It’s been a week since I got back from my interviews at the University of Oxford and what an experience it has been!
I thought it might be useful to do a post about my interviews because I know lots of people are curious and interested in what happens and what it’s really like. I applied for straight Classics (Literae Humaniores) with no Greek or Latin A level (the Classics II course) at New College, Oxford.
WARNING: VERY TEXT HEAVY
Exactly a week before interviews were due to start for Classics, I received an email from New College inviting me to attend interviews the following week. There were no details about the interviews themselves other than the date I needed to arrive by and the latest date I may need to stay until. I was nervous but excited at the same time; I didn’t know what to expect!
I arrived a night early on Monday 8th December at about 5pm. Luckily, the college had emailed me that day to say that they had a room available that night. On arrival, I was given a key by the kind porter and then directed to LR6 (the interview room). LR6 was full of people when I walked in and there was a table full of undergraduate helpers. I signed in and was given my information pack before being taken to my room. All of the undergraduates were shocked at the room I had been given – apparently it is the best room in college.
After dumping my bags and taking a look around my room (or should I call it a suite?) I finally got a chance to sit down and relax.
I then went to LR6 to check the board just in case the Classics interviews had been put up yet (Classicists didn’t need to be at the College until 11am the next morning). Fortunately, they were pinned up so I took a photo and sorted out the order of the interviews in my mind. I was also shocked to discover that I had five interviews:
- Tues 9th Dec 2:15pm
- Tues 9th Dec 4:45pm
- Wed 10th Dec 9:30am
- Wed 10th Dec 12:30pm
- Wed 10th Dec 5:00pm
I got chatting to some PPE applicants and we went to dinner together. After meeting a couple of other people during dinner, I went to meet some of my UNIQ friends who had also arrived a night early (Max, Birju & Emily for Classics, Katy for Biochemistry and Joe for History). We went along to one of the UNIQ meet-ups being held at the Admissions Office until I had to leave at about 8:40pm. Once in my room, I re-read over my personal statement and just chatted with people on my phone before getting an early night.
Awoken bright and early half by my alarm and half by the birds outside, I quickly had a shower and then went to the hall for breakfast. One thing I forgot to mention is that there was a lot of building work going on and so this meant we didn’t eat in the usual Hall but in Temporary Hall. It was still really nice though and you still got to speak to everyone at the dinner table.
After a full English and a cup of Earl Grey, I checked the board again in LR6: no new notices. There were, however, a couple of people arriving to the College at the time (around 9am). I spotted a girl (Hannah) sitting in the corner reading Aristophanes and so went over to talk to her – the first Classicist I had come across so far!
More and more of the Classicists were arriving and we all got chatting to one another. There were nineteen of us applying, for approximately 6-8 places in New College; 5 of us had no Greek or Latin A level. Everyone was really friendly and it felt great discussing Classics-related things all the time. In preparation for my first interview, I had brought down my folder with my personal statement, written work and a book of Cicero’s letters to LR6 where I tried to read over everything. Hannah was also trying to do the same. I was strangely calm about my upcoming interviews, despite getting a sudden burst of nervousness at times, and I found that I just couldn’t concentrate on reading anything else last-minute.
My first interview was only 15 minutes long and it was with the Ancient History professor. As I was taken to the interview room and as I waited outside, I was still oddly calm. I had been panicking about an hour before because everything to do with ancient history had completely vanished from my mind, but I managed to calm myself down. The interview itself seemed to be quite straightforward. I was first asked “Why New College?” which surprisingly didn’t throw me off guard (I had previously been told that they would never ask us this). I was then asked questions about Cicero (whom I had mentioned on my personal statement) and my answers led to further discussion on certain aspects. I was asked about Cicero as a person as well as his speeches, followed by oratory and Greek politics which eventually led to Greek plays. The 15 minutes went extremely quickly and although I didn’t feel it was disastrous, I didn’t think it went as well as it could have. I felt as though I was just regurgitating facts and information rather than coming up with original thoughts and ideas.
I then had two hours until my next interview (one hour if you take into account the fact you have to be in LR6 an hour before any interviews off-site). I spent that time in LR6 with the other Classics candidates discussing our first interview and how it went. My second interview was at the Classics faculty where we discussed the CLAT admissions test (Classics Language Aptitude Test) and focused on language. I was given a blank copy of the test and asked to make up rules for certain sentences (there was a made up language which we had to translate) which allowed the professors to see that I fully understood the way the language worked. I was then asked about the differences/similarities between Latin and English and then given some English grammar questions, e.g. “What’s the difference between ‘I ate a sandwich’ and ‘I have eaten a sandwich.'” (I eventually got there in the end). They then asked me about teaching Mandarin and what the difficulties were (I had mentioned this in my PS) and finally, how I revise and learn vocabulary. The interview went alright as there weren’t really any ‘trick’ questions and the only slightly tougher ones were the English grammar questions.
That evening, some of us Classicists went with the College to G & D’s (an amazing ice cream shop). I got a scoop of Oreo ice cream, mmmm.
We got back to college for 9pm and bumped into Harry (a Classicist who didn’t come to G&D’s). Both Owen and Harry are American Classics applicants and since we didn’t want to go to bed just yet, we went to the JCR to see what was going on in there. People were on the sofas watching TV and I didn’t particularly feel like doing that, and as I had an early interview the next morning, I decided to call it a night.
My third interview was with a language professor at the college and this too was only 15 minutes long. Having had the interview discussing the CLAT the night before, I was curious as to what this one would be about. The tutor was really nice and he asked me things which I had mentioned in my personal statement. He asked about my Latin and Mandarin GCSEs (both self-taught, both achieving an A*) and then about my time in Bosnia at the orphanage over the summer holidays. He asked about what I intend to do in my gap year (although initially he thought I was currently in my gap year) and then we had a discussion about the National Theatre’s Medea which was in my statement. I thought this one was alright, however since it was a general interview, I felt I could have possibly expanded on what I was saying.
Less than three hours later was my fourth interview: English Literature. Just before 12pm, I was led to a room where I found an envelope with my name on. I had half an hour to read the text I was given, annotate it and come up with some original thoughts. It was a philosophical piece of text and discussed the way humans have developed the ability to use sound to communicate. It then talked about how animals are able to use sound in the same way and thus the fact that we are able to is less impressive since animals are ‘stupid’. This interview was half an hour long and I was told by my friend Hannah, who had had her literature interview the night before, that it was okay and she enjoyed it. The tutor was very eccentric and enthusiastic about the piece of text and kept pushing me to clarify my thoughts and ideas surrounding it. I found it the toughest interview yet and concluded that the tutor didn’t like me (or at least gave that impression, whether intentionally or not I don’t know). I felt as though I had been pushed and was definitely out of my comfort zone the entire time. Given that she asked me about my Latin/Greek background and then discovered I had done Latin GCSE, she pressed me to find the two Latin words which described the two main arguments within the text. Having not studied any Latin whatsoever for two entire years (I finished the GCSE in Year 10), I was a bit stunned at this request and stumbled my way through, desperately trying to find the correct words. After a painful five minutes or so, I eventually found them. We also discussed animal language and sound briefly towards the end. This was by far my worst interview and I just felt a bit shocked when I came out. I didn’t seem to say anything right during our conversation and I felt as though I didn’t give off a good enough impression which actually showed off my abilities. Oh well.
I grabbed lunch with another Classicist, Rachel, while we both discussed the literature interview. She had hers before me and was given a different poem. We hung around in LR6 and chatted with the other interviewees. I just had philosophy next and I had been hearing mixed opinions on the interview itself. We had 15 minutes before to look over four questions and think about them before having half an hour to discuss them with the tutor. Some people had said it was very hard and demanding; one even told me he almost came out crying, while others said it was actually alright and systematic/logical. I was a tad stressed for this interview because I hadn’t done any philosophy whatsoever before, plus I hadn’t read any of the big Ancient Philosophers (eek!), however there was no point in me trying to cram anything in because everyone had said there is no way you can prepare for it. I spent the next couple of hours on my phone, chatting to my Mum and calling my friends back home to ask how their own interviews went. I also met up with a school friend, Ambreen, for an hour to calm her down before her first History interview. We went shopping and just caught up on everything. I finally saw Jackson (friend from Eton) in LR6 and we had a nice little catch up. I knew he had applied to New for English but I just hadn’t seen him anywhere for the past two days!
At 4:30pm I was walked over to the interview by another undegraduate where I waited in the corridor for Rachel (who was before me again) to go into the interview room so that I could read the required material. I was given a blank piece of paper and I think I actually ended up with 30 minutes prep time since I began when Rachel had gone in. The first question was about ambiguities in four different sentences. I struggled with the first two but managed to understand the last two:
Show me the page.
I expect all the questions will be answered by someone.
Chloe has no fans left.
Jane and Jill ate a cake.
The second question was about two different arguments and deciding which one is strongest. I jotted down a couple of points for each. The third question really confused me at first because it was phrased in a mathematical way so I left it and moved on to the last question. When I went back to it, I finally understood the jist of it and made a good stab at it. The final question was stating a fact about horror movies and then said that horror films deceive us and therefore could we say that all art deceives us. I also wrote down some points for this. Once I was invited into the interview itself, I felt as though I was quite philosophical in my approach because I spoke about both views for each question and tried to suggest reasons for each. I also felt as though I was more open to new ideas and concepts in this interview than I had been in others. I still feel as though it could have gone a lot better, however it also could have gone a lot worse.
I WAS FREE!
After my final interview, I went to meet the rest of my UNIQ friends who had finally arrived. We had all decided to go to Nando’s for dinner which was really nice.
I wrote a post all about the UNIQ mini reunion here so check it out!
After the meal, we briefly popped into the UNIQ meet-up and then everyone came back to my room because my living room is huge. We laughed and joked about for a good hour or so before it started getting late and people had interviews the next morning. On their way back out, we bumped into Harry and since he had nothing else to do either, he and I went to the JCR to see what was happening. Owen was there with Georgina (another Classicist), Romney (an English applicant) and two other international students. They were saying how they wanted to go to the pub but that they couldn’t be bothered to go. At this point, Katie (a friend from the Eton summer school) snapchatted me saying: “my college is better than yours”. I told everyone and they all suggested we go over to Jesus College and show them that New College is actually better. Owen and Harry both jumped at this opportunity and said that they would both love to see Jesus College. We all made our way over there but Katie said we couldn’t come through the front door since it was 10:30pm and the porter was, I quote, “dodgy”. We were let in by the side entrance and made our way to their JCR. It was pretty cool, I’m not going to lie, and her people did seem really fun, but I still think New is better. I met her friends and we all stayed and chatted for ages. Owen ended up getting into a heated discussion with one of the boys there about private schools and then about America/Britain. It suddenly turned into a big debate with everyone chipping in here and there. The boys and I decided to head back to New at 11:50pm where we were greeted by a closed door. Owen had to buzz the porter and ask politely whether we could come back in. The porter was extremely kind and opened the door, explaining that our fobs on our keys would open it for us. Knackered by the late night excursion and the three interviews I had had, I headed to bed.
All of the Classicists had to stay until 4pm on Thursday 11th so the day was just spend waiting around to see if we had been ‘pooled’ to another College. I also said hi to my friend Rafi (from Eton) who was applying for French & Spanish and had only just arrived. After about an hour of sitting in LR6 bored and restless, a bunch of us ended up leaving College and going on a tour of Oxford with Charles as our tour guide. We went to University College and then Merton (but we weren’t allowed in) and also Christ Church. Henry (an Eton and UNIQ friend) had literally just come out of his interview and he was at Christ Church so I went to meet him quickly – I hadn’t seen him down in Oxford yet! We talked and he took me to the JCR where I saw James (from the Cambridge summer school) and Finn (from Eton). It was so great to see them both again, and also weird since they had both become friends from being down in Oxford together.
Anyhow, I ended up losing the Classicists from my college and ended up ringing them to find out where they were. On my way back to the high street, I was tapped on the shoulder by Danish (a UNIQ Classicist) who I hadn’t seen since the summer! It was so good to see him again and have an extremely quick catch-up. I had to hunt down the covered markets and then find the cafe Georgina’s. I ordered a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows:
It tasted soooo good. Rachel and Owen both ordered paninis and Harry a bagel (they all looked delicious) while Charlie and Izzy just got hot beverages. Whilst we were in the cafe, Charlie got a text from someone back at New telling him that he could go home. There had been updates! We all made our way back to College to find out what was going on. Charlie was sent a photo of all the list of names of people who could leave. I was on there. Everyone apart from Izzy who was with me was on the list. On our way back, we saw Brittany with her suitcase leaving Oxford – it was a sad goodbye. We made it back to New and checked the board for ourselves. I hadn’t been pooled. I went to get lunch and saw Hannah at the table; she had been pooled! After I’d eaten, I went back to LR6 where everyone was just sitting, staring at the notice. It was a sad moment because, although the pooling system is a complete mystery, we all took it as being a bad sign and so everyone was upset. One of my friends was really hurt by it and took it as a rejection already (I almost did too). It was a real mood-killer because suddenly everyone was depressed or sad, as opposed to the happy moods we were all in previously. It also hit me that everyone would be leaving and that the past few days had been so good that I would miss everyone so much.
Charlie got up to leave so we all said our goodbyes. Rachel said she was going to pack and would leave at around 2pm. I went back to my room and texted my Mum. I was so tired and confused about the whole situation so I took a nap. I didn’t want to leave but I also didn’t feel as though I belonged in New/Oxford anymore. I was debating whether or not to check out and stay at a friend’s College for the night or to ask whether I could stay another night. I wasn’t planning on leaving that evening because I wanted to stay until Friday to see my other friends. Harry and Owen were both staying an extra night because of their flights back to America being on Friday/Saturday so I thought I might as well ask about it. The student helpers told me that Classicists had the room booked until Friday anyway so it would be absolutely fine. Perfect. I went down to say goodbye to Rachel and Harry came along too. I went to meet Jemima to distract myself from believing I had been rejected already. We met up with two of her friends from another summer school and took a trip to Costa. Jem and I then both went to the MAC store together before going to meet Henry back at Christ Church.
Soon the gang from UNIQ was all reunited (apart from Daniel who had applied to Cambridge): Jemima, Henry, boy Alex, girl Alex and me. We all came back to New to eat dinner (they all wanted to try New’s food) and it was surprisingly good that particular evening. We had a three course meal, with chocolate fudge cake and fruit salad for dessert! Henry’s College has a curfew of 10pm so he wasn’t able to stay out later with us. Instead, he wanted to go back to his own college for their three-course meal with his friend from school Joe. Joe was at McDonald’s trying to catch up with Henry so we all went to meet him and dropped Henry off. We rushed back to New for the evening activity: Pub Quiz.
Rafi joined our team and we were taken to the College’s own bar for the activity. Our team name was
Quizlamic Extremists which could cause offence to anyone reading this (I’m so sorry; they wanted a pun with quiz): Rafi, Jemima, Alex, Alex, Adrian and I made up our team. The quiz was good fun, however it was dragged on for a very long time. By the time it finished, it was 10:30pm (two hours and a half long!) Owen, Harry, Jemima, Alex, Alex, Adrian, me and a few others all went to the local pub to let off some steam. It was the last night in Oxford and potentially the last night I would have with the Americans and international students. At around 11:30pm, the UNIQ crew left and it was only the New College applicants left. I ended up going for a pint and we all drowned our sorrows (just kidding). By the time we got back to College it was 1:30am and Harry, Owen, Ekin and I all chilled in the JCR: no one wanted to sleep. After 45 minutes, I think everyone was falling asleep so we all stumbled back to our own rooms and decided to meet for breakfast at 8:30am…
I managed to get down for 8:40am (quite proud of myself there) whereas the others were slightly later. A full English tasted fab though. We all had to check out by 10am so we went to pack away our things. Harry was the first to leave at 9am so I said my goodbyes and walked him to the door where we took a typical selfie. I then met Owen at 10am to leave together. I was dropping my bags off at Ambreen’s room in Balliol College so Owen and I stopped just outside and took a goodbye selfie. It was really sad saying goodbye to everyone 🙁
After dropping my things at Balliol, I went to Sainsbury’s with Ambreen and her friends before meeting Katie at Jesus College. We went back to New so I could say goodbye to Rafi but we ended up in the JCR playing table tennis and pool. After a good hour, I said bye and went with Katie back to Jesus. Her friend, Samba, had turned 18 and there was chocolate cake left for us, bless! I had planned to eat lunch at Jesus but Jem and Alex were calling me to go and see them so I left Katie and met them. We went to MAC quickly for Jem to buy the foundation and then to Magdalen College for lunch (Jem’s College). The food was amazing and so filling! On the way back to Jem’s room, Alex got a phone call from his College (St John’s) telling him that he had been called for another interview at Pembroke College. He had initially planned on taking the train back with Jemima (they’re both from Wales) but he couldn’t since Jem was taking the 2:37pm train (how do I still remember that?!) I dropped her off to the station and we said our emotional goodbye, although we’re seeing each other in another nine days – look out for UNIQ Reunion Part 2!
On the way back from the station, Katie met me and we went shopping and looked around the markets. I ended up buying lots of things from Lush as well as some cute canvas bags with gorgeous patterns on from the markets. We were with each other for about an hour when girl Alex came to meet me. Alex and I grabbed a Starbucks and both reflected on our interviews (she hadn’t been pooled either) until Ambreen urgently messaged me that she was leaving and I had to collect my bags. I hurriedly said bye to Alex and rushed off to Balliol. It was just gone 4pm.
Having retrieved my bags from Ambreen’s room and said bye to her, I hopped on the Oxford Tube ready to go home. Boy Alex was in town just as I was boarding and he came to the bus station just a couple of minutes too late so I didn’t get to say bye. The journey back was stressful because there were a group of three men and a woman in their mid-late twenties sitting directly in front and across from me, eating kebabs + chips with beer. You’re not even allowed alcohol on board?! They were being really rowdy and annoying so I just put my headphones in and tried to zone out. I was reflecting on my interview experience the entire journey back and I honestly loved every minute of it. I may not have performed as well as I would have liked during the actual interviews, but the memories and the experience I have had has been absolutely incredible. I have met some of the most amazing people and I’ve had so much fun that I wish I could do it all over again! I miss College life and the freedom we had whilst we were there. I’d like to say it was ‘stress-free’ and unlike school but it was stressful. Although it was really nice not to have to go to school and worry about doing homework/classwork. I loved every minute.
Hand on heart, regardless of the outcome, I had the best time at Oxford during my stay. And even if I don’t get an offer, I genuinely don’t mind anymore because I know that I will go and visit the people who do get in anyway.
If you made it to the end, well done! If not, I’m not too offended – it is an extremely long post. Also, feel free to ask me any questions – I’ll be happy to answer them 🙂