By Niamh Jones
I'd never even thought about applying to Oxford until a family member said that I could given my GCSE results. Not that this was a reality until the Seren Network (a Welsh government initiative) reached out. What was once just a possibility became my ambition, perhaps even an obsession. The idea of studying English at Oxford University just seemed like such a magical concept. And big dreams take a lot of commitment. I know that many people who don't get in feel deflated, or even heartbroken. On my first try I didn't get in either. I applied for the 2020 intake at Merton college and managed to reach the interview stage but did not receive an offer.
Looking back, I feel like the experience helped me to improve my studying ability and enabled me to develop my passion for literature. This year I was offered a place at Jesus college. My advice to potential English students is get as much exposure to literature as possible: read books, read articles and listen to Audible! Also, if you are in Wales and have been contacted by the Seren Network take full advantage of it! They can help you with every step of the way and I know I couldn't have got here without them. I had the opportunity to work with a tutor from Eton in order to prepare for my ELAT and interview and spent a week at Jesus College for a Seren funded summer school.
Interviews are by far the most daunting part of the process, but when people tell you that it is just a conversation about your subject they're not wrong! Last year I was asked to list the books that I had read in the past year (one interview comprised of post 1800s texts and the other was pre and a poetry analysis) and this year I was asked why I wanted to study English. Just be aware that anything you say may be picked up on and extension questions asked about it!
Getting in is the most amazing feeling in the world, so if you want something, fight for it and don't let anyone dissuade you!