Application

 Oxford

 University (open application, allocated college)

 Physics

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Comprehensive School

 yes (2 A*,8 A,1 B,1 C)

A-levels

(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)

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

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics, A in Physics

A, AA (Mathematics, Physics) + another A in FM or Chemistry.

yes

Oxford as my Firm choice, and Manchester as my Insurance.

N/A

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

Quality of education, reputation, job prospects. At one point on an open day I was quoted “on average each student gets three job offers around graduation time”.

Oxford seemed the natural choice for studying pure sciences. I didn’t like the Natural Sciences tripos system at Cambridge as it would mean I’d have to study some biology, and I dropped biology at GCSE level with good reason 😉

To be honest, I didn’t. I submitted an open application as my choice of college wasn’t as important as getting into Oxford was, and I was allocated Univ, Trinity and Balliol. Don’t rely on getting good computer-generated colleges, I’d recommend putting more research into it.

Preparation

no

The Forms: Keep your additional information short and succinct – and ignore the comments about it being optional. I was unsure whether to fill it in as I was afraid of repeating my personal statement, but eventually I wrote three sentences and I think it did help greatly.

The interview(s): Make sure there is a topic you are prepared to talk in depth about, but that’s no guarantee they will ask questions about it. A good general breath of knowledge is needed, with something you are especialy confident about and can attempt to steer the interview towards.

Interview

no

no

yes

There was a 1-hour maths exam the Monday morning. Seeing as I was doing Further Maths and the sample paper online was fairly straightforward, I didn’t make much effort to prepare as I couldn’t see what I could prepare – which was a mistake.

The first one was held on the night I got there (Sunday), and consisted of on-the-spot questions. The second interview was on the Monday night, and consisted of collecting a sheet of interviews three hours before the exam and preparing answers to take to your interview afterwards, where you have to explain them on a whiteboard.

The first one was entirely mathematical based, as I expressed an interest in the mathematical side of physics. The second one was wide-ranging and contained four very complex questions, of which you had to try and solve two. Personally, I felt as if I had messed up the second interview, but as it turns out I hadn’t so don’t let it get you down. A bit of advice: don’t squander your three hours by going to the student bar. You’ll need all three hours!

Suit-style trousers (black or olive), casual shirt, smart coat. I wanted to look presentable, but I wasn’t prepared to wear a suit as that wouldn’t have been me and I would have felt uncomfortable in it. The range of other people’s clothing in the interviews was quite diverse – some people wore shirt and tie, one wore a tailored italian suit. One even turned up in jeans and football shirt!

Impressions

A nice, impressive couple of quadrangles with a very convenient location. I didn’t see anything of the JCR as I think it was closed when I visited.

Small and basic, about half as large again as a Travelodge room. My room on the interview was in a fairly new building, with in-room sink and shared shower/toilet amongst five rooms. The person next door invited me to see their room and it was twice the size – mine had no sitting area, so the room sizes do vary dramatically.

Good

The buttery opening hours in the evening are very restrictive – my interviews were scheduled at the same time dinner was served, so I ended up having to eat at a pizza restaurant both nights. Breakfast was of a very high quality, however.

Fairly pleasant. I was too nervous myself to really interact with them, but in general they were understanding and co-operative during the interviews.

The only students around were the JCR helpers as the students had gone home for christmas. They were very pleasant and very helpful, and helped you settle in quickly. Most useful was asking them where the nearest Pizza Hut was of an evening 🙂

Final stage

Deliberated for a while, and then decided it was the opportunity of a lifetime and decided to take up the offer. My reply (and many other people’s) were sent out before christmas, so you have the entire festive period to decide on what to do.

Looking back

Definitely, however I would make a first choice of college if I was to re-apply.

Be yourself. I was very nervous, and kept making silly mistakes in the questions they asked me. Remember, it’s an artificial situation and the interviewers can really detect your potential as an Oxford student even in you make mistakes – you’re human!