HisMajesty_Kwabz
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By HisMajesty_Kwabz @Oxford Mum
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HisMajesty_Kwabz
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Why did you want to study your subject?

I always had an interest in politics growing up. Probably the earliest recollection of me experiencing a political event was when I was in Year 3, at the time of the 2010 General Election. Seeing David Cameron, the Conservative candidate win was intriguing to me, as prior to then, I could only ever remember seeing Gordon Brown's face on the TV whenever the news referred to the Prime Minister. Obviously, I didn't really know or understand much about politics during this time, but as I grew older I began to see the extent of its influence.

The Paris 2015 terrorist attacks were particularly significant to me as a result of the political motives behind them. I believed that the awful attacks at the Bataclan were generally the result of tensions that had grown more and more between militant groups like ISIS and the western world over time. As well of this, it became clearer to me how 'out of order' the world actually was; something that I would end up confirming during my Year 12 politics lessons.

Despite this, I never really considered what role history would play in all this. I hadn't taken GCSE History in Year 10 for a number of reasons; mostly being due to my school's lack of teachers/resources. When I moved somewhere else for sixth form, I decided to take History as an A-Level subject, hearing that it was a recommended subject for those who wanted to study Law at university, such as me at the time. Studying History introduced to me a whole new dimension of politics, and showed me just how broad both disciplines were. For example, I saw how historical and political concepts were present in religion, in philosophy, in the economy, and even in outer space! A-Level History was definitely very challenging for me, but it allowed me to appreciate how valuable the work of a historian is. They must take into account every small detail, every small fact, in order to either provide a powerful and effective argument on how they believe the past played out, or to provide general information that is basic enough for everyone to understand. The conceptual rigour of political theories allow historians to avoid tunnel vision and use 'big-picture thinking', which is just as important in understanding why things in the past happened as they did.

Overall, as I continued through Year 12, I began to realise more and more that I was not passionate enough about Law to do it as an undergrad degree. Although I wasn't doing very well in terms of my grades, History was something I enjoyed and could see myself doing, and despite receiving advice not to opt for a History degree, I decided to take on the challenge of applying for a joint course, and chose to do History and Politics.

Why Oxford?

This may be a very controversial thing to say on 'Oxford Demystified', but I actually originally wanted to apply to Cambridge! I even went to the open day and fell in love with Gonville and Caius College.

However, as I began Year 13... something wasn't right. I got in touch with current students at Caius and they didn't seem very friendly, helpful, or approachable. I didn't like the fact that you were practically forced to eat in hall 5 days a week. And on top of that... I didn't get the predicted grades for Cambridge. For History and Politics at Cambridge, I needed A*AA, and I ended up achieving AAA. I had originally been predicted AAB after my Year 12 mocks, however, my History teacher agreed to move my grade up if I sent him a completed essay, which I did.

So... I was left with a very hard choice to make. Either apply to Cambridge with AAA and risk not even getting an interview, or apply to Oxford with AAA and have the same chance of getting in as everyone else. I decided,, not long after submitting my UCAS application, to take the plunge and substitute Cambridge to Oxford as one of my 5 choices, the others being UCL, Birmingham, Lancaster, and Royal Holloway.

And I'm glad to say I absolutely don't regret the decision I made. Through the application process, I realised that Oxford was actually a much better fit for me than Cambridge. I had gone on a school trip to Christ Church in February, and although it was beautiful, I was convinced that Oxford would not take me because of my GCSEs, which were some of the best in my secondary school, but probably not good enough for Oxford. Now I know that Oxford looks at all applications in context, meaning they look at your qualifications in relation to the school you went to. For example, I achieved (in terms of the old grades) 3 A*s, 4 As, 1 B and 2 Cs. Not good enough for the typical Oxford applicant, right? However, because these grades were achieved in a school that generally is quite low-achieving, these to Oxford would look as if I had achieved 7 A*s and 3 As. In other words, my grades would still look pretty good.

Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other expert (TV presenter etc)

I've had my share of teachers that have inspired me, and teachers that have... not.

I really enjoyed my History lessons on the Cold War in Year 12. I particularly enjoyed being taught by my teacher, as his lessons always seemed to me as if they were taught for the mere purpose of learning more about history, rather than to pass an exam. I remember him telling us more about himself at the start of Year 12, that he left school with few qualifications and worked as a builder for a while, before doing night classes and deciding to take on a PhD in History whilst also teaching on the side. I remember just before mock exams, I didn't do very well on a test and was freaking out (I had a panic attack that day). He told me that I had the potential to get a first in university. which made me feel slightly better, as I always doubted myself in everything that I did. I ended up not doing well (to my standards) in the mock exam, so I was very surprised when he agreed to predict me an A in the end.

I also watched a film called 'The Man Who Knew Infinity'. It was recommended to me from the Trinity College Cambridge residential I went to, and although it focuses on Ramanujan, a mathematician, it inspired me to think more passionately about my subject of choice. It also made me more excited about the prospect of studying it at a university renowned for great minds who have changed the world.

As well as this, my Politics teacher (and head of Year 12) was also very supportive when I told her I had finally been predicted AAA. She said that Cambridge maybe wasn't possible, but if I chose to apply to Oxford, she could put me in touch with the access officer at Mansfield College. She gave me the details, but I never used them. Turns out Mansfield doesn't offer History and Politics (tip: make sure you check the list of colleges that offer your course!).

And then there was my Year 13 History teacher. I did something very bad at the start of Year 13 (I won't go into details here) and since then, I'm pretty sure I've always been in her bad books. I tried to work as hard as I could given my circumstances at the time, as did the rest of my class, but because History is traditionally a very hard subject, it was no walk in the park. We even got told to 'kiss all those top unis goodbye' after we as a class had all failed a test. Not very inspiring. At all.

Which resources did you use (please name as many as possible) Which books/journals did you read? Which did you like best, and why? What did they teach you?

I used loads! So bear with me, this is gonna take a while.

For Oxford (and for top unis in general), having a very academic personal statement is really important. So I made sure I read loads of books. For History in particular, top unis like it when you explore something that is beyond (or not even related to) the topics you are studying at school, so I took advantage of this and read books and watched documentaries revolving around modern British history, with a particular focus on the welfare state:

- London Labour & The London Poor by Matthew J. Mayhew
- A Night In A Workhouse by James Greenwood
- The Evolution of the British Welfare State by Derek Fraser
- Workers or Shirkers? Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits
- The NHS: A Difficult Beginning

As well as this, I also read books that helped me to further my understanding of concepts and topics in both History and Politics. This is another reason I chose to do History and Politics, as there are many features of both subjects that complement each other. For example, when I was studying the Vietnam War as part of the Cold War, I read and researched more about military tactics and about why it is that wars break out in the first place. This reinforced my knowledge of realism and liberalism, two theories that I learned about in Politics. I also watched a documentary and a film on the Vietnam War within the Cold War, in order to reinforce my 'big-picture thinking'.

- Key Concepts in Military Ethics by Deane Peter-Baker
- The Cold War: CNN Documentary
- The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Finally, I also read Politics books that were based on my interests. As well as reading up on the news (very important for Politics students), I also read commentaries on political events, taking into account the fact that they were simply 'commentaries'; opinions on a certain subject. I also have an interest in how political theory will evolve into the future, and also read some very interesting books pertaining to this.

- Future Politics: Living In A World Transformed By Tech by Jamie Susskind
- Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler
- Brexit, Trump and the Media by John Mair (& others)

Here are some other resources I found interesting and useful:

- Oxplore
- History & Policy website
- My HE+
- Alternate History Hub on YouTube
- Politics Unboringed on YouTube

Did you attend any lectures, or take part in any competitions? If so, would you recommend them, and why?

I went on lots of residential and summer schools, which I absolutely recommend doing if you're in Year 12 and a state school student from the UK who fits the widening participation criteria.

I, unfortunately, didn't get onto Oxford's UNIQ spring/summer residential (they offered me the online programme instead). However, the two Cambridge residentials (one at Trinity College and the other at Robinson College) more than made up for whatever I missed at Oxford, although I heard it was really good, so whoever's reading this, please apply to UNIQ!

As well as this, I did summer schools at Birmingham and Lancaster, and I ended up putting both unis down on my UCAS and receiving offers from both. The perk of summer schools is that for many unis, if you attend, they could potentially either give you a guaranteed offer or a lower offer, so in the event that Oxford doesn't work out, you still have 4 great (lower) offers to choose from! For me, all of my uni offers, except Oxford, were reduced, with the lowest being BBB with a B in my EPQ.

I attended a Politics open day at Queen Mary. It was a day full of lectures that revolved around both UK and global politics. I was also able to meet the actual creators of my A-Level Politics course! Open days and taster days also give you the opportunity to look around unis and see what they're like. I had a look around Queen Mary and personally didn't like it, so it wasn't going on my list!

Did you have any work experience? If so, how did you find it?

During my time in sixth form, I did two work experience placements.

The first was at my local Barclays bank during the Easter holidays. Although I knew that banks weren't explicitly linked to History and Politics, I came out of my placement 4 days later to see that I was wrong! There was so much going on in the bank that I could link to my subject. When I was helping assist people at the ATMs, I saw rich people, I saw poor people, I saw people who weren't familiar with technology, and I saw people who were so well off that they didn't associate with the normal 'peasant' customers - they went straight to the 'premier banking room'. It was from this experience that I learned more about how history and politics were both strongly linked to money and the economy - and fun fact, the bank I worked at hosts the world's first ATM!

I also did a longer work experience placement with a law firm. The first week consisted of work shadowing, whilst the second involved going to different companies across London and seeing how the legal teams worked there. I learned about what being a solicitor involved and gained many useful contacts, many of which went to Oxford and Cambridge! Working with my mentor in the real estate department showed me in particular how relevant a degree like History and Politics is in the workplace. Many laws require careful attention to detail (which can be gained from studying History) as well as the 'big-picture thinking' approach of politics in order to be understood fully. Therefore, I think I could see myself becoming a real estate solicitor in the future, but as of now, I'm not sure.
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HisMajesty_Kwabz
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Did you have a specialist subject/EPQ? What was it? How did you go about your research?

During Year 13, I did an EPQ. My question was 'How has the gradual rollout of Universal Credit affected deprived families and communities since 2010?'

I decided to do this question, as first of all, my family (my mum who works in a supermarket, my younger brother and I) are on Universal Credit, and it has been hard, so I wanted to see if some of our hardships were shared by all UC claimants across the country.

As well as this, Universal Credit was often in the news for being highly inefficient and poorly planned. It failed to end the culture of welfare dependency that had grown in the country, according to various critics. The history behind Universal Credit, benefits and the welfare state tied in hugely with my own historical interests, and although it ended up being more politics-focused, I decided to go for it anyway.

It was hard to find books to aid my research, seeing as Universal Credit is quite a new topic, so I aimed to use government reports instead, in order to make my work seem more academic. I also had interviews with people and consulted many online news sources, particularly from more niche websites. I finished writing my EPQ in December and am currently awaiting the results. Even if I don't do as well as I hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and saw it as useful preparation for what writing an essay at uni might be like.

What did you mention in your personal statement and why?

My personal statement was a big dilemma for me. I was applying for History and Politics, and by the end of the summer, I feared that I didn't have enough to write about in terms of History, so my personal statement would end up sounding really, really, political, which I was worried might put Oxford off.

Nevertheless, probably the most important advice I would give when writing a personal statement is to be honest. Look at your life in its entirety and pick out the bits that sparked your interest in the subject you've chosen. But I don't mean 'ever since I was young, I've always wanted to do sports science with a foundation year', cos, like... no, you didn't. Shut up.

But I mean mentioning topics that you are 100% sure you are passionate about. This is particularly important because if you are invited to an interview at Oxford, chances are it's because they liked what you wrote on your personal statement, and they want to discuss it with you. Therefore, you need to be able to talk about it!

In my personal statement, I wrote about why I enjoyed both history and politics and spoke about my EPQ, the History books I read (which I mentioned earlier), the documentaries I watched, the podcasts I listened to, etc...

These are known as 'super-curricular activities' and are really important to do if you're looking to apply to a top university.

I originally put a paragraph on what I was learning in History at the time (the Vietnam War). However, when my headteacher looked at it and quizzed me on it, it became clear that I wasn't able to speak much on the topic, so I ended up not putting it in, which was actually such a blessing in disguise, cos not writing about it made my final statement so much stronger than if I had put it in.

I did have extenuating circumstances surrounding my application, so I made sure to put a little hint in my statement (I asked my teachers to put my circumstances in my reference). I made it clear, however, that despite those circumstances, I was still able to achieve well and show my passion for my subjects, even if I ended up achieving slightly lower grades than I hoped for at the end of Year 12.

Which techniques did you use for the entrance test?

The History Admissions Test (HAT) was the admissions test I had to take for History and Politics. It might have been the strangest test I've ever taken in my life, in terms of the way I had to prepare for it, as well as the test itself.

The way it works is that you get an extract: it could be an extract from a book, a list of requests, or a transcript from an interview, and you have to use evidence from the text you are given in order to answer the question they give you.

What I should make clear is that the question changes. And for that reason, I don't recommend banging out every single HAT past paper. Because that's exactly what I did, and when I got the actual test, I received the shock of my life. I got a question that was completely different from anything I had seen in the past papers.

I literally walked out of the exam hall thinking... 'Guess who's off to Birmingham???'

And then I got an interview... meaning I must have done well to some extent!

In terms of techniques and tips for preparing, I would say, first of all, make sure you are familiar with the layout of the exam, as this will definitely help on the day. Make sure you know how long you have to answer the question, as well as how much to write and how long you have to read and annotate the extract.

Whilst you are reading and annotating the extract, make sure to pick out the pieces of the extract that could potentially be the strongest points of your answer. Make sure to give these points the most weight when you are writing - they should be your 1st/2nd main paragraphs. From there, you can write about points that are also interesting, but less relevant. DO NOT try to link to any outside historical knowledge - you will be penalised for this. Only work within the confines of the question.

What was helpful for me was actually doing some of the Cambridge exam past papers! These I found to be much harder than the Oxford ones, as you have to read and analyse two extracts at once and make comparisons between them in order to answer the question. The reason I say this is effective preparation is that this type of exams makes you better at spotting things within the extract you will be given within the HAT test; it sharpens your analysis skills and also allows you to spot similarities and differences within the same extract.
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HisMajesty_Kwabz
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How did you choose your college? Did you go to an open day and if so, did it help you to decide?

When I applied to Cambridge, I had already gone to the open day, so there was no doubt I was picking Gonville and Caius. However, once I saw the light and opted for Oxford instead, I wasn't as clued up on the colleges. As a result, I didn't do as much research on the Oxford colleges, or whether or not they were suited to me.

Some things that were important for me in picking my college were the quality/availability of the accommodation, the reputation of the college, and the architecture (I was 100% sure I didn't want a modern college.)

I finally settled on Wadham College. It was traditional, but not Christ Church posh, and at the same time, it wasn't too big or overbearing. It seemed to be fairly academic by Oxford standards and had quite a good reputation amongst Oxford colleges. It had a dedication to access and had a friendly and open vibe about it. The first-year accommodation wasn't ensuite, but I was willing to overlook this in favour of having a more genuine 'Oxford' experience living in an old room. It seemed that Wadham was the one.

And then... something weird happened. Just before the admissions test, I had been told by the admissions team at Oxford that I had been reallocated to St. Hugh's. I honestly don't know why this happened; if it was some sort of technical fault, or because of Wadham's admissions team - I simply don't know.

Following the admissions test, I was then emailed with my interview invite - but it seemed I had been pooled AGAIN to a different college - Corpus Christi.

I honestly didn't know much about Corpus, and so as soon as I got home that day, I researched more about it. Founded in 1517 by Richard Foxe, it's one of the smallest Oxford colleges, with an intake of only 60-70 students a year. It has a reputation for Classics and is centrally located in Oxford, neighbouring Oriel, Merton, and Christ Church, while also benefitting from being near Christ Church Meadows as well.

Now, I was very much of the impression that because smaller colleges took fewer people, they were more competitive to get into, so I was overjoyed to find that I had been pooled to a small college. And as I would come to find out, being at a small college was a much better fit for me than I first thought.



How did you find the interview process?

The interview process for me was about more than just getting in. It was a chance for me to see if Oxford as a university would be a good fit for me. I didn't know a lot about Oxford at the time, so this was a good chance to experience life as a student both at Oxford, and at Corpus Christi.

The actual interviews were a lot less scary and intimidating than I thought they were going to be. I previously had had lots of mock interviews, both from my school and other access initiatives. The ones I had in school, needless to say, went very badly, and could have stripped me of my confidence in the actual thing. I was literally being stopped every 10 seconds I spoke and told 'don't say this, don't say that, etc.'

I think my school had a very traditional view of how Oxbridge interviews worked, so made sure my mock interviews were as challenging as possible. I should say to anyone worried about interviews though, that the people interviewing you are seriously considering making you an offer to study at their college. They have seen you on paper and have liked what they have seen. They are interested in what YOU have to say, so they will never cut you off or make you feel uncomfortable. The interview is intended to represent a tutorial, so they, most of all, want to see if you would thrive in such an environment. Many people get As and A*s at A-Level, but fail to get into Oxbridge simply because either the interview shows that they wouldn't thrive in a tutorial setting, or because the admissions process is so competitive that many amazing people lose out. Either way, please remember if you have an interview invite, the tutors believe they've identified someone really good. So be yourself and show them what you've got!

Any interview tips?

- Make sure you re-read your personal statement and written work. I was told before my History interview that they wouldn't ask me about my written work - and then they did. Luckily I had read it beforehand. If you can, try and think of some different angles to the points and arguments you made in that essay. It will make you look like a much broader thinker and show that you have reflected on your essay since writing it.

- Try and invite different ways of thinking when answering a question - but don't be a pushover and immediately agree with what the interviewer is saying. It's awesome if you can use different theories and interpretations (e.g. Marxist, feminist, liberal) for your answers, but don't religiously stick to them, because you will be expected to think about the merits and flaws of any theory/interpretation you bring up.

- Don't feel pressured to name-drop or talk about any books if you genuinely can't remember anything about them. In my History interview, I was asked a question from my personal statement, and I think they wanted me to talk about a book I had read in order to back up my points. However, I didn't - I used my EPQ instead because I knew much more about that and was more confident talking about it. It proved to be a much better way of answering the question.

- Don't be afraid of getting things wrong! An Oxford interview is not a test of your intelligence, or how much you know, but rather, it's to see whether you would thrive in the Oxford environment. For this reason, it doesn't matter if you get a statistic wrong, for example - the fact that you even used a statistic in the first place is much more indicative of your ability to do well in an Oxford degree.

- You may find it helpful to do some basic revision over simple A-Level topics that relate to your interview (e.g. comparative theories in Politics or the causes of the Cold War in History). Not too much, though! You don't want to burn yourself out with extensive revision before your interview.

Did you socialise during interview week? If so, what did you do?

I wrote earlier that going to the Oxford interviews was a chance for me to experience what Oxford life would be like. That includes the social side of things.

I met a girl in the college bar who was also applying for History and Politics. We spoke for a while and went to the JCR where we met a bunch of other people, applying for subjects such as straight History, History and English, Classics, PPE, etc.

We had dinner in Corpus's hall, which was amazing. Coming from London, the food was slightly blander than I was used to, but it was still quite good. We spent the rest of the evening chatting in the JCR about where we were from, what we were applying for, what we thought of it so far, as well as lots of other, non-interview related stuff.

The next day, I was the last to interview, and my interview wasn't until 5pm, meaning I had a lot of free time. Me and some new friends I had made decided to spend the day checking out other colleges. We had a walk around Magdalen College's grounds, checking out the deer park (the deer are so awesome) and taking in the winter sunshine. Following that, we went to Westgate, where we did some window shopping and I had to get some more toothpaste from Sainsbury's because I ran out earlier. I also picked up a pretzel! Exciting, I know.

We checked out some other colleges, including Worcester and Wadham. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I actually would have liked Wadham; the vibe for me was just off. We loved literally walking into the Porter's Lodge of each college and staring the porters in the eyes as we walked into each college. It felt so illegal to do, but I wasn't scared of them. After that, we took a lovely stroll through Christ Church Meadows on our way back to Corpus.

I also met up with some friends from other colleges. I met my friend who was applying to Queen's for Law, as well as my other friend who was applying for Spanish at Lincoln. On the second night, my group of friends from Corpus, as well as my Queen's friend all went down to the Christmas markets outside Balliol. I got some churros (they were peng) and we checked out some other places, including the Bodleian Library and Blackwell's, before heading to the Radcliffe Camera for that one legendary Instagram group picture. Squad goals!

We also had fun inside college. On the first night, the interview helpers organised a pub quiz for us, followed by snooker and darts. We (as History students) also attempted on another night to play 'Diplomacy'. It's a very intelligent game that requires a strong understanding of international relations (the PPE students played it very passionately!). Alas, we failed and gave up after about half an hour.

Corpus had also arranged to use their TV room for everyone to watch the General Election one evening. I didn't go because I was just too tired after a long day, but I caught up the following morning when everyone had found out the Conservatives won. This was naturally followed by a very 'Oxford' conversation about the impact this would no doubt have on the NHS.

Probably the most enjoyable moments of my interview experience was the time I spent in the Corpus JCR. It's really cosy and the people are so nice and friendly. They even gave us tea and biscuits! More importantly, I loved meeting different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Don't avoid the private school people, btw. They're not all as snobby and posh as everyone thinks, and some of them actually really nice. One even bought us all Starbucks! Yet it was from one of them that the tea spilled about some of the Oxford colleges:

'I'm so happy I'm at Corpus, it's a lovely college. But, oh my days, St. Peter's are horrible people, and apparently, because everyone at St. Hugh's got pooled to St. Hugh's, no one actually wants to be there, and so no one actually socialises there- everyone's just in their rooms.'

Now, this is just the opinion of one person, and I'm sure it's mostly not true. But in relation to the last part of that sentence, I would encourage anyone reading this who has an interview to socialise with people. If you're gonna be potentially studying and living at Oxford for three years, it's worth actually getting to know your future college-mates. It's worth taking a tour around the college to see what it's like. It's worth going to Westgate, and the Rad Cam and the Covered Market to get a feel of what Oxford as a city is like. It's not worth staying in your room for four days not talking to anyone, keeping to yourself and worrying about the interview - as that defeats the whole point of the experience - to see what Oxford is like from your perspective and to see if it's for you. Even if you don't get in, you can still say you stayed at one of the world's best universities for a few days and spoke to world-class academics about topics and things you enjoy.
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How did you feel after the interviews?

After the interviews was a very stressful time for me. I was deathly afraid of being rejected for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if I was rejected from Oxford, I would then have to pick between UCL (ABB for History) and Birmingham (BBB for Politics and IR). I liked UCL but there were various personal reasons as to why I was hesitant to pick it as my firm. On the other hand, I loved Birmingham at the open day and the summer school was also pretty good. However, I didn't feel like Birmingham was academic enough for me, and although I'm sure that Birmingham has amazing academics and has a good reputation overall, I wanted more of a challenge when it came to my education.

As well as this, out of the 6 people that were applying for History and Politics, I had the lowest predicted grades (AAA). My impostor syndrome came knocking as I began to question myself. I wasn't nearly as accomplished as some of the people I was up against. They all had straight A*A*A* predicted, came from upper-middle-class backgrounds with parents who had previously gone to Oxbridge, and seemed so clued up on historical and political events. When they spoke about politics, they spoke with such conviction and passion that it made me believe I should have just taken that BBB offer from Birmingham, because somewhere like Oxford wasn't for me.

However, I remember the History tutors taking everyone into a room before the interviews and saying 'Well done for believing in yourself and believing you were good enough to apply because so many bright people don't.' Looking at the amazing 4 days I had in Oxford during my interview, it made me realise that, yes, I can make friends here. I can thrive in a place like Oxford, and despite society dictating that someone from my background shouldn't be in a place like this, at the same time, society does not dictate what I believe to be possible for myself. The interviews showed that I was an inch away from getting into one of the most prestigious and selective universities in the world, and the overwhelmingly positive experience I had made me hope more and more that I would receive an offer.

Where were you when you got your offer? How did you react?

So I was at home the morning I got my offer. The night before, I had been crying and stressing because I literally didn't know what was going to happen, whether I was gonna go to Oxford or end up having to choose between UCL and Birmingham. I remember waking up, immediately opting not to check my phone in case they had sent it as an email. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, prayed and read my Bible for a bit... and then I checked.

I saw on my phone a notification, from the Corpus Snapchat group. One person hadn't gotten in. That was 1/6 gone. There were 2 places for History and Politics. Then another. Then another. Then another. All of the people who I thought would have gotten in were actually rejected. Leaving 2. So who could it have been?

Me? LOL, no. It was probably one guy and then someone... they interviewed online from overseas, I don't know. I went onto Track, my hands shaking. I went to the login page and then... Jesus, take the wheel... I clicked.

I saw 'University of Oxford has offered you a place for History and Politics, subject to you meeting the offer conditions.; and I was like ohhhhhh my days!

They picked me! Probably the least qualified candidate out of the 6 and they picked me! I cried. A lot. And I hugged my mum too. I had an offer to study at one of the best unis in the world - if I got AAA. That would be tough, but it was at the back of my mind. I was just so glad and so grateful to have gotten in. I was relieved that all of my hard work had paid off. And I was ready to kill my A-Levels and get to Oxford.

Are you looking forward to coming up to Oxford?

Well, as of now, we now know that that 'kill my A-Levels' statement did not happen. Thanks, corona.

I'm writing this at 3 in the morning and I have literally enjoyed writing this so much. Being able to relive the experiences of the interview has made me so much more excited to come down to Oxford, particularly to learn about topics that actually interest me, instead of topics that are forced on me at A-Level.

I often do worry about the impact my predicted grades will have on my offer. I was lucky enough to end up being predicted AAA at the end of Year 12. But what makes this hard is the fact that I had a very supportive teacher in Year 12, but in Year 13 this was not the case, and I never actually achieved an A in any History assignment I did. Obviously, at the start this was down to circumstances, but I still tried really hard to push my grades up, having hired a tutor and everything to help me with essay structure, as well as learning the content myself. There's nothing I can do now, only wait until August to see if that was enough, and even if it wasn't, Oxford may be lenient, but there's currently no way of knowing what that means.

Hopefully it will work out for the best. I've made so many friends through the Oxford offer-holder group chats (there are soooo many group chats) and I honestly can't wait to meet them in real life! But until then, I will wait. With anticipation and trepidation. And hope that the exam boards don't do me dirty. So that I can one day matriculate and say that everything that I did, the tears, stress and anxiety, and long hours spent revising, was all worth it.

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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Why did you want to study your subject?

I always had an interest in politics growing up. Probably the earliest recollection of me experiencing a political event was when I was in Year 3, at the time of the 2010 General Election. Seeing David Cameron, the Conservative candidate win was intriguing to me, as prior to then, I could only ever remember seeing Gordon Brown's face on the TV whenever the news referred to the Prime Minister. Obviously, I didn't really know or understand much about politics during this time, but as I grew older I began to see the extent of its influence.

The Paris 2015 terrorist attacks were particularly significant to me as a result of the political motives behind them. I believed that the awful attacks at the Bataclan were generally the result of tensions that had grown more and more between militant groups like ISIS and the western world over time. As well of this, it became clearer to me how 'out of order' the world actually was; something that I would end up confirming during my Year 12 politics lessons.

Despite this, I never really considered what role history would play in all this. I hadn't taken GCSE History in Year 10 for a number of reasons; mostly being due to my school's lack of teachers/resources. When I moved somewhere else for sixth form, I decided to take History as an A-Level subject, hearing that it was a recommended subject for those who wanted to study Law at university, such as me at the time. Studying History introduced to me a whole new dimension of politics, and showed me just how broad both disciplines were. For example, I saw how historical and political concepts were present in religion, in philosophy, in the economy, and even in outer space! A-Level History was definitely very challenging for me, but it allowed me to appreciate how valuable the work of a historian is. They must take into account every small detail, every small fact, in order to either provide a powerful and effective argument on how they believe the past played out, or to provide general information that is basic enough for everyone to understand. The conceptual rigour of political theories allow historians to avoid tunnel vision and use 'big-picture thinking', which is just as important in understanding why things in the past happened as they did.

Overall, as I continued through Year 12, I began to realise more and more that I was not passionate enough about Law to do it as an undergrad degree. Although I wasn't doing very well in terms of my grades, History was something I enjoyed and could see myself doing, and despite receiving advice not to opt for a History degree, I decided to take on the challenge of applying for a joint course, and chose to do History and Politics.

Why Oxford?

This may be a very controversial thing to say on 'Oxford Demystified', but I actually originally wanted to apply to Cambridge! I even went to the open day and fell in love with Gonville and Caius College.

However, as I began Year 13... something wasn't right. I got in touch with current students at Caius and they didn't seem very friendly, helpful, or approachable. I didn't like the fact that you were practically forced to eat in hall 5 days a week. And on top of that... I didn't get the predicted grades for Cambridge. For History and Politics at Cambridge, I needed A*AA, and I ended up achieving AAA. I had originally been predicted AAB after my Year 12 mocks, however, my History teacher agreed to move my grade up if I sent him a completed essay, which I did.

So... I was left with a very hard choice to make. Either apply to Cambridge with AAA and risk not even getting an interview, or apply to Oxford with AAA and have the same chance of getting in as everyone else. I decided,, not long after submitting my UCAS application, to take the plunge and substitute Cambridge to Oxford as one of my 5 choices, the others being UCL, Birmingham, Lancaster, and Royal Holloway.

And I'm glad to say I absolutely don't regret the decision I made. Through the application process, I realised that Oxford was actually a much better fit for me than Cambridge. I had gone on a school trip to Christ Church in February, and although it was beautiful, I was convinced that Oxford would not take me because of my GCSEs, which were some of the best in my secondary school, but probably not good enough for Oxford. Now I know that Oxford looks at all applications in context, meaning they look at your qualifications in relation to the school you went to. For example, I achieved (in terms of the old grades) 3 A*s, 4 As, 1 B and 2 Cs. Not good enough for the typical Oxford applicant, right? However, because these grades were achieved in a school that generally is quite low-achieving, these to Oxford would look as if I had achieved 7 A*s and 3 As. In other words, my grades would still look pretty good.

Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other expert (TV presenter etc)

I've had my share of teachers that have inspired me, and teachers that have... not.

I really enjoyed my History lessons on the Cold War in Year 12. I particularly enjoyed being taught by my teacher, as his lessons always seemed to me as if they were taught for the mere purpose of learning more about history, rather than to pass an exam. I remember him telling us more about himself at the start of Year 12, that he left school with few qualifications and worked as a builder for a while, before doing night classes and deciding to take on a PhD in History whilst also teaching on the side. I remember just before mock exams, I didn't do very well on a test and was freaking out (I had a panic attack that day). He told me that I had the potential to get a first in university. which made me feel slightly better, as I always doubted myself in everything that I did. I ended up not doing well (to my standards) in the mock exam, so I was very surprised when he agreed to predict me an A in the end.

I also watched a film called 'The Man Who Knew Infinity'. It was recommended to me from the Trinity College Cambridge residential I went to, and although it focuses on Ramanujan, a mathematician, it inspired me to think more passionately about my subject of choice. It also made me more excited about the prospect of studying it at a university renowned for great minds who have changed the world.

As well as this, my Politics teacher (and head of Year 12) was also very supportive when I told her I had finally been predicted AAA. She said that Cambridge maybe wasn't possible, but if I chose to apply to Oxford, she could put me in touch with the access officer at Mansfield College. She gave me the details, but I never used them. Turns out Mansfield doesn't offer History and Politics (tip: make sure you check the list of colleges that offer your course!).

And then there was my Year 13 History teacher. I did something very bad at the start of Year 13 (I won't go into details here) and since then, I'm pretty sure I've always been in her bad books. I tried to work as hard as I could given my circumstances at the time, as did the rest of my class, but because History is traditionally a very hard subject, it was no walk in the park. We even got told to 'kiss all those top unis goodbye' after we as a class had all failed a test. Not very inspiring. At all.

Which resources did you use (please name as many as possible) Which books/journals did you read? Which did you like best, and why? What did they teach you?

I used loads! So bear with me, this is gonna take a while.

For Oxford (and for top unis in general), having a very academic personal statement is really important. So I made sure I read loads of books. For History in particular, top unis like it when you explore something that is beyond (or not even related to) the topics you are studying at school, so I took advantage of this and read books and watched documentaries revolving around modern British history, with a particular focus on the welfare state:

- London Labour & The London Poor by Matthew J. Mayhew
- A Night In A Workhouse by James Greenwood
- The Evolution of the British Welfare State by Derek Fraser
- Workers or Shirkers? Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits
- The NHS: A Difficult Beginning

As well as this, I also read books that helped me to further my understanding of concepts and topics in both History and Politics. This is another reason I chose to do History and Politics, as there are many features of both subjects that complement each other. For example, when I was studying the Vietnam War as part of the Cold War, I read and researched more about military tactics and about why it is that wars break out in the first place. This reinforced my knowledge of realism and liberalism, two theories that I learned about in Politics. I also watched a documentary and a film on the Vietnam War within the Cold War, in order to reinforce my 'big-picture thinking'.

- Key Concepts in Military Ethics by Deane Peter-Baker
- The Cold War: CNN Documentary
- The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Finally, I also read Politics books that were based on my interests. As well as reading up on the news (very important for Politics students), I also read commentaries on political events, taking into account the fact that they were simply 'commentaries'; opinions on a certain subject. I also have an interest in how political theory will evolve into the future, and also read some very interesting books pertaining to this.

- Future Politics: Living In A World Transformed By Tech by Jamie Susskind
- Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler
- Brexit, Trump and the Media by John Mair (& others)

Here are some other resources I found interesting and useful:

- Oxplore
- History & Policy website
- My HE+
- Alternate History Hub on YouTube
- Politics Unboringed on YouTube

Did you attend any lectures, or take part in any competitions? If so, would you recommend them, and why?

I went on lots of residential and summer schools, which I absolutely recommend doing if you're in Year 12 and a state school student from the UK who fits the widening participation criteria.

I, unfortunately, didn't get onto Oxford's UNIQ spring/summer residential (they offered me the online programme instead). However, the two Cambridge residentials (one at Trinity College and the other at Robinson College) more than made up for whatever I missed at Oxford, although I heard it was really good, so whoever's reading this, please apply to UNIQ!

As well as this, I did summer schools at Birmingham and Lancaster, and I ended up putting both unis down on my UCAS and receiving offers from both. The perk of summer schools is that for many unis, if you attend, they could potentially either give you a guaranteed offer or a lower offer, so in the event that Oxford doesn't work out, you still have 4 great (lower) offers to choose from! For me, all of my uni offers, except Oxford, were reduced, with the lowest being BBB with a B in my EPQ.

I attended a Politics open day at Queen Mary. It was a day full of lectures that revolved around both UK and global politics. I was also able to meet the actual creators of my A-Level Politics course! Open days and taster days also give you the opportunity to look around unis and see what they're like. I had a look around Queen Mary and personally didn't like it, so it wasn't going on my list!

Did you have any work experience? If so, how did you find it?

During my time in sixth form, I did two work experience placements.

The first was at my local Barclays bank during the Easter holidays. Although I knew that banks weren't explicitly linked to History and Politics, I came out of my placement 4 days later to see that I was wrong! There was so much going on in the bank that I could link to my subject. When I was helping assist people at the ATMs, I saw rich people, I saw poor people, I saw people who weren't familiar with technology, and I saw people who were so well off that they didn't associate with the normal 'peasant' customers - they went straight to the 'premier banking room'. It was from this experience that I learned more about how history and politics were both strongly linked to money and the economy - and fun fact, the bank I worked at hosts the world's first ATM!

I also did a longer work experience placement with a law firm. The first week consisted of work shadowing, whilst the second involved going to different companies across London and seeing how the legal teams worked there. I learned about what being a solicitor involved and gained many useful contacts, many of which went to Oxford and Cambridge! Working with my mentor in the real estate department showed me in particular how relevant a degree like History and Politics is in the workplace. Many laws require careful attention to detail (which can be gained from studying History) as well as the 'big-picture thinking' approach of politics in order to be understood fully. Therefore, I think I could see myself becoming a real estate solicitor in the future, but as of now, I'm not sure.
Where do I start with this? There is so much detail included here (the more,the merrier, as far as I'm concerned). Like many of the other offer holders writing chapters, you have thought about all your choices in so much detail. It's almost as if the rest of us are looking at your subject in monochrome, but you are seeing it in glorious technicolour!

Your interest starts at a young age, when you are amazed at the election and seeing a new prime minister's face in place of the former one. Few children at that age would have even cared.

If you thought the world is out of order during your A level politics course, I wonder how you feel about the Covid-19 epidemic? I am sure as a hist/pol student, you must be avidly be watching worldwide events unfold.

I am also amazed that you took history A level without studying it for GCSE, as well. That tells me a lot about your determination (important for an Oxford candidate) and the school for thinking outside the box and allowing you to take it.

Aware of how very important your university choices were, you wisely weighed up whether you should study law or hist/pol, or go to Oxford or Cambridge. It's important to see where your real talent lies. My son also wanted to study law with law in Europe, but changed to German, because he loved literature. Similarly, my younger son chose Oxford rather than Cambridge partly because he was not confident he would make the offer of A*A*A. In the end it was a wise choice, as he ended up with A*AA. It's also important to engage with people from the different unis as well. You actually reached out to Cambridge students but didn't gel. Fair play to you for trying.

As you say, you don't need to get astounding grades to get into Oxford for some humanities subjects. I knew someone who got in for history with 2 A*s at GCSE. My elder son got in for German with 3 x A*s. Having said that, looking at your remarks on this chapter, and the deep way you think of your subject, your potential is blindingly obvious! I only have to look at the way you viewed your work experience at Barclays to see this. You are analysing how your banking work relates to history by looking at the customers and how they react. You are aware that history is all about people, and how people differ, about rich and poor and how they relate (or don't relate) to each other. It's funny how those who have power (the rich ones who go straight to the premier room) who may be movers and shakers in real life, actually choose, by physically removing themselves from those they have power over, to be wilfully ignorant of those whose lives are in their hands.

I find the research on the welfare state fascinating!

When lockdown is over, you may be interested in visiting the workhouse

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the...ouse-southwell

which is actually located near me! It makes for a very illuminating visit and makes me glad I was not born in that era. The men and women were separated from each other, which must have been very hard for families.

I also note that you were very busy applying for schemes.. highly recommended (although obviously this year, with Covid-19, this is not possible).

It's lucky you had an inspirational teacher, who predicted you would get a first for your degree, when you doubted yourself. You only need one person to believe in you to succeed. Which is a good job, considering your other teacher, who told your class to "kiss all those top unis goodbye". My response to this teacher is literally unprintable.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Did you have a specialist subject/EPQ? What was it? How did you go about your research?

During Year 13, I did an EPQ. My question was 'How has the gradual rollout of Universal Credit affected deprived families and communities since 2010?'

I decided to do this question, as first of all, my family (my mum who works in a supermarket, my younger brother and I) are on Universal Credit, and it has been hard, so I wanted to see if some of our hardships were shared by all UC claimants across the country.

As well as this, Universal Credit was often in the news for being highly inefficient and poorly planned. It failed to end the culture of welfare dependency that had grown in the country, according to various critics. The history behind Universal Credit, benefits and the welfare state tied in hugely with my own historical interests, and although it ended up being more politics-focused, I decided to go for it anyway.

It was hard to find books to aid my research, seeing as Universal Credit is quite a new topic, so I aimed to use government reports instead, in order to make my work seem more academic. I also had interviews with people and consulted many online news sources, particularly from more niche websites. I finished writing my EPQ in December and am currently awaiting the results. Even if I don't do as well as I hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and saw it as useful preparation for what writing an essay at uni might be like.

What did you mention in your personal statement and why?

My personal statement was a big dilemma for me. I was applying for History and Politics, and by the end of the summer, I feared that I didn't have enough to write about in terms of History, so my personal statement would end up sounding really, really, political, which I was worried might put Oxford off.

Nevertheless, probably the most important advice I would give when writing a personal statement is to be honest. Look at your life in its entirety and pick out the bits that sparked your interest in the subject you've chosen. But I don't mean 'ever since I was young, I've always wanted to do sports science with a foundation year', cos, like... no, you didn't. Shut up.

But I mean mentioning topics that you are 100% sure you are passionate about. This is particularly important because if you are invited to an interview at Oxford, chances are it's because they liked what you wrote on your personal statement, and they want to discuss it with you. Therefore, you need to be able to talk about it!

In my personal statement, I wrote about why I enjoyed both history and politics and spoke about my EPQ, the History books I read (which I mentioned earlier), the documentaries I watched, the podcasts I listened to, etc...

These are known as 'super-curricular activities' and are really important to do if you're looking to apply to a top university.

I originally put a paragraph on what I was learning in History at the time (the Vietnam War). However, when my headteacher looked at it and quizzed me on it, it became clear that I wasn't able to speak much on the topic, so I ended up not putting it in, which was actually such a blessing in disguise, cos not writing about it made my final statement so much stronger than if I had put it in.

I did have extenuating circumstances surrounding my application, so I made sure to put a little hint in my statement (I asked my teachers to put my circumstances in my reference). I made it clear, however, that despite those circumstances, I was still able to achieve well and show my passion for my subjects, even if I ended up achieving slightly lower grades than I hoped for at the end of Year 12.

Which techniques did you use for the entrance test?

The History Admissions Test (HAT) was the admissions test I had to take for History and Politics. It might have been the strangest test I've ever taken in my life, in terms of the way I had to prepare for it, as well as the test itself.

The way it works is that you get an extract: it could be an extract from a book, a list of requests, or a transcript from an interview, and you have to use evidence from the text you are given in order to answer the question they give you.

What I should make clear is that the question changes. And for that reason, I don't recommend banging out every single HAT past paper. Because that's exactly what I did, and when I got the actual test, I received the shock of my life. I got a question that was completely different from anything I had seen in the past papers.

I literally walked out of the exam hall thinking... 'Guess who's off to Birmingham???'

And then I got an interview... meaning I must have done well to some extent!

In terms of techniques and tips for preparing, I would say, first of all, make sure you are familiar with the layout of the exam, as this will definitely help on the day. Make sure you know how long you have to answer the question, as well as how much to write and how long you have to read and annotate the extract.

Whilst you are reading and annotating the extract, make sure to pick out the pieces of the extract that could potentially be the strongest points of your answer. Make sure to give these points the most weight when you are writing - they should be your 1st/2nd main paragraphs. From there, you can write about points that are also interesting, but less relevant. DO NOT try to link to any outside historical knowledge - you will be penalised for this. Only work within the confines of the question.

What was helpful for me was actually doing some of the Cambridge exam past papers! These I found to be much harder than the Oxford ones, as you have to read and analyse two extracts at once and make comparisons between them in order to answer the question. The reason I say this is effective preparation is that this type of exams makes you better at spotting things within the extract you will be given within the HAT test; it sharpens your analysis skills and also allows you to spot similarities and differences within the same extract.
So I see you are carrying on your welfare theme through your EPQ, about universal credit. It's very interesting that you can draw on your personal experience, and that of your family to evaluate whether or not this is a good system. Unable to find books about this subject, you were not deterred, and found other sources of information, looking at government reports, scouring niche websites and interviewing people (who, out of interest?) You have gone to a great deal of trouble to find the details you need, and that is so very Oxford.

As for the personal statement, you have realised that it is a mixture of academic detail and selling your love for the subject. Yes, you were wise to show it to your teacher and to accept their criticism. My younger son had to change his PS nine times, because it was too academic, and not patient centric enough (it was for medicine).

The HAT test - no you didn't practise loads of past papers (funnily enough, a successful history re-applicant said exactly the opposite on the Oxford 2021 applicants' thread). However, like all other successful chapter writers, you didn't go into the test blind. You had a plan. You looked at timings, weighting of important points, advise us to not use outside knowledge of a historic period/subject etc. Wisely, you decided to use the more challenging Cambridge admissions tests to revise.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
How did you choose your college? Did you go to an open day and if so, did it help you to decide?

When I applied to Cambridge, I had already gone to the open day, so there was no doubt I was picking Gonville and Caius. However, once I saw the light and opted for Oxford instead, I wasn't as clued up on the colleges. As a result, I didn't do as much research on the Oxford colleges, or whether or not they were suited to me.

Some things that were important for me in picking my college were the quality/availability of the accommodation, the reputation of the college, and the architecture (I was 100% sure I didn't want a modern college.)

I finally settled on Wadham College. It was traditional, but not Christ Church posh, and at the same time, it wasn't too big or overbearing. It seemed to be fairly academic by Oxford standards and had quite a good reputation amongst Oxford colleges. It had a dedication to access and had a friendly and open vibe about it. The first-year accommodation wasn't ensuite, but I was willing to overlook this in favour of having a more genuine 'Oxford' experience living in an old room. It seemed that Wadham was the one.

And then... something weird happened. Just before the admissions test, I had been told by the admissions team at Oxford that I had been reallocated to St. Hugh's. I honestly don't know why this happened; if it was some sort of technical fault, or because of Wadham's admissions team - I simply don't know.

Following the admissions test, I was then emailed with my interview invite - but it seemed I had been pooled AGAIN to a different college - Corpus Christi.

I honestly didn't know much about Corpus, and so as soon as I got home that day, I researched more about it. Founded in 1517 by Richard Foxe, it's one of the smallest Oxford colleges, with an intake of only 60-70 students a year. It has a reputation for Classics and is centrally located in Oxford, neighbouring Oriel, Merton, and Christ Church, while also benefitting from being near Christ Church Meadows as well.

Now, I was very much of the impression that because smaller colleges took fewer people, they were more competitive to get into, so I was overjoyed to find that I had been pooled to a small college. And as I would come to find out, being at a small college was a much better fit for me than I first thought.



How did you find the interview process?

The interview process for me was about more than just getting in. It was a chance for me to see if Oxford as a university would be a good fit for me. I didn't know a lot about Oxford at the time, so this was a good chance to experience life as a student both at Oxford, and at Corpus Christi.

The actual interviews were a lot less scary and intimidating than I thought they were going to be. I previously had had lots of mock interviews, both from my school and other access initiatives. The ones I had in school, needless to say, went very badly, and could have stripped me of my confidence in the actual thing. I was literally being stopped every 10 seconds I spoke and told 'don't say this, don't say that, etc.'

I think my school had a very traditional view of how Oxbridge interviews worked, so made sure my mock interviews were as challenging as possible. I should say to anyone worried about interviews though, that the people interviewing you are seriously considering making you an offer to study at their college. They have seen you on paper and have liked what they have seen. They are interested in what YOU have to say, so they will never cut you off or make you feel uncomfortable. The interview is intended to represent a tutorial, so they, most of all, want to see if you would thrive in such an environment. Many people get As and A*s at A-Level, but fail to get into Oxbridge simply because either the interview shows that they wouldn't thrive in a tutorial setting, or because the admissions process is so competitive that many amazing people lose out. Either way, please remember if you have an interview invite, the tutors believe they've identified someone really good. So be yourself and show them what you've got!

Any interview tips?

- Make sure you re-read your personal statement and written work. I was told before my History interview that they wouldn't ask me about my written work - and then they did. Luckily I had read it beforehand. If you can, try and think of some different angles to the points and arguments you made in that essay. It will make you look like a much broader thinker and show that you have reflected on your essay since writing it.

- Try and invite different ways of thinking when answering a question - but don't be a pushover and immediately agree with what the interviewer is saying. It's awesome if you can use different theories and interpretations (e.g. Marxist, feminist, liberal) for your answers, but don't religiously stick to them, because you will be expected to think about the merits and flaws of any theory/interpretation you bring up.

- Don't feel pressured to name-drop or talk about any books if you genuinely can't remember anything about them. In my History interview, I was asked a question from my personal statement, and I think they wanted me to talk about a book I had read in order to back up my points. However, I didn't - I used my EPQ instead because I knew much more about that and was more confident talking about it. It proved to be a much better way of answering the question.

- Don't be afraid of getting things wrong! An Oxford interview is not a test of your intelligence, or how much you know, but rather, it's to see whether you would thrive in the Oxford environment. For this reason, it doesn't matter if you get a statistic wrong, for example - the fact that you even used a statistic in the first place is much more indicative of your ability to do well in an Oxford degree.

- You may find it helpful to do some basic revision over simple A-Level topics that relate to your interview (e.g. comparative theories in Politics or the causes of the Cold War in History). Not too much, though! You don't want to burn yourself out with extensive revision before your interview.

Did you socialise during interview week? If so, what did you do?

I wrote earlier that going to the Oxford interviews was a chance for me to experience what Oxford life would be like. That includes the social side of things.

I met a girl in the college bar who was also applying for History and Politics. We spoke for a while and went to the JCR where we met a bunch of other people, applying for subjects such as straight History, History and English, Classics, PPE, etc.

We had dinner in Corpus's hall, which was amazing. Coming from London, the food was slightly blander than I was used to, but it was still quite good. We spent the rest of the evening chatting in the JCR about where we were from, what we were applying for, what we thought of it so far, as well as lots of other, non-interview related stuff.

The next day, I was the last to interview, and my interview wasn't until 5pm, meaning I had a lot of free time. Me and some new friends I had made decided to spend the day checking out other colleges. We had a walk around Magdalen College's grounds, checking out the deer park (the deer are so awesome) and taking in the winter sunshine. Following that, we went to Westgate, where we did some window shopping and I had to get some more toothpaste from Sainsbury's because I ran out earlier. I also picked up a pretzel! Exciting, I know.

We checked out some other colleges, including Worcester and Wadham. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I actually would have liked Wadham; the vibe for me was just off. We loved literally walking into the Porter's Lodge of each college and staring the porters in the eyes as we walked into each college. It felt so illegal to do, but I wasn't scared of them. After that, we took a lovely stroll through Christ Church Meadows on our way back to Corpus.

I also met up with some friends from other colleges. I met my friend who was applying to Queen's for Law, as well as my other friend who was applying for Spanish at Lincoln. On the second night, my group of friends from Corpus, as well as my Queen's friend all went down to the Christmas markets outside Balliol. I got some churros (they were peng) and we checked out some other places, including the Bodleian Library and Blackwell's, before heading to the Radcliffe Camera for that one legendary Instagram group picture. Squad goals!

We also had fun inside college. On the first night, the interview helpers organised a pub quiz for us, followed by snooker and darts. We (as History students) also attempted on another night to play 'Diplomacy'. It's a very intelligent game that requires a strong understanding of international relations (the PPE students played it very passionately!). Alas, we failed and gave up after about half an hour.

Corpus had also arranged to use their TV room for everyone to watch the General Election one evening. I didn't go because I was just too tired after a long day, but I caught up the following morning when everyone had found out the Conservatives won. This was naturally followed by a very 'Oxford' conversation about the impact this would no doubt have on the NHS.

Probably the most enjoyable moments of my interview experience was the time I spent in the Corpus JCR. It's really cosy and the people are so nice and friendly. They even gave us tea and biscuits! More importantly, I loved meeting different people from all sorts of backgrounds. Don't avoid the private school people, btw. They're not all as snobby and posh as everyone thinks, and some of them actually really nice. One even bought us all Starbucks! Yet it was from one of them that the tea spilled about some of the Oxford colleges:

'I'm so happy I'm at Corpus, it's a lovely college. But, oh my days, St. Peter's are horrible people, and apparently, because everyone at St. Hugh's got pooled to St. Hugh's, no one actually wants to be there, and so no one actually socialises there- everyone's just in their rooms.'

Now, this is just the opinion of one person, and I'm sure it's mostly not true. But in relation to the last part of that sentence, I would encourage anyone reading this who has an interview to socialise with people. If you're gonna be potentially studying and living at Oxford for three years, it's worth actually getting to know your future college-mates. It's worth taking a tour around the college to see what it's like. It's worth going to Westgate, and the Rad Cam and the Covered Market to get a feel of what Oxford as a city is like. It's not worth staying in your room for four days not talking to anyone, keeping to yourself and worrying about the interview - as that defeats the whole point of the experience - to see what Oxford is like from your perspective and to see if it's for you. Even if you don't get in, you can still say you stayed at one of the world's best universities for a few days and spoke to world-class academics about topics and things you enjoy.
I see you got pooled to Corpus Christi - a beautiful, small jewel of a college, tucked away from all the tourists, etc. I love the little cobbled quad, the pelican and the wonderful theatre with the roof top view, where I used to go and see my son perform Gilbert and Sullivan.

Do you know about the Corpus Tortoise fair (ie it's a tortoise race held in summer)

http://www.corpusjcr.org/clubs-and-s...tortoise-fair/

That's fun! And of course the college's proximity to Christchurch meadows.

It seems that fate has chosen you the perfect college, after all!

It was such a pleasure reading your positive comments about the interviews "They are seriously considering making you an offer to study at their college". "They are interested in what you have to say". "Show them what you've got". So inspiring for those who believe Oxford interviews are scary and intimidating. Yes, the interviewers will challenge you. Yes, be proactive about drawing on your extra reading to answer the questions (this is why extra reading is so important in the first place). Don't be afraid to get things wrong, as you say. My elder son realised he was getting the answer to a question wrong. He stopped and said "could I please answer this again"? They let him, and he gave a more considered response. The interviewersmust have liked the fact that he had recognised he was wrong, and wasn't scared to point it out.

I also love your attitude to socialising. It's vital, since you may be studying alongside the candidates in October, to see if you were all a good fit. I am glad you made some new friends, and realised that private school students can be just as "normal" and lovely as state school students. After all, we are all human, and we instinctively want to be liked, no matter what our background.

Going up to Oxford is a great experience, whether you get an offer or not, so it's a good idea to explore other colleges and the city itself. Staying in your room fretting will just make you more nervous.

The very best thing about going up to Oxford will be meeting those friends you made at interview again. Covid-19 permitting (maybe not this year) I saw many hugs of recognition going on in October with my sons.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
How did you feel after the interviews?

After the interviews was a very stressful time for me. I was deathly afraid of being rejected for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if I was rejected from Oxford, I would then have to pick between UCL (ABB for History) and Birmingham (BBB for Politics and IR). I liked UCL but there were various personal reasons as to why I was hesitant to pick it as my firm. On the other hand, I loved Birmingham at the open day and the summer school was also pretty good. However, I didn't feel like Birmingham was academic enough for me, and although I'm sure that Birmingham has amazing academics and has a good reputation overall, I wanted more of a challenge when it came to my education.

As well as this, out of the 6 people that were applying for History and Politics, I had the lowest predicted grades (AAA). My impostor syndrome came knocking as I began to question myself. I wasn't nearly as accomplished as some of the people I was up against. They all had straight A*A*A* predicted, came from upper-middle-class backgrounds with parents who had previously gone to Oxbridge, and seemed so clued up on historical and political events. When they spoke about politics, they spoke with such conviction and passion that it made me believe I should have just taken that BBB offer from Birmingham, because somewhere like Oxford wasn't for me.

However, I remember the History tutors taking everyone into a room before the interviews and saying 'Well done for believing in yourself and believing you were good enough to apply because so many bright people don't.' Looking at the amazing 4 days I had in Oxford during my interview, it made me realise that, yes, I can make friends here. I can thrive in a place like Oxford, and despite society dictating that someone from my background shouldn't be in a place like this, at the same time, society does not dictate what I believe to be possible for myself. The interviews showed that I was an inch away from getting into one of the most prestigious and selective universities in the world, and the overwhelmingly positive experience I had made me hope more and more that I would receive an offer.

Where were you when you got your offer? How did you react?

So I was at home the morning I got my offer. The night before, I had been crying and stressing because I literally didn't know what was going to happen, whether I was gonna go to Oxford or end up having to choose between UCL and Birmingham. I remember waking up, immediately opting not to check my phone in case they had sent it as an email. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, prayed and read my Bible for a bit... and then I checked.

I saw on my phone a notification, from the Corpus Snapchat group. One person hadn't gotten in. That was 1/6 gone. There were 2 places for History and Politics. Then another. Then another. Then another. All of the people who I thought would have gotten in were actually rejected. Leaving 2. So who could it have been?

Me? LOL, no. It was probably one guy and then someone... they interviewed online from overseas, I don't know. I went onto Track, my hands shaking. I went to the login page and then... Jesus, take the wheel... I clicked.

I saw 'University of Oxford has offered you a place for History and Politics, subject to you meeting the offer conditions.; and I was like ohhhhhh my days!

They picked me! Probably the least qualified candidate out of the 6 and they picked me! I cried. A lot. And I hugged my mum too. I had an offer to study at one of the best unis in the world - if I got AAA. That would be tough, but it was at the back of my mind. I was just so glad and so grateful to have gotten in. I was relieved that all of my hard work had paid off. And I was ready to kill my A-Levels and get to Oxford.

Are you looking forward to coming up to Oxford?

Well, as of now, we now know that that 'kill my A-Levels' statement did not happen. Thanks, corona.

I'm writing this at 3 in the morning and I have literally enjoyed writing this so much. Being able to relive the experiences of the interview has made me so much more excited to come down to Oxford, particularly to learn about topics that actually interest me, instead of topics that are forced on me at A-Level.

I often do worry about the impact my predicted grades will have on my offer. I was lucky enough to end up being predicted AAA at the end of Year 12. But what makes this hard is the fact that I had a very supportive teacher in Year 12, but in Year 13 this was not the case, and I never actually achieved an A in any History assignment I did. Obviously, at the start this was down to circumstances, but I still tried really hard to push my grades up, having hired a tutor and everything to help me with essay structure, as well as learning the content myself. There's nothing I can do now, only wait until August to see if that was enough, and even if it wasn't, Oxford may be lenient, but there's currently no way of knowing what that means.

Hopefully it will work out for the best. I've made so many friends through the Oxford offer-holder group chats (there are soooo many group chats) and I honestly can't wait to meet them in real life! But until then, I will wait. With anticipation and trepidation. And hope that the exam boards don't do me dirty. So that I can one day matriculate and say that everything that I did, the tears, stress and anxiety, and long hours spent revising, was all worth it.

Oxford Mum
This last bit was a cliff hanger, wasn't it? Even though I knew you were going to get in!

Let's look at how you got an offer, whereas many private schooled candidates, whose parents attended Oxbridge and who seemed to know so much about their subject, didn't get in, but you did. This goes to show you (and everyone else reading this, I hope) that you can have all the advantages of wealthy parents, a world class education and Oxbridge-savvy connections, but someone like you, with none of these advantages yet determined, with raw talent and courage can come and take the prize. This is the point, the whole point, of Oxford Demystified in a nutshell. If you are a state school student, and are standing, scared, on the sidelines, just take a good look at this chapter, and change your life.

I am crying, in bits at this chapter.

I salute you, HisMajesty_Kwabz . Well done.
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Further resources:

History and politics sample interview questions:

History

https://sites.google.com/site/oxbrid...stions/history

http://apply.oxfordsu.org/courses/history/interviews/

https://www.oxfordinterviewquestions...tions/history/

(with reading suggestions)

https://doxa.co.uk/oxford-history-politics

Politics

https://sites.google.com/site/oxbrid...-and-economics

https://www.oxfordinterviewquestions.com/questions/ppe/

PPE (politics) Oxford interview youtube

History and politics interview youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcwoXoqUIMA

The course

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRiXj855DSc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AZverMWeg4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdC5VxMW-fE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shNvxZpNYIA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p40epFOo3eM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y82CKPSG2-8
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Oxford Mum

You have no idea how many times I read the feedback with goosebumps! LOL

Thank you so very much, Oxford Mum, for giving me the opportunity to write this chapter. Your analysis is so positive and inspiring for both me and everyone reading this, I'm sure I've never been encouraged like this, so I am truly grateful.

Looking at your analysis, I previously never really understood why I was even considered worthy of an offer. But I think your comments would be similar to those of interviewers when looking at a student holistically, taking into account all information on an applicant. It's good to know they are always thinking positively of you, and are on your side always, so I thank you for giving feedback on everyone's chapters. We really love to see it!

Your responses have also given me a newfound sense of confidence; the fact that I actually did a whole lot more for my application than I first thought. You've literally pointed out qualities in me that would be typical of an Oxford student, and yet it was literally down to me simply pursuing my interests and trying my best.

It's not even about me being smart, either. My school actually once said that 'above all, Oxbridge are looking for supergeeks who are, above all, passionate about their subject'. I was like, if that's true, why did I get in? I'm not a geek...

Overall, I think something that is very important for prospective Oxford students to have is confidence in themselves, as not all students have supportive and inspiring teachers. My mum often says that some teachers put their students down and treat them harshly in order for them to work harder. In my opinion, this kind of teaching could potentially destroy a student's self-esteem and willingness to fulfil their potential, as they end up adopting the belief that they are not adequate or good enough. I would say that it's important for prospective applicants to be self-motivated and determined to succeed, even when everyone else around them is telling them they will fail or that they are not good enough.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Oxford Mum

You have no idea how many times I read the feedback with goosebumps! LOL

Thank you so very much, Oxford Mum, for giving me the opportunity to write this chapter. Your analysis is so positive and inspiring for both me and everyone reading this, I'm sure I've never been encouraged like this, so I am truly grateful.

Looking at your analysis, I previously never really understood why I was even considered worthy of an offer. But I think your comments would be similar to those of interviewers when looking at a student holistically, taking into account all information on an applicant. It's good to know they are always thinking positively of you, and are on your side always, so I thank you for giving feedback on everyone's chapters. We really love to see it!

Your responses have also given me a newfound sense of confidence; the fact that I actually did a whole lot more for my application than I first thought. You've literally pointed out qualities in me that would be typical of an Oxford student, and yet it was literally down to me simply pursuing my interests and trying my best.

It's not even about me being smart, either. My school actually once said that 'above all, Oxbridge are looking for supergeeks who are, above all, passionate about their subject'. I was like, if that's true, why did I get in? I'm not a geek...

Overall, I think something that is very important for prospective Oxford students to have is confidence in themselves, as not all students have supportive and inspiring teachers. My mum often says that some teachers put their students down and treat them harshly in order for them to work harder. In my opinion, this kind of teaching could potentially destroy a student's self-esteem and willingness to fulfil their potential, as they end up adopting the belief that they are not adequate or good enough. I would say that it's important for prospective applicants to be self-motivated and determined to succeed, even when everyone else around them is telling them they will fail or that they are not good enough.
How lovely of you to say all this about me! Every time I read a new chapter, it's like I am meeting a new person. I am, no question, always impressed by the sheer keenness of the writer. With every chapter I read, my respect for offer holders grows. You have earned your place, each and every one of you.

By the way, when I was 14 (at a sink comprehensive) I was told by my maths and biology teachers that I wasn't clever enough to pass "o" levels and I wouldn't get to university. I proved them wrong too, and I am now the proud possessor of 12 "o" levels/GCSE, plus a degree from Manchester uni.

So anybody reading this, if you do not have support from a teacher, or your parents, then look to yourself. I love these lyrics by the Sugababes

I didn't know what I had to do
I just knew I was alone
People around me
But they didn't care
So I searched into my soul


This helped me through cancer when I was in my early 40s.

Of course, we are also there for the students, and they will appreciate that.
HisMajesty_Kwabz
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HisMajesty_Kwabz what a fantastically detailed chapter! This is incredibly detailed and will be so useful for prospective applicants I’m sure! I also really enjoyed The Man Who Knew Infinity - such a thought provoking and inspiring film! Best of luck with everything
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HisMajesty_Kwabz Hello! I should be doing homework but I just sat down and read your chapter, every detail gave me a deeper perspective on Oxford. Your story is so inspiring to me and makes me feel like I can possibly land an interview for HisPol despite all the doubts I have.

This chapter will definitely be my guiding light throughout my application process, thank you so much for taking the time to write something so magnificent!
And congrats!!
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
By the way, when I was 14 (at a sink comprehensive) I was told by my maths and biology teachers that I wasn't clever enough to pass "o" levels and I wouldn't get to university. I proved them wrong too, and I am now the proud possessor of 12 "o" levels/GCSE, plus a degree from Manchester uni.
yes queen
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(Original post by nmah)
HisMajesty_Kwabz Hello! I should be doing homework but I just sat down and read your chapter, every detail gave me a deeper perspective on Oxford. Your story is so inspiring to me and makes me feel like I can possibly land an interview for HisPol despite all the doubts I have.

This chapter will definitely be my guiding light throughout my application process, thank you so much for taking the time to write something so magnificent!
And congrats!!
Thank you so much!

And good luck for applying, History and Politics is such an amazing course I'm eager to help you in any way I can! Please keep me updated...
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Aware of how very important your university choices were, you wisely weighed up whether you should study law or hist/pol, or go to Oxford or Cambridge. It's important to see where your real talent lies. My son also wanted to study law with law in Europe, but changed to German, because he loved literature. Similarly, my younger son chose Oxford rather than Cambridge partly because he was not confident he would make the offer of A*A*A. In the end it was a wise choice, as he ended up with A*AA.
Absolutely! Looking at your other posts, I'm so inspired by how much you've invested in your children's education. Your sons must both be so grateful to you.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Thank you so much!

And good luck for applying, History and Politics is such an amazing course I'm eager to help you in any way I can! Please keep me updated...
That would be great if you could keep in touch. The net result of writing a chapter is great dialogue between you (the expert) and those you can help the most.
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Thank you so much!

And good luck for applying, History and Politics is such an amazing course I'm eager to help you in any way I can! Please keep me updated...
I definitely will! I may also be pm-ing you with some questions as time goes on, if you are fine will that!
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(Original post by HisMajesty_Kwabz)
Absolutely! Looking at your other posts, I'm so inspired by how much you've invested in your children's education. Your sons must both be so grateful to you.
As a single parent, I had the time to devote all my energies to my children. If they had an interest, I encouraged it. I would make sure they watched documentaries about their subject and all our holidays would revolve round their subject too (lots of trips to Germany). I suggested St John Ambulance to my younger son. I also encouraged the younger son to enter competitions. When he won a lot of money from the Teentech competition, it was me who suggested he saved it to go to India and watch operations. Parents can do a lot to help their kids get in, whether it's providing a quiet environment to work in, or buying them the odd cheap book. It doesn't have to cost a lot.

Yes, my kids do appreciate what I have done for them. We have had a lot of fun exploring their subjects together. I suppose I am lucky to share such a close bond with them.
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