Tips For Oxbridge English Applicants
A: Choosing Your College:
GO AND VISIT; it doesn’t really matter how many other opinions you get, the best thing you can do is go and see for yourself. You will be there for three years and it is vital that you feel inspired and comfortable in your surroundings
ASK GRADUATES/STUDENTS: the next best thing if you can’t visit is to talk to someone who is studying there or recently graduated. The prospectus is useful to discover the solid facts but the real atmosphere, reputation and feel of a college can only really be experienced when you are part of it
FACTS: Look up the statistics to see how many people each college accepts for English and therefore the probability of getting in. Work out your best chances. Look at the location; not only how close it is to town but also to the English Faculty and the facilities for any hobbies you are hoping to pursue in your spare time.
THE PROCESS: check how each college interviews. Some do exams on the day, some ask for pre-submitted essays, some just do face to face interviews and some do all three. Make sure you know what the process will be and choose one that you are confident you can do well.
B: Personal Statements:
BE HONEST; this might sound obvious but lots of people try to be more impressive than they are. What you have achieved will be good enough, you don’t need to over sell yourself.
KNOW WHAT YOU WRITE; don’t include any ideas or books/writers that you aren’t genuinely passionate about and well read in. You will only panic yourself in the interview stage and regret the decision.
BE INTERESTING: don’t stress over making your statement the most exciting read in the world, however, avoid just listing your achievements. Try to think of creative links between things you do and try to relate them back to English as much as possible.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX; make sure you remember to include stuff that you do outside of school that shows your personality and passion. Having a few things that are nothing to do with your degree subject is a positive thing. It shows you are good with balancing your time between work and culture and gives the interviewer a better idea of who you are as a person not just as an academic.
C: The Interview or test:
KNOW YOUR STUFF; if you have submitted essays or written about certain ideas, texts or people in your personal statement, make sure you are refreshed with what you wrote and read around a little if you have the time so you are confident to engage in academic conversation
PRACTICAL CRITICISM; make sure you are sharp with your skills to analyze and compare unseen texts. Do some practice ones for yourself. The exam is likely to be an unseen examination of one or a few chunks of text (poetry, prose, drama) and the interview is likely to be the same just orally.
ADMIT WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW: don’t be afraid of not knowing things. They are looking for people with the potential and capacity to learn and be a hard working exciting student – they are not looking for people who already know everything. It is fine to say you are not sure or ask questions or admit that you haven’t read a text or author they bring up.
BE PASSIONATE: you only get one shot to show them how much it means to you so be honest about the reasons why you love literature, engage with them on a subject that they have also chosen to dedicate their lives to.D: The Exams and Getting in:- If you receive an offer, all you can do is revise hard, do as well as you can and MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ANOTHER OPTION YOU ARE HAPPY WITH. If no other university will satisfy you then have plans in the pipe line for a year abroad, if you have a good second choice be ready to accept it and be happy with it. Stay calm and take the pressure off yourself. Other than that – GOOD LUCK!!!