For years I had imagined myself as a student at Oxford. Carrying a satchel, cycling over cobbled streets, intellectual conversations and grand summer balls. As much as I felt I was destined to live the Oxford dream, when I achieved 2 A’s and 2 C’s at AS level I never truly thought I would be considered whilst other applicants were achieving straight A’s. Naturally, having just been rejected from Bristol, I was ecstatic to receive an invitation to interview at Oxford. The three days’ I spent there made the laborious UCAS process seem worth it. It was everything I ever imagined: the crockery carried the college crest; the tree in the quad was inspiration for Alice’s adventures in wonderland; and students told tales of meeting Sir Ian McKellan and Stephen Fry.
Nobody mocked me for quoting Orwell in an argument, and they even encouraged my protracted analysis of Maurice. This was where I was meant to be. I was sure of it. These people were my people. In a bizarre reversal of priorities, it seemed almost unimportant how I was coming across in the brief sessions I had with tutors compared with how much I got along with my potential peers. I knew immediately after coming out of my third interview that I hadn’t impressed enough to be offered a place, but I just hadn’t cared to display my best there, because I was too busy making friends in the JCR. I had known it was coming but it was still a surprise when the rejection letter arrived. I had applied for deferred entry, so I knew that I would apply again next year. All it really meant was the inconvenience of having to go through UCAS a second time. I rewrote my personal statement, I sat the exams, I was invited to interview. It was for a different College, and I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the year before. I was a year older, and a year older than everyone else. I felt it. I made little effort to involve myself in the common room and instead crammed my forgotten A’ level knowledge. I was focused on the interviews and knew what to expect. I gave a good account of myself. If I wasn’t accepted this time, I knew that at least they had seen me at my best. Despite positive interviews, and a call to interview at another College, I was rejected again.
I reconsidered what I was actually looking for. I want tradition, excellence, discipline… or is this the chant from Dead Poets’ Society? Now that I have been freed from the mental shackles of the Oxford dream, I am able to see my offers from other Universities as true alternatives. In comparing them to Oxford, I realise that the overriding feeling I have now is relief. Now looking at it logically, I don’t think that the Oxford system would suit me, and maybe that is what the tutors could see in the interviews that I couldn’t. Producing essay after essay, but relying on performance in final exams is a method that I believe fundamentally flawed.
I want a University degree that carries not only status and international recognition, but also gives me opportunity to grow in areas other than essay-writing, and time away from my studies to become a real person. I am extremely lucky that I am not under pressure to go to University straight away and am considering another year out to apply to other Universities, with more serious consideration. The only real question is: will I also use it to reapply to Oxford?!
By Hannah’s Webbe