More tips from Isabel on preparing early...
A tip from personal experience: if you’re planning to study a language, do a little extra practise every week – invest in a grammar book and work your way through the exercises. (Any fellow Germanists out there – I can’t recommend Hammer’s Grammar highly enough; it’s an intimidating tome but work through it as steadily as you like and watch your German skills soar).
The key here is little and often: half an hour a week is more than enough, and this all counts as preparation for your aptitude test – not to mention for your actual degree, wherever you end up studying! Find magazines, books, and even YouTubers in your target language for a bit of extra practice – if you find a book you like (even if you read the English translation), jot down why you chose to read it and what struck you about it.
The summer between Year 12 and Year 13 is the time to get cracking on your personal statement. Be aware of word/character limits and know that you might need to redraft a few times to hit this. (My grand total of drafts? Twenty-one).
A personal statement is relatively short: use it to showcase the material you’ve been gathering (think: extra reading and academic interests that aren’t on your curriculum) as well as relevant out-of-school achievements. Remember it’s not about perfection at this point, it’s about showing genuine academic curiosity and an interest in your subject – the same goes for your interview, too!
This is also the time to decide on a college (or not! You don’t have to specify) – there’s a lot of advice on That Oxford Girl about this; but broadly, you need to consider, firstly, which colleges offer your course, and then whether you’d prefer a large or small college, one in the centre or on the outskirts of Oxford, and whether it’s important to you that college accommodation is guaranteed throughout your whole degree. There are student-written alternative prospectuses for many colleges – you can find a lot of similar resources on The Student Room too – which will detail vital things about the student experience that you might not find on the official uni website: pros and cons of accommodation, price and quality of the catered food in college, whether colleges are old and traditional, or new and happening.
October of Upper Sixth, Year 13: deadline! Submit your application a comfortable few days ahead of the deadline to allow for the inevitable technical tantrums – and if you’re having a teacher look over your personal statement, or waiting for references and predicted grades from your school, allow them plenty of time.
Best of luck with all those applications!
Isabel Parkinson, Worcester College