By Elliot Francolla
As an international student, the process of applying to Oxford was at first quite daunting. I didn’t have a support system for my UCAS application at my American school, because most applicants only applied to US universities, and I didn’t know anyone who had gone to Oxford. With a little research, though, I found some fantastic resources. First, That Oxford Girl was so useful in getting a glimpse of life at Oxford from a student perspective, and it had some helpful application and interview tips. Secondly, 'Across the Pond', a service which gives feedback on personal statements and helps international applicants navigate the UCAS form (for free!), saved me a lot of trouble.
Though I applied with my international qualifications (AP tests and SAT), I still had to sit the two entrance exams required for my course; I will be reading History and Economics, so I took the TSA and the HAT. Unfortunately, the closest test center was over four hours away, so I had to make the drive the night before the test. I found that the practice papers provided on University of Oxford’s website were extremely valuable in preparing me for the entrance tests - I watched some prep videos that Oxford had published but otherwise only used their past papers to prepare. The entrance exams were, as expected, no walk in the park, but I felt fairly confident about my performance.
Once interview notifications started coming out, I was constantly refreshing my email for a notification, which I ended up getting while at school. I was over the moon to have been invited for interviews, and promptly asked two of my teachers to do mock interviews with me before the real thing. I had two interviews total, one for history and one for economics.
The interviews were absolutely nerve wracking, and I had decidedly mixed feelings. My first interview was by far my most difficult - the economics interview was more mathematical than I was expecting, which was not my strong suit, but the tutors helped guide me through the formulas. My camera also cut out during this interview, which added stress, and I did not feel fabulous afterwards. My history interview went much better, I thought that I had performed quite well and honestly enjoyed the discussion a good deal.
Finally, I had to wait a very long month between my interviews and final decisions. As the fateful date of January 10th approached, I became more and more apprehensive, especially because of the figures I had seen about lower acceptance rates for international students. I doubted that my interview performance had been good enough to secure a place, and I had no idea whether or not I was disadvantaged because of my different qualifications. I knew that decision notifications would come out sometime in the middle of the night for me in Eastern Standard Time, so I could barely sleep the night before. When I woke up at half past five, I couldn’t bring myself to check my computer, and had to take a moment to collect myself.
When I saw that I had been offered a place at St. John’s college, I almost couldn’t believe it. All of the hard work over the last three years had paid off, and the fact that I have already met the offer’s conditions eased any last bit of anxiety. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to attend Oxford this fall, and to hopefully help other international students like myself navigate the application process.