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A perspective from an Oxford Graduate

Whilst we are waiting to hear about interviews , just thought I would share this very thought provoking article by an Oxford graduate which was originally published in Quora by Mathew Scott ,degree in biology & informatics,Msc and MFoCS,University of Oxford (2018).

I have been both rejected from Oxford and accepted a year later, I'll share my perspective. I was a very socially isolated child and an enthusiast for most of the subjects I did at school. I really wanted to be a scholar. At school, I disliked that you got bullied for being enthused by academic subjects. So Oxford represented somewhere for me where you wouldn't be bullied for being bright and where you could do some intellectual jamming. I was interested in many subjects, so whilst I applied for biology, I had dreams of, for example, ending up in someone's rooms talking about Latin poetry in the early hours of the morning.

I was therefore devastated about not getting in on my first application, especially as my twin brother was going and there was some sibling rivalry as well. On the other hand I applied again the next year once I had my exam results (back in the day you would apply before you had sat your A levels), and I got in. Now Oxford really wasn't at all what I dreamt it would be. People didn't really want to talk about their subject, it wasn't the done thing, it wasn't cool at all. Drinking on the other hand was very cool, and I was teetotal, so almost utterly excluded in a social sense. You had, in the late 90s when I was there a lot of people who were not enthusiasts for their subjects, but just looking to get a job with a top graduate recruiter, and not taking their work seriously, just coming up with creative approaches to get through examinations and accrue "cv points". You also had people who had come to play sports, as the Varsity rivalry with Cambridge meant that some people could get in if they had good sporting credentials. Then there were people who were just looking to find a wealthy spouse, as lots of the students come from wealthy backgrounds, or would be going places financially. Remember that most of the people studying are between the ages of 18-22; we're not talking the deep end of the pond here, most will be more interested in sex, socialising and money than anything incredibly soulful or edifying.

The thing is that I know if I never got in, I would never have known any of this, I would have thought I missed out on being part of some wonderful intellectual melting pot. So I think the "not knowing" thing is what is so painful, and also if you know other people who are going when you are not.

Let's also not forget how anally retentive people are and how much they need validation. There are very few universally accepted accolades. You might write a great poem, but most people don't have the eyes to read it or even the disposition to do so. You might be a lovely person but no-one cares. On the other hand if you pass some exams with flying colours that everyone else sat then that is a point where you can say, look I am truly brilliant, you must acknowledge this and validate me. It doesn't really matter whether you had to understand anything to pass the exams (cross reference my comment about creative approaches, learning to pass exams as opposed to learning). A whole generation of kids apply for Oxbridge, and if they get in they feel validated, but there is a lot of anal retention to that to put it mildly.

It was difficult for me post-university, because the assumption is that you will automatically be given a great job if you have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. In fact the vast majority of jobs I applied for didn't call me for interview, I was unemployed for a year, and I didn't find professional work for four years. You also have to deal with recruiters who still resent that they got rejected, and you're the last person they wants to employ (sour grapes in the true Aesopian sense). They might also think that you Oxbridge graduates think too much, and what they want is just people who do what they're told. Another problem with having Oxbridge on your cv is that there's a class association with those universities, people would use the phrase "Brideshead Revisited" a lot to refer to what they see as the upper class culture at Oxbridge, and this can mean it is actually counterproductive to have Oxbridge on your cv. In fact, whilst I was there, pretty much everyone I met was from a middle class background. There were pockets of very wealthy people, who were involved with wine societies and other absurdly extravagant activities, but I never met them, partly because those type of people stick together and partly because they usually pick courses with the least amount of work required, of which biological sciences (my course) was not one!! In the end I removed the fact that I'd got a degree from Oxford from my cv in order to get employed.

In life you have to find an internal validation. The Oxford experience was very difficult for me, first rejection, then a broken dream leading to unemployment, and being treated differently once people found out I had been there (suspicion, envy and outright hostility mostly). There's much in life that goes unsaid, people have bewildering prejudices, I am autistic and unattractive, and immediately most people are of the belief that I shouldn't have been allowed to go to Oxford for those reasons, it should only be for people that are beautiful and witty, and with some sort of in-built superiority, alphas essentially.

I know who I am and I'm happy that I'm me. That's life's important lesson, and if you can be in that same place you won't need to worry so much about Oxford and Cambridge and rejection or acceptance”
Interesting. Thanks for the article. It's important to keep reminding ourselves our future isn't determined by which uni we get into. It's about your own potential and hard work.

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