I’ve found that for me one of the greatest things that you can get involved with at Oxford is helping out with access and outreach work. Access and outreach includes any programme or event that is based around helping prospective students figure out if studying at Oxford is the best thing for them by giving them information and insight into the realities of life as a student at here. During almost any visit that you have to Oxford for a taster day or open day or interviews there will be students around for you to talk to, who can be honest with you about any questions you may have. That Oxford Girl is a perfect example of a project that works towards access and outreach and Tilly does a great job in managing to do that digitally as well as at physical events to reach much more people.
As a student at Mansfield College, a place there is a high percentage of state school pupils and where access and outreach lies at the heart of our college spirit and community, I have had ample opportunity to get involved with access work. During term-time there are email mail outs for student volunteers to carry out tours of college and Oxford, answer questions in Q&As and lead academic sessions, so that you can give a small part of your week telling others about what you’ve experienced. This is not just what we love about studying here, but also things we don’t and things that we’ve found difficult or struggled with. We can also apply to help with student residentials outside of term as well as the big university access and admissions events of Open Days and interviews.
I still remember chatting to students that I met at both the open day that I attended and at interviews and eagerly asking them about what the course was like and what they were enjoying and what advice they had for the rest of the application. I still remember how reassuring it was to hear answers to these questions from someone that had actually experienced the same process themselves and had some of the exact same questions themselves just a year or two before – someone who understood.
Alongside college open days there is also the opportunity to work with the wider university access team at bigger events such as the Oxbridge student conference, which is conference that students interested in either Oxford or Cambridge can go to in a city near to where they live, without having to travel to the university itself. It may be a bigger event but the basics are the same, getting to talk about your experiences and helping others to potentially realise that university, Oxford or not, is somewhere that they want to be in the future. So if you are a prospective student at one of these access and outreach events, don’t be scared to chat to the current students, they are there for you and an invaluable way to gain information about a place that can sometimes seem removed or distant. So, ask any questions you have and, maybe, in a few years, you’ll be the student helper at an access event.