the best. All or nothing really.

Preparation

yes

Yes. Had lots of interviews etc.

Did about 3000 drafts of my UCAS form. Still ended up being nauseatingly bad.

Interview

no

yes

2 Essays. Both awful.

yes

Had a written test. In which I performed “averagely”.

Left school late on a Sunday. It was nearing end of term, and quite a lot of my friends were applying too. I got the train up to Oxford, and was feeling fairly confident at this point. Found the college etc, and eventually managed to get settled in.
I only had one interview. It was a fairly ordinary affair. The questions weren’t aggressive, and the atmosphere wasn’t too tense. Sure, it was an oxbridge interview, but it didn’t feel like it. It was just these two people examining me and trying to get inside my head.
It didn’t last too long, and seemed to pass very rapidly.

First off, the mandatory, “Why do you want to study PPE?” ice-breaker. It’s a tag team combination. One of them sits right in front of me, while the others sits beyond the edge of my field of vision, and glares at me. The economics guy steps up. What is market failure? (He asked everyone this.) He then probed me about my essay. Then the philosophy person. How much philosophy have you done? Which sections interest you? What’s the connections between the sections that interest you? What is consciousness? What is free will? Is free will an illusion? Do you have any final questions?

A suit. Shouldn’t have. It was a strategy for minimising the possiblity of looking weird. In the end, it was fairly pointless.

Impressions

Seemed cool.

Like a hotel. You had special little Balliol towels in your room, your own sink, a view over the center of town, and hotellish food.

Only difference was, that there was a JCR. Some people insisted on being incredibly hip and went “to get hammered” at the JCR. I couldn’t 100% see why. It was quite fun. We all sat round talking for most of the day, as the entire process was stretching over a gruelling three day period.

Good

KFC over the road. Always comes in handy.

Weird.

They were very enthusiastic, and quite welcoming.

Final stage

Hmmm. I was waiting for about three days for the letter to arrive. It was near Christmas, and there were postal strikes and other such things which delayed the post, so every day I’d wait and find nothing at the door.
Eventually I gave up, only to get woken up one morning by my dad before he left. He brough the letter up and placed it on my bed. I really didn’t want to open it. I felt quite confident – there hadn’t been anything that I really felt that I done badly one.
Anyway, he pleaded with me to open it and eventually I did.
Ouch.
— Screen fades out. It’s a few months later, and the candidate is now in school, discussing the process with his teacher guru —
So, anyway, I got to check out the letter that they sent to my school. Two things stood out.

First, the fact that too many people applied to Balliol for PPE. It was 6:1 or something like that. I should have chosen an easier college. Fact.
Second, I was fairly average there.

Looking back

Yes, but to a different college.

Spend more time on the essays that you do on preparing for your interview. These matter more than the interview.

Don’t apply to Balliol for PPE, or any competitive college unless you are a)sure of your abilities b)aware of the consequences of the competition c)prepared to get rejected. This advice is even more pertinent, seeing as there has been a 20% rise in applications over the past year.

Don’t spend too much time preparing for the interview. They are meant to see around this.