Our Associate Consultant, Poppy Cooper walks us through her preparation for her Oxbridge application – and what it was like when she arrived at interview…
Before deciding to apply to Oxford I attended an open day in the summer to visit various colleges and was amazed by the history and beauty of the city. I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study in a University so steeped in academia and tradition where the calibre of students, tutors and lecturers was so high. My school, a state grammar school in the north of England, was certainly supportive of my application but was ill-equipped to provide me with the specialised help I needed for both my University and Course choice.
For my subject, Archaeology and Anthropology, I was required to produce two essays on any subject to submit along with my application form and Personal Statement. I wrote one essay on avian flight mechanism, as part of my Biology A Level, and another comparing and contrasting themes of love and loyalty in selected Cicero and Horace texts, supervised by my Latin teacher. My personal statement was proof-read by my head of sixth-form before I sent it off with the rest of the application, hoping for the best.
Getting the letter inviting me to interview was both exciting and terrifying. I had no idea how to be interviewed for anything, let alone by Oxford Professors! My preparation involved reading, reading and more reading, occasionally interrupted by panicking about my outfit – something I later learned is completely insignificant to admissions tutors’ decisions. The interviews in themselves were nerve-racking affairs and, in hindsight would have been much more pleasant had I been more proactive in practising my interview technique and honing my communication skills. Luckily, I had prepared a great deal of reading and was able to talk about a variety of subjects in a good amount of depth, although the interviewers were careful to challenge and test every argument or opinion I made! In total I had four interviews over the course of a day and a half. The last and most daunting interview was with a panel of six tutors who grilled me on the two essays I’d written and books I’d mentioned in my personal statement. By the end of the interviews I was exhausted but even more excited about the prospect of getting a place.
The process was certainly gruelling and unlike anything I’d ever gone through before at the age of seventeen. However, having successfully come through the whole process, from application to graduation, I can say the experience of living and studying in a city like Oxford is unique and worth the time and effort it takes to achieve.
If you’re not sure what you should be doing to give yourself the greatest chance of success in your application, come in to see us for a Private Consultation. You’ll get subject-specific mock interview experience, detailed feedback and help building an action plan as to what you should be doing over the coming months and weeks to ensure you give this your best shot!