Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone preparing for an interview?
A. Before I went to Oxford for my interview my headteacher said to me, “You probably won’t get in, but don’t worry, it’s all a good experience”. At the time I thought she just had no confidence in me but actually it was the BEST advice she could’ve given me. When I went into my interview I just thought I had nothing to lose so gave it my best shot, and because I hadn’t hung all my hopes on getting in I was much less tense and more relaxed and could think more clearly.
Q. What is the best thing about Oxbridge?
A. The tutorial system, though a little bit scary to start with, makes you a really confident thinker and speaker. Even if you don’t really know an answer you learn to mould the situation to what you do know and think on your feet and not get intimidated talking to people who seem to know more than you and this is a great life skill!
Q. Was it hard to make friends?
A. Not at all – everyone was so lovely and not at all how I expected them to be – I thought everyone would be too posh or too nerdy to talk to but most people are normal and everyone is in the same boat.
Q. What were you most worried about?
A. I was most worried about not feeling clever enough and feeling like a fraud but actually that’s how everyone feels! So you know you are as good as everyone else.
Q. What was the interview like?
A. My interview was really interactive – I got to hold a stick insect and put my hand in a carnivorous plant and talk about a toy lion I was given. Props made it a bit easier to focus and made the interview quite fun.
I thought it had gone terribly (I fell in the door so the first impression they had of me was lying on the floor in the tutor’s office and talked about doughnuts instead of animals) but actually I think it endeared them to me! (Though I wouldn’t recommend falling over just to make your tutors laugh…).
Q. What was the worst piece of advice?
A. “Be really well read for your interview, and know all the A-level stuff”. For biology they are looking at how you think as a scientist, not whether you know the A level syllabus and have read 431 books about evolution. Everyone is coming to the interview with different courses and different educational backgrounds, so they can’t measure on that (besides, that’s what the exams are for).
Q. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about applying?
A. Just go for it; if you are enthusiastic and bright then you stand a good chance of getting in, and don’t let any preconceptions about Oxbridge or other people applying put you off.