By Jade Evans
So, you've made up your mind you are going to apply to Oxford...congrats! This is a huge step in the first place. Making that decision to take the leap and apply to one of the top universities in the world is no small thing and you should be really proud of yourself for going for it. Whatever happens next, try to keep up that belief, as I found as the application process progressed I got more and more daunted. But it's key to ask yourself: 'What's the worst that can happen?' It's one option on your UCAS and the worst that can happen is you don't get in and, if that does happen, I'm sure you'll end up at another great uni! So GO FOR IT!
If you're going to do it, I'd say do it properly and by that I mean, don't just rock up on a whim in October, hand in a standard personal statement or turn up at interviews expecting it to all go smoothly, without any prep. Why do you think, in part, Oxbridge ends up with such high numbers of students from top schools? Because these students have had the advantage of teachers, other students, parents etc who have gone through the process, they know what to expect and they know how to prepare.
Whilst there isn't a magic formula to getting into Oxford, there are 100% things you can do to improve your chances. Here are the ones I'd suggest you start with this summer:
READ - I cannot stress this enough. Whatever subject you are doing, reading around it is the best way to SHOW that you are passionate about it and to keep learning outside of school. Read articles, newspapers, books, journals, textbooks, literally just keep reading anything you can get your hands on related to your subject. If you read something interesting in one article, follow it up by reading other things about that topic in another.
Take notes - no one can remember everything they read. I had a little notepad I kept all my Oxford thoughts in. I wrote down interesting things I read, my opinions on them and how they linked and then took that notepad along to interviews to keep all my ideas fresh in my mind.
Talk - get used to talking about your subject. Over the summer, when you read something interesting, tell someone about it. Explain the concept to them and get them to ask you questions about it. They don't need to know a single thing about the topic but by explaining you'll get used to saying your ideas out loud.
Draft, draft, draft - don't see your personal statement as something you can just do in one sitting. Spend the summer building up all the things you can put in it - books, documentaries, podcasts etc, then start cementing your thoughts on these. The tutors want YOUR thoughts, it's a PERSONAL statement, so really think before you get writing. Then spend time analysing the structure, so it all flows. Be prepared to keep redrafting; it may take ages, you'll no doubt be bored of reading it by the end but this is the first thing the tutors see! Put the effort in now!
Hopefully these are a good starting point, you have got this!