I was ecstatic when I was invited to interview in December at University College (my #1 choice). I travelled to Oxford with my mom and we ended up staying for around three days. If you’re an international student and are invited to interview, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the UK and be prepared to make arrangements if your travel plans go awry (we got stuck in Shannon airport for 8 hours because of bad fog in London!). I made sure to let the college know about the delay, and they were very understanding and accommodating.
I ended up having three different interviews: the first was with the Egyptology faculty at the Oriental institute, the second was with the Egyptology tutor at Univ, and the third was a surprise interview at St. Benet’s Hall with two Assyriology professors. For both the first and final interview, I was given a translation of an ancient text about fifteen minutes beforehand and asked to read and analyze it, and then go in and discuss it with the tutors. For my St. Benet’s interview I was absolutely terrified because I know ZERO about ancient Assyria/cuneiform, but the professors were so nice and we ended up having an incredibly interesting conversation. The tutors are more interested in how you think, express your ideas, and react to challenges than how many facts you know about a specific subject. Similarly, in my interview at the Oriental Institute, I was asked a lot about the pieces of written work I’d had to submit along with my application. To my surprise, we ended up discussing U.S. President Andrew Jackson just as much as ancient Egypt!
At the time, I felt that my second interview at Univ went terribly: it was more focused on my personality/interests than on my academic pursuits, and I’m not as eloquent when it comes to non-nerdy subjects! Also, I had terrible jetlag and my ear was blocked from flying, so I couldn’t hear the tutor’s questions that well. Afterwards I freaked out a little, but my best advice would be to try and stay calm and not over-analyze things after the fact: you’ll probably feel like you did much worse than you actually did!
The interviews are really stressful, but they’re also such an amazing experience. If you get invited to Oxford in December, make sure to stop and soak in what an amazing accomplishment that is. Even if you don’t get the answer you want in January, getting shortlisted to interview is still something to be really proud of. Even though everyone is nervous and scared at the time, you will still meet some really interesting people from all around the world and find time to have some fun. One of my best Oxford interview memories was on my second night at Univ, when members of the JCR had a screening of Mean Girls…there’s nothing like being in a room of people from different countries and cultures laughing and enjoying a good film together!
I found out about my conditional offer from University College in January, and while I was relieved to have been accepted, I was still petrified about making my scores (Grade 5 on Advanced Placement Italian & English). For high school students in the U.S., you usually find out about your college decisions in either December (for Early Decision applicants) or March/April, and for nearly all colleges you’ve got to make a firm commitment to attend by 1 May. In America, we really don’t have any conditional offers. Because my AP exams took place in May, and the results came out in July, I had to wait a lot longer than my classmates to find out for sure where I’d be going in the fall. It’s a weird, really stressful feeling, and if you’re an international student you have to be prepared to have a few months of uncertainty before you get your final admission decision. But believe me, it’s worth the wait.
I ended up making my offer, and will be starting at University College in just over a month!
My best advice for other international/U.S. students who are considering studying at Oxford would be to just go for it!
Yes, the process if intense, but if you work hard, stay focused, and take advantage of the opportunities you are presented with (info sessions in your country, Open Days, Skype events, etc.), there’s always a chance for success!