The newest member of the Oxbridge Applications team, Laura, blogs her thoughts on Oxbridge and her application experience.
When I visited Oxford on an open day, the July weather – for once! – had been favourable and showed the city at its best. I had booked into a full-day open day for History at Trinity College, selected due to its lovely gardens, central location and non-auditioning choir. During the day, we had a tour of the grounds, a sample of the lovely food Trinity has to offer, and a meeting with my potential tutor, who was incredibly friendly and inspirational – exactly the kind of tutor you picture teaching at such prestigious universities.
I studied for my A Levels at a state sixth-form in the north-east of England. We had never sent any students to Oxbridge before, but in my AS Level year a teacher was appointed to guide us through the application process. However, there were 30 of us applying, so whilst the advice was useful, it was pretty generic. I would have loved to have the one-on-one advice that is on offer from Oxbridge Applications, in order to know exactly which areas I needed to work on.
For my History application, I had to complete the standard UCAS form, along with an essay written during the course of my A Level studies. My chosen essay topic was a debate on the validity of the structuralist and intentionalist approaches to analysing the policies of the Nazi regime; some would say it was a standard topic choice, but it was a strong, well-researched essay, and, most importantly, it was a topic on which I could speak confidently and passionately at a potential interview. On top of this, I completed the History Aptitude Test (HAT) at the end of October. I practised for this myself, aided by teaching for the Advanced Extension Award in History. Knowledge of the test itself, and practice answering the styles of questions on the test, is invaluable to attaining a good mark – important because Oxford only interview the top 80 per cent of applicants according to their HAT scores.
At interview, I remember being incredibly nervous whilst stewing in my bedroom, but by the time I was sitting outside the interview room I had calmed down somewhat – although the reverse seems much more logical. I had two interviews on two different days, both taking place with two tutors. For the first, my abiding memory is of being really hot – the tutor had put on a roaring fire due to the cold December weather! It focused on my written essay sent beforehand and on other college work, but when I hadn’t studied the period, I was honest and we moved on to what I had studied. The second interview was focused on my personal statement and “big” historical questions, where I could use the extra-curricular reading I had done to inform my responses. My interviewers were all very friendly and welcoming, making me feel much less intimidated than expected. The only surreal part of my interview was when the two interviewers started having a debate with each other in the middle of the interview!
The application process to Oxbridge is long and gruelling; there are many skills tested in many different ways. However, the chance to study at a world-class institution, being taught so intensively by tutors who are experts in their fields of study, is an experience I would not have missed out on. Having graduated last year, with many wonderful friends and memories, as well as a great degree, I can safely say that the effort was worth it!
If you want any more information on the application process or on what types of support Oxbridge Applications can provide, do get in touch on +44 (0)20 7499 2394. If you want some of the more personalised advice mentioned above, check out our page on Private Consultations, which provide applicants with helps you understand key strengths and weaknesses and how to focus and apply yourself in order to put in the strongest application possible.