I had my heart set on Oxford from a young age. I was doing well at school, so hoped I stood a chance but, as the application process got closer, I realised that most of the colleges only took a few students per year group, for each subject and over 19,000 people applied!
Out of these 19,000 I realised a large percentage were going to be from schools which were way better than mine and it all began to feel impossible.
I heard rumours that some pupils were trained for Oxbridge from year 7, even from prep school, how was I ever going to compete?
Then it came to exam time and my History teacher was sacked for teaching the wrong syllabus (for the entire year!) not ideal! I had a few weeks to learn an entire new textbook worth of history and committed every hour of the day to doing so. Amazingly, the relentless hard work paid off and I got an A!
From what I'd read online my AS level results were good enough to apply to Oxford but my school said otherwise. 'You didn't get 100 ums in English, so you can't apply for that', my Head of Year told me. I was crushed, English was what I was passionate about, it was the subject where I'd extended far beyond the school curriculum but I was instead told to apply for Politics.
I was certain I'd never get in for Politics; the passion wasn't there and I'd relied totally on what I'd learnt in the classroom, so I decided to follow my gut feeling.
When I was offered an interview for English, I was so pleased I'd stuck with what I believed and when I was then (amazingly!) offered a place, it made me realise that relying on school was not the way forward.
I revised like crazy for my A Levels and researched all the exam papers thoroughly. When doing this I noticed a little problem; my English teacher had told us that we didn't need to write on Shakespeare in the exam but the exam syllabus online said otherwise. I brought this up in class with her and I turned out to be right - she didn't say much but I realised I may have just saved an entire class from failing their A Level!
My Oxford journey taught me that regardless of what school you go to, it's what you do independently that really counts. Check everything for yourself, think for yourself, go beyond the classroom, follow your passions and listen to your gut feeling!