Applying to Oxford in a Global Pandemic
By Carys Hoggan
College and university applications are usually stressful, but little did most of us know what the 2020/2021 applications would have in store for us. Many of us were put off by the challenges of the last year or doubted our own self-worth and intelligence because the grades remained on tenterhooks. Contrary to the usual idea about Oxbridge applicants, I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply for ages and the further I got through the process, the surer I was of the rejection I was so scared of. I must have gone through about 15 drafts of my Personal Statement and did every single TSA I could find!
Stress is a natural thing with applications, but no one can deny that we’ve had an unusually difficult year. We went through online learning, some of us teaching ourselves curriculums or looking after younger siblings or vulnerable family members. The whole Oxbridge application process doesn’t exactly ease nerves. My experience with the TSA, for example, was horrific- I was in a room in minus temperatures and was given little to no paper to work things out on!
The interviews were probably what I was originally most fearing. I ended up sitting four- two psychology, two linguistics. However, I really enjoyed the experience. Despite doing psychology A Level, I never had a class in it and was mostly self-taught, so it was an amazing opportunity to discuss a subject I love with experts! The linguistics interviews were equally fascinating and pushed me to look for patterns and draw hypotheses about patterns and rules in both English and foreign languages!
Even after receiving my offer, I was nervous. Our thoughts and feelings were toyed with by the government due to the lack of clarity over what would happen with exams- exams would go ahead, then they wouldn’t, then they wouldn’t but they would be replaced with… well, exams. When information was released about what would form our TAGs, I was terrified. Some of the results of those assessments were not the grades I wanted or needed.
Looking back on it, the fear seems somewhat misplaced. I was lucky to have the most amazing mentors that someone could ever ask for, as well as being able to find resources and comfort from people who had gone through the same thing. Now, thanks to them, I can finally say “I will be going to Oxford” without having to precede that with “If I get the grades…”.
If you’re looking to apply, don’t let anyone or anything stop you. The best (and guaranteed) way not to get a place is to not apply.
As for the 2021 freshers, we should be incredibly proud, regardless of whether you’re going on to study at Oxford or not. We’ve overcome so many barriers and will now be starting the next chapter of our lives having dealt with so much over the past few years. Whatever the future holds, we’re ready, we’ve defied gravity and now, we are going to fly.