Application

 Oxford

 St Catherine’s

 Physics

 2002

 rejected

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – selective

not known if selective

 yes (6 A*,6 A)

A-levels

(NA at AS)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Other universities

yes

yes

Durham is the best. The students were very friendly, as were the staff, the college (St Aidan’s) was very picturesque and had great views of the City, the facilities were excellent and there were loads of activities planned for the open day undergrads.

Decisions about the application

I was confident I would get the grades required and that it would be very useful for future employment

Both are very similar, but Oxford had more shopping opportunities 🙂

I didn’t choose to go here (and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would – see later on). I originally applied to St John’s but they said I had “an insignificant chance of gaining a place” so switched me to St Catherines. St John’s has wonderful buildings, bright open spaces, easy access to the City centre and a great college atmosphere. St Catherines has none none of these.

Preparation

yes

My college gave us mock interviews which, as it turned out, where not any thing like Oxford’s (they are very similar to the other Universities I have visited, though).

The Forms: Be honest and make lots of drafts.

The Interview(s): Just practice your basics, they ARE out to catch you (no matter what they say) – demonstrated by the clumsy phraseology of the questions. The Maths paper is designed to be impossible so that only one person every century gets full marks. Needless to say, that person was not me.

Interview

no

no

yes

Maths test. I looked over a practice one before hand, but it was nothing like the one they actually set.

I had two interviews at St Catherines with four tutors in total (two in each). They just asked me a series of questions, most of which involved writing, or explaining my thinking, on the whiteboard.

Mainly Physics based in the first one, then maths orientated in the second. Both were relatively easy, but phrased to make you goof up. I succeeded in doing that once or twice.

Suit and tie. Everyone else was dressed that way, even though they said wear whatever you want. I’m pretty sure they would have looked down upon anything less than a suit and tie.

Impressions

St Catherines is the cess pool of the Oxford colleges. The pictures on their website make it look dull and, in reality, it’s even worse.
The buildings are concrete sixties monstrosities surrounding a ludicrously large circle of grass containing one threadbare pine tree. Not a pleasant view from the room, to say the least. The staff, secondly, make no attempt to hide the fact that they are higher and you and take every opportunity to look down their noses and make snide remarks – in particular the JCR porter who endlessly complained about all the lack of intelligence most of the undergraduates coming for interview had. The tutors, unlike any other university I have visited, make no effort to chat to the students; in fact they do the opposite, they seemed positively pained when anyone had the audacity to address them (with the exception of the Physics admissions tutor who was very friendly).
Unlike any of the other colleges, from what I’ve heard from other students, St Catherines had nothing planned for its students whatsoever. The current first years seemed very unapproachable (they sat in a little huddle in the smokey bar and weren’t particularly helpful even when you asked them something – in fact, they lost someone’s examination papers making the poor soul have to sit the exam again!). The JCR was horrid – brown *everything* leading to a very dark room -which, although had plenty of signs saying “No Smoking” the first years took no notice and smoked anyway and nobody knew when food was being served, so many people missed the first day’s meal.

The rooms were average sized but the room i was staying in stank of cigarrette smoke, was freezing cold and there was no hot running water.

Good

There wasn’t much variety

oops, i seem to have talked about this above.

covered this as well.

Final stage

I got a letter through the post saying I was rejected. Whooopeee! I was so glad that I hadn’t been offered a place, otherwise my college may have been a little annoyed about me turning down an offer from Oxford.

Looking back

No. After having an interview at St Catherines, having previously been told about how Oxford is open to everyone and we just want people based on their ability, i discovered that was complete rubbish. The tutors and the students, which I came into contact with, were unapproachable snobs. If the Open Day had been better organised (the AT hadn’t checked her email so phoned me up *the day before* wondering why I hadn’t replied), especially with regards to activites planned for the students, then a better impression may have prevailed. As it stood, myself, and many of the other students there, couldn’t wait to leave.

DO NOT APPLY TO ST CATHERINES. This is by far the worst Oxford college (and the worst college I have visited on my travels). Also, they seem very biased about students from independent schools – someone mentioned that they don’t like taking on students from there (and I met five other students, taking other courses, from independent schools, with glowing personal statements) and none of us were given offers. I switched from a state grammar school at the start of Yr13 to my independent school as I thought I would be able to get better grades – I think they were convinced it was because i wanted status.