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When I arrived in Oxford for my interview on a rainy morning in December, I was incredibly nervous. I had visited the university and college to which I had applied twice before, once with my parents and once for a university open day. Since I was a little girl, I had always wanted to attend Oxford University, and my visits had only stimulated my desire to study there. However, the labyrinthine admissions procedure was hugely intimidating: not only did I need to achieve top A level results and write a winning personal statement, I also had to sit an entrance exam specific to my course, English Language and Literature, be invited to interview and finally convince the tutors at interview that I was a candidate who would flourish in the unique environment at Oxford.
My path to interview had been a long one. My poor school teachers had been inflicted with draft after draft of my personal statement as I struggled to avoid the pitfalls of mentioning every club or society to which I had ever belonged and sounding like someone who lived vicariously through the lives of Jane Austen heroines. Next, I had learnt the penalties of mentioning great tomes in my statement, as I was forced to re-read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, one of the longest books ever written, over the October half-term, in case I was called up to interview and questioned on it (which I was!). Finally, I had sat the ELAT (English Language and Literature entrance exam) in school, having practiced by a combination of past papers online and composing my own papers, one on the theme of ‘rain’ – a suitably depressing topic for an autumnal afternoon in the library, searching for appropriate passages from poems, novels and plays!
Now I was on my way to the interview, and although I had practiced with generous teachers and the parents of friends, I was still not exactly sure what to expect. Almost even more than the interview itself, I was apprehensive about spending several days in a college surrounded by unfamiliar faces and in a city I barely knew. In the end, I met several lovely people at interview and enjoyed various social activities such as a trip to the local ice cream parlour during the week of my interviews. I even felt so comfortable in one interview that I ended up doing a pirate impression to explain further my interpretation of a poem by Sylvia Plath, which I have never dared to bring up in front of the tutors who interviewed me since…
The Oxford application system is notoriously stressful, and the staff and students at the college were incredibly supportive and helpful throughout, whilst the website answered many of my questions. However, a little personal insight from a student who had undergone the exact same procedure would have been invaluable, giving me the extra confidence required when entering an unfamiliar environment for a highly pressured interview. This is the service that MyTutorWeb aims to offer, linking up prospective Oxford students with current or past Oxford graduates, who will be able to discuss details regarding the admissions procedure and help you familiarise yourself with Oxford life, such as the colleges, extra-curricular opportunities and social life. With this service, other young people will be able to feel more relaxed as they embark upon a complex admissions process, leading to one of the greatest academic institutions worldwide: somewhere over the last three years I have been immensely proud to call home.
By Laura Clash, A MyTutor English Tutor
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