by Panagiota Yiallouri
Hello everyone, I am Penny and as of October I will be studying History at Balliol College.
In 2019 I visited Oxford for a short summer programme and I immediately felt a special connection with the place. I had never been in a more productive period in my life and I felt that the people there pushed me to be the best version of myself. Since then, I started looking more into the University and I realised that features like the tutorial system were some of the things I was looking for in the next steps of my academic path.
Thus, I continued to do my research on the application process and requirements, so that I was able to meet all deadlines smoothly. Even though I knew that I was going for History, I still looked through the different Joint Honours degrees like History and Politics and History and Economics, so as to make sure that I was applying for the degree that looked the most appealing to me.
Similarly, I carried out some research when deciding on which college to apply to. Even though I was thinking of doing an open application, I was intrigued by some of the work of Balliol tutors in History and I also found out that every year there are about 12 undergraduates for History, which to me sounded like an ideal academic environment.
I started practicing for my admissions test quite early, so as to make sure that I knew what was expected of me and use all available resources. Thankfully, Oxford offers quite a lot of resources for the admission test and I even asked a teacher to take a look at my work and provide feedback. By familiarising myself with the admission test, it took away a lot of the stress because I knew what to expect and how to tackle it. After all, I had the chance to test my abilities on the subject that interests me the most, so I tried to enjoy it as well.
The interview was one of the most amazing days of my life, because I had the chance to talk about my subject with two people that were experts in the field. By practicing a lot with my school councillor, reading my personal statement again and relying on my extra reading, I tried to de-scarify the interview in my head and see it as an opportunity and not as a stressful situation. I only had one interview from Balliol, although I did keep at the back of my mind the possibility of more interviews from more than college.
I remember when people would ask me where I was going to apply and I would say Oxford, they would laugh and tell me that I would not even get an interview, simply because I am an international student. Although I never took it for granted, I did apply and I am grateful that I did not listen to any voice that doubted me. I trusted my abilities and with hard work and a proper schedule I made it.
My advice to people considering Oxford would be to go for it, because if you never try, you will never know. Moreover, try to have a timeline so that you are best prepared for admission tests and deadlines and have the chance to take your time for your personal statement and your admission test. After all, these are amongst the most important things of your application, so you should not leave them until last minute. Keep in mind that you will also be doing your A-levels or other qualifications and senior year is always a bit more stressful than the rest, so having a proper schedule will enable you to make sure that you have time for your social life, to take care of your mental and physical health and also enjoy the last year of school.
Attending Oxford University is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so keep working hard and go for it!