jigsawyouthzine-deactivated2013 asked: May I ask you personally about your Oxford experience because I've applied to go there for my undergrad course and I think it'd be amazing to speak to someone with first hand experience. How was it and what do you think was the most challenging throughout the application process?
I hope you don’t mind my publishing this: I’ve just had a lot of similar asks before and this might answer related queries for other followers. I also know how much of an advantage it was for people from certain schools (who shall remain nameless) to have been immersed in a culture in which most of their family / teachers / friends were Oxbridge educated (this wasn’t the case for me: my parents went to teacher training college and nobody else in my family has been to Oxbridge). Maybe sharing this info might go some small way towards demystifying the experience…
Having just said that, I’m kind of a bad person to ask about the application process because I really didn’t want to go to Oxford when I applied, so I didn’t put too much thought into it: I chose my college because it was the first one I hit when I got off the bus on the high street (seriously, I should not have been tasked with making major life decisions at that point, I was a dork).
What I will say is that there’s a lot of myths floating around about application: try to block out the hype and just represent yourself as you really are. If they don’t like it then fuck ‘em (‘Fuck the haters’ is a wonderful mantra that I found hard to internalize at the time but now, 6 years later, live by).
There’s no real hard and fast rule about what’s good and bad, because it depends on the tutor reading your application. One tutor said to me he didn’t care if his students didn’t get out much or had no hobbies or friends, he just wanted to pinpoint and accept the candidates who he deemed most likely to graduate with a First. Others have stressed the importance of being a well-rounded individual / ‘the complete package’ that they can get on well with because, after all, they have to sit in tutorials with you for at least an hour a week. I get the impression my tutor had barely looked at my application because he wasn’t too familiar with it when he interviewed me, so there’s also that interpretation!
What swung it for me was the interview process. I realized that, for me, this was the right place to stretch intellect to its absolute furthest limits. On top of my A-Levels I had to complete college-set exams, and have interviews with my Psych tutor, both Philosophy tutors at once, and the Psych and Philosophy tutors together at my ‘back up’ college (you’re allocated a back up in case you’re not a fit to the college you applied to but might be wanted elsewhere within the university).
In interviews I just made sure I was polite and didn’t bullshit them: I swear a large part of the reason I got in was that my Psych tutor asked me a ridiculous question and, rather than trying to pretend I knew the answer, I just straight up said I didn’t know, but I’d be interested to hear his thoughts. They’re looking for someone who’s not only intelligent but also teachable: they must come across a lot of cocky kids who are big fish in small ponds at their schools and think they know everything. A teacher won’t want to work with that attitude! (I’ll admit I thought I was pretty smart until I got there and met my peers and realized I am nothing).
I guess another thing you can do if you’re keen is research your tutor(s) and try to read some of their books or at least get a handle on their preferred theories or schools of thought. It’s not something I did (see again: not caring enough / I was a dork), but I know that some of the other people who got in on my course did.
I can’t really offer much more apart from platitudes such as ‘keep calm’. Just try to have fun and don’t let anybody try to psych you out (yeah, that happens). Keep your head space to yourself, get early nights (I assume your interviews would be like mine and over the space of a few days) and I’m sure you’ll be great!