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Leia's Journey to Oxford

By Leia

Hi everyone! I'm Leia from Carlisle and will be studying English Language and Literature at Regent's Park College.

I may have known for several years that I was planning on applying to Oxford, but that didn’t make the experience any less daunting - especially in the middle of a pandemic!

Nevertheless, applying was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had, and you can only get in if you apply in the first place so it’s a daunting step worth taking.

I come from what is considered a pretty disadvantaged area so, with the global situation, my sixth form couldn’t give me as much help with applying as they usually would try and offer.

This may have felt like a set back, but really it was a huge advantage. It meant I was really able to be myself in my personal statement, rather than following an expected formula - and what Oxford wants to see is your passion for your subject, not a tick box exercise.

Of course the personal statement is only the first step. Entrance exams can be pretty scary to think about, but there are past papers available so use them!

Personally, I did several past papers myself and then took what I thought was the best one to my then English Literature teacher. We had a feedback session before my actual ELAT and I went in feeling pretty happy I knew what my strengths were and how to play to them.

Sitting down and opening the paper was insane in itself, but once I started writing it just felt like any other essay. In the end I didn’t come out with the best score possible, but I ranked above average and that was enough for me (albeit slightly disheartening at first glance).

News about interviews followed a few weeks later - and then the actual interviews came. I had two, roughly an hour apart, the first a more casual discussion of my personal statement and the second about a poem I had been sent 15 minutes before the interview.

Although I did think I absolutely ruined my chances by forgetting a quote and line reference from Titus Andronicus, overall I felt they went relatively well and let the Christmas holidays and revision take priority in my thought process.

12th January was decision day and, as is my luck, I was in a double lesson when my decision came through - meaning I spent nearly two hours staring at an email notification, whilst trying to focus on my Microsoft Teams call.

The period from the 12th January to Leavers Day was spent doing as much work as possible to try and solidify my grades. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult, there was a lot of pressure and it was pretty dull at times.

However, in the end, it was absolutely worth it to just open that envelope on Results Day and realise a dream had become reality.

Safe to say, my journey in applying to Oxford wasn’t the easiest road, but it lead to the right destination - and that is something to be thankful for.


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