Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

 2001

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 overseas

 USA

 Comprehensive School

Non-selective state 11-18 school

 yes

A-levels

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

For many arts subjects, Oxbridge is still superior to anything America can offer. The tutorial system in particular is unrivaled. Partly this is due to the fact that the premier-league American universities focus most of their energies and resources on the graduates, whereas in England the opposite is true. I might think twice if I were applying for a science subject, though.

PPE I thought was a better course, even though I’d lived in Cambridge and it was a beautiful city. Oxford struck me as much more “arts” oriented, anyway.

Has the reputation for being the best at PPE and among the top few academically – also has excellent facilities (although the state of the website last year nearly scared me off! Thankfully they’ve changed it…a bit.)

Preparation

no

My school could barely figure out how to fill in its part of the UCAS form – they’d never seen one before.

For the essay, mention some of the books you’ve read recently on your subject and discuss them a little. Really show them why you want to do the course.

Interview

no

yes

I submitted an absurdly long research paper I’d written on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which apparently they loved. I also sent in a shorter piece, which they didn’t mind.

yes

I took a written examination separately, which I think I did well on by sheer force of luck. Do check out some of their sample tests online; otherwise, you might be surprised by the types of questions they ask. The most important thing is not to lose your head. On first glance, the questions seem absurd and practically unanswerable. Just calm down and dissect the problem.

Had the interview in the OUP offices in New York. They gave me 20 minutes to read a passage on election systems, and then called me into a room. The interviewer was an older woman, who started off with some small talk, and then moved to the passage. I showed her that I understood what was being talked about, but didn’t have much original analysis to add. Fortunately, she allowed me to steer the discussion into areas I was familiar with, and I think I did well. She finished by saying that my AP results were impressive, but that Balliol might be concerned by the lack of an AP maths. The whole thing lasted about 45 mins. Overall, the interview was probably as friendly and relaxed as it could have been, which is not saying much seeing as I was seated in a pool of light, having difficult questions fired at me. But it was an experience. And I never ended up taking the AP maths.

Wanted to be formal, but not overdressed, so I wore a nice shirt and tie, no jacket.

Impressions

Balliol is a good looking college – not as beautiful as Magdalen or Christ Church, but attractive in its own way. The people are very friendly, and there’s a nice feeling that just sort of permeates the place.

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Final stage

Was in the middle of a rehearsal, and called home. Wild excitement, jumping around ensued, not appreciated by director.

Looking back

Definitely.

Make sure you’ve read a few books on your subject, and keep up with current events in your subject. Don’t believe what they tell you about it not really mattering what college you apply to. Take your time, get a feel for the place, and find a college that’s right for you.