By Eloise Partridge
Applying for dual honours can be confusing, to say the least. I struggled to find effective support and resources, as well as being warned off the idea altogether! However, it’s absolutely possible to succeed; here are my personal top tips.
Don’t be afraid to deal with your subjects separately at first! My initial plans had a Spanish section, a History section, and then a combined one to finish. However, I ended up applying theoretical ideas such as “revolution” and “translation” across the entire statement: as you write, you’ll likely spot more and more areas where your subjects come together. Focus on those!
Don’t just get your subject teachers to check it over, either — find a “neutral party” who doesn’t specialise in either subject. They’ll be able to check that you’ve written a balanced statement, as opposed to focusing on one subject or the other.
The number-one thing I would recommend here is to MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE INVOLVED THOROUGHLY UNDERSTANDS WHAT’S GOING ON! You’ll probably have to do two exams (one per subject) one after the other, without a proper break in between — mentally prepare yourself for this! And your school may well not be used to students sitting two entrance exams. It is worth checking and checking and checking again with the exams officer, invigilators, everyone that you’ll be given the right papers, in the right order, for the right amount of time.
Trust me, you do not want to be having a whispered debate with an invigilator insisting that your time is up halfway through your first exam. You really don’t.
I also asked for a strategic bathroom break between my two papers (which was mostly spent in tears…). Use it to reset: even if the first exam went horribly, the second is going off to a different department who’ll be judging you with fresh eyes. All is not lost!
You’ll probably be asked for essays you’ve written as part of your normal schoolwork. If you can’t provide that, though, don’t worry! I had nothing suitable for History, so I wrote something new and explained why on the submission form.
Additionally, while picking pieces you did well in is definitely sensible, equally important is choosing ones you can talk about. Even if you only read around it retrospectively, being both knowledgeable and passionate about your written work is a really good look.
(Also, if you’re doing an advanced language, you can submit your other subject’s essay as your English-language piece, rather than finding a third one!)
It’s hard to generalise across colleges, but I was invited to one interview per subject at the college I’d applied to — and that was it. It seems likely that, had I been asked to attend a second round, that would have meant another two interviews rather than just one, but there aren’t many differences between dual honours interviews and “ordinary” ones. All the normal advice applies!
Enjoy the process, and good luck!