(Original post by Cirsium)
All good solid reasons. You missed out, of course, that the 1st year field trip is amazing, and ensures that all of the biologists know each other very well and are a very sociable subject. There's also the fact that the research project kicks the ass of every single other university, but I guess you care less about that than you will in 3 years time!
And you're not alone in that. I remember freaking out about 1st year exams until Martin Speight (head of undergrad teaching - you may have heard a lecture by him if you went to the open day. Beardy, friendly, quite random - possesses a cuddly aphid!) pointed out that because we take Mods not Prelims (both 1st year Oxford exams) you only need to average 40% overall to pass
. As it turns out I got 60 in cells and genes, but not having to worry makes the whole thing less painless.
I wouldn't stress to much about it actually. If you're worried about struggling with the course then Alberts Molecular Biology of the Cell is your bible, and George Ratcliffe - dull as he is - gives the best lecture handouts of pretty much any lecturer I had at Oxford. You're in safe hands.
I could tell you you won't. Or I could tell you the truth. That at least a third of us found ourselves completely lost in all the biochemistry practicals with no idea what was going on. After a particularly memorable incident 3 weeks in I came as close as a I ever did to transferring out of there. And then the weeks went on and I found that in that same practical everybody else (apart from the 20 or so who went on to major in Cell) was as lost as I was. You will flounder. You may cry. But you won't be alone, and I think it's a small price to pay, not least because the teaching is so good that you will
get there, you will
understand it and everything will
Do you care about every mark being a 1st? If yes, then Oxford's not for you. If you can cope with a well balanced first year, where you discover some new passions (Mark Fricker's algae lectures are a force to be beheld!) and find that you really do hate some things, then you'll come out the other side, prepared to cope with things not always going well (which, let's be honest, will happen even if you do major in Zoology) and ready to get on with the bits you love. In your 2nd year you can spend as long as you like playing with the Wytham chicks, or monitoring the pregnant sows at the farm and doing behavioural work on the Isis ducks.
The bottom line is yes you will struggle. But so will everybody else. And your tutor (which college btw?) will take you for cups of tea, and sit there awkwardly on the day you finally crack and start crying; and you'll spend some time poring over Alberts, and eventually you'll pass Cells just fine and then you'll never think about it again. But you'll be a stronger biologist because of it.
Take it from someone who spent first year freaking out, and then came out of 2nd year exams with a 76 average (70% is a first): if you choose to take the challenge you will
Feel free to PM me if you have any Qs