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The Oxford Question

Almost 7 ½ years ago, starting my secondary education at a school engrossed with academic competitiveness, I was introduced to Oxbridge. A bastion of the academic world, a paragon of scholarly tradition, and a very daunting idea indeed. The tradition, status and repute of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge held great magnetism for me – albeit a relatively private one, because I didn’t really think I could ever get in.

As I settled in to my secondary education and began to enjoy my schoolwork ever more, with satisfying results, I began to take the idea (slightly) more seriously. I was very fortunate in being able to attend talks about the two universities; the descriptions of ancient architecture, world-class academics, a thriving intellectual culture, and, as shallow as it may be, a powerful prestige, fostered my fascination. This avidity of mine continued to grow, especially when I started to realise that I had a particular academic affection: English. I started trying to extend my awareness of the subject and, through novels, plays, books and podcasts, I’d like to think I have. I also set my very hypothetical imaginings on one institution in particular, Oxford University. If I’m to be at all honest, this choice certainly had a great deal to do with the relative convenience of train transport from my home city – still, I reckon that’s as good a reason as any.

It would be disingenuous to claim that my heart was set upon going to Oxford above all else. I always tried to remain equivocal about the “what next?” question, in particular being very conscious of the workload, my one salient drawback, and the very heavy weight on the ‘Maybe Not’ side of scales of Oxford decisions. However, I might not have realised it at the time, but it would be equally insincere to suggest that I was indifferent about attending Oxford. It was, in all candidness, a dream, and one I very much wanted to be fulfilled.

In July 2015, though, upon having my brain haemorrhage, my scholastic speculations were side-lined. There were, for me, much more important things to think about. Focussing all my energies upon studying for my GCSEs, hoping that perhaps I’d pass English, maths and a few other subjects, thoughts of Oxford were (mostly) pushed to the past. There did remain a hope, however, that it might still be a possibility.

My GCSE results were a huge confidence boost and a wonderful reward for the effort of my Year 11 of secondary school. As the dazzling confetti of pleasure and shock started to settle, they also made me think, once again, more seriously about that Oxford Possibility. This time, however, my thoughts were much more equivocal than before my haemorrhage. Dealing with the effects of fatigue, the workload became more of a consideration. Even more so, my haemorrhage highlighted in deep red tones the importance, for me, of doing the best I could with what I knew about myself to enjoy life. Oxford, I thought, might not be that way.

My thoughts remain much the same now.

My A-level studies so far have proved highly enjoyable and my English literature course confirmed my enthusiasm for the subject. The decision to phase my A-levels over 3 years because of the effects of my brain tumour gave me more time to think and I decided, for definite, that I would give Oxford a shot.

St Anne's College, where I applied and was interviewed.

Receiving my A-level history results in August 2018 further encouraged me to give it a go. So, in autumn 2018, at the start of the 3rd and final year of my extended A-level study, I applied to Oxford. Personal statement, entrance test, written work, interview and all. A number of people have been hugely supportive in this process, including a couple of individuals who kindly shared their own experiences of illness and Oxbridge study – something I really appreciate and has made me feel more able to make a considered decision.

After 4 months of application process and about 7 years of wondering “What if?” I received an offer to study English language and literature from Oxford University. I can’t quite believe it. It’s a wonderful, and rather huge, cherry on top of the efforts it’s taken to continue my education and deal with the medi-faffles of the last 3 ½ years. It’s also a fantastic confidence boost after years of thinking I couldn’t do it. And, much to my amusement, having done some cursory research, an Oxford offer is statistically less likely than a brain tumour diagnosis!

Whether or not I’ll choose Oxford as my preferred place to study I don’t know. I don’t at all intend to sound blasé or vain; with the workload and intensity of study it’s a genuine consideration and I’m in the lucky position to like all of my university choices. For now, though, I’m not trying to consider the considerations, but only to revel in the revelry.


Kaleb Xxx

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