If you’ve just received your invitation to interview at Oxford or Cambridge – and congratulations if you have – you may have begun to wonder exactly how your time up at Oxford or Cambridge will be spent. Who will look after you? How will you fill your non-interviewing hours? How will you know where to go and what to do? So that you go up prepared and – more importantly – to minimise the risk of you missing any interviews (which are very difficult to reschedule so please make sure you don’t!) we have put together a little guide to what you might encounter during the interview period.
An informal meeting with your tutors
In your invitation to interview – or when you arrive at the interview itself – you may be invited to go to an informal meeting with the tutors in your subject. This is an opportunity for you to meet the people who will be interviewing you – as well as a chance for them to get to know you a little before they put you on the spot. The idea is that this meeting might go some way to soothing your nerves before the real thing. What this meeting is not is an opportunity to extend your interview – don’t go in trying to impress the tutors with your subject knowledge, or start thinking that every question they ask you they are taking notes on. Be yourself, be polite, be confident and take part in the conversation. Leave the academics to the real interview.
The notice board
This is where all the information goes up – the oracle of interviews if you like. It might be in the porters lodge, the common room or in the hall. Most likely it will be pointed out to you when you first arrive, but if not, make sure you find out where it is. If you are interviewing at Oxford, you may be pooled to different colleges, or have fresh interviews in the same college scheduled. At Cambridge, interview rooms might change, or your second interview at another college might be posted up a little later. It’s really important that you stay on the ball and alert at all times. If you miss an interview it is very unlikely that you will be able to reschedule it due to the huge amount that the university is trying to fit in to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance. So watch that board like a hawk!! If you are told that you will have an interview at a different college, you will in most cases be taken to it by a current student, but it is your responsibility to check that this is being organised. It is, after all, your place that is resting on the interview.
This brings us nicely on to the student helpers. These are current undergraduates who volunteer to work over the interview period and look after you. They are usually friendly, helpful people – and are picked because of this – so don’t hesitate to ask them any questions that you might have. They will also be the people who walk you over to your interviews at other colleges, so if you are interviewing elsewhere, check in with one of the students who will explain the logistics to you.
Eating, drinking and sleeping
If your interview goes on for more than a day, you will be looked after in the college and all your accommodation and food organised for you. The college will also lay on activities for you in the evenings – such as film nights, trips out and maybe even a quiz! You don’t have to attend, but it is very important to take a break from the stress for a little while. One word of warning: the interview period is not the time to connect to your inner a party animal. It may be tempting to go out with your new found friends, but you really need to stay on top form for your interviews. Get a good night’s sleep, eat healthily and don’t lose focus – this is the final and most important hurdle. As ever, we wish you all the best of luck for your interview! And for mock interview practice with Oxbridge graduates who have been through this process before, book a place on our Interview Preparation Day. We look forward to seeing you there!