By Leah Aspden
Google the reading list for your subject: If you look hard enough there are resources that Oxford and Cambridge provide such as reading lists and essays that basically tell you exactly where you should be focusing your preparation. The reading list mentioned Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and so I read it and mentioned it in my statement, and it was provided a great conversation starter about German literature. You are better off reading more widely and courageously about different aspects of the course (e.g. Literature, Culture, History, etc.) than sticking to your A-Level texts.
Bookmarks and Folders: Delving back into my Oxford prep work I realised just how much information and research I was trying to do, but I also realised that the reason I wasn’t feeling too overwhelmed was because I’d sectioned each link and definition of random German words into its own little bookmark folder on Chrome – I cannot recommend this enough! It means you don’t waste time looking for your MLAT practice resources when you’ve also got A-Levels to do. I also kept a big folder with any leaflets from any open days not just for Oxford which I also recommend so when it comes to deciding your firm and insurance you can be a little smug and pat yourself on the back for having one less stress.
Read and read and read: When I was applying everybody kept banging on about super-curriculars and they had a point. Super-curriculars are a way of showing you have an intense curiosity in your chosen subject/s outside of your A-Level curriculum. I entered Oxford’s German Classic Competition, googled countless articles, books, facts just to get that deeper understanding that they look for. I also scouted the charity shops of other university towns I visited like Durham, Lancaster and Leeds and got some absolute gems that are on my official reading list for first year – result!
Your personal statement is your soul mate: My personal statement I truly feel was a huge part of my application. It was brought up in ALL 6 (I actually did have 6) interviews in the end. I really worked hard to condense as much information as possible while maintaining my own personal style and a certain depth/analysis of the points I was making. It meant that the tutors had examples of my views to use and debate with me. For example, I wrote in my personal statement ‘I’ve noticed that employing and discussing literary techniques is straightforward, but how they are employed is what distinguishes art from writing’, and in my interview the lovely tutor asked ‘I agree with you but tell me why you think that.’ and we sparked a wonderful conversation from there. I also made a joke in mine that I was told to take out, but I felt that it was to information heavy that I needed my personality to shine through! It is certainly not the be all and end all, but it can be an extremely valuable tool and almost a comfort blanket for any university application experience you will have.
Start now! I started early and do not regret a second that I spent on my application. As somebody who doesn’t consider themselves exceptionally intelligent and also being the first in my family to apply to university, never mind Oxford, I had to work harder to make myself feel more confident about the whole process. I really thanked myself in October when I realised just how much I’d been doing bit by bit over the past couple of months.
It is okay to be overwhelmed: It’s really hard. I found it very difficult at first to even admit to people I was applying because the topic itself carries a stigma and you may feel like an imposter, or like you shouldn’t do it. But as hard as it is just hold on and believe in yourself. You are so brave for even thinking about it! You don’t have to be overly confident, just immensely curious, and that will get you far in life regardless of whether you get in.
I really hope these tips were useful and if anyone wants tailored support for personal statements, English or German admissions tips or interview tips then let me know!
But most of all, I believe in you! Just by reading this you are already passionate and worthy of a place at any university, go you!!
Leah Aspden x
My personal blog:
List of resources I found useful in preparing:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems (practising for the ELAT)