Sorry this post is late – I was ill and then spent all of yesterday in London being fancy at the Ritz. It was chaotic, but that’s a story for another time. Today’s post is on interviews. Specifically Oxford interviews as I know admissions is this week, but as I know that probably doesn’t apply to most of you I’m hoping at least some of it will be applicable to interviews in general. I did really want to make this post though because I know when I went through it, my college didn’t really know much and information wasn’t really available. If you’re lucky enough to be at a school which drills you until you can barely put a foot wrong, lucky you; if not, then hopefully I can be of at least some use, even if it just puts you more at ease.
1. Be you. It’s you that they want to see, not Mr High-and-Mighty who is trying to mimic what he thinks an Oxford student is. It’s really obvious. Their going to have to spend the next three years trying to teach you so you want them to like you. Be friendly. Smile. Be comfortable. Their not trying to trick you or confuse or bully you into submission. Tutor’s are just people, and to be honest this period is just as stressful for them as it is for you. You might well be the fifth person they’ve seen that day, and if you come across and friendly and chatty after a bunch of interviews which were akin to drawing blood from a stone, you’ll be the one they remember. Believe me, when they’ve seen you cry and you’ve seen them drunk they’re a lot less scary.
2. Dress well. But be comfortable. Despite what you might think you definitely don’t have to wear a suit. Unless you’re one of those people who wears a suit every day, you’re just not going to feel like yourself and that means you’ll probably come across as awkward as well. That doesn’t go to say that you should turn up in joggers and the oldest hoody you own. Whilst I know some people that it’s worked for, most of us just look like we couldn’t be bothered to put in any effort. Try and look presentable if you can; a clean tshirt, a nice skirt, chinos etc etc, but something that you’d actually choose to wear if you were going out somewhere nice with friends. Not something your mother told you would make you look like an excellent candidate.
3. Don’t be intimidated by the other candidates. When you turn up a bunch of people you meet will show off all of the things they know that you don’t know for no good reason. Because they can. Don’t worry about it. The fact that they know more useless facts than you on one particular topic is irrelevant and doesn’t make them more qualified for a place. When I turned up at least three people started having akin depth discussion about the details of Nebuchadnezzar. I knew nothing about Nebuchadnezzar. Knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar did not help them get a place. I still know nothing about Nebuchadnezzar and I just had to look up the spelling on Wikipedia.
4. It’s okay to be wrong. Similarly to the last one, the tutors don’t care if you don’t know the answer. You haven’t gone through 7+ years of higher education – they can hardly expect you to. It’s a darn sight better to just say you don’t know than to spend five minutes of your interview making something up and ending up looking an even bigger fool. They wan’t to see your thought process, to know if you’ll fit in at Oxford. If you can’t be honest, open and communicative in an interview, then it’s unlikely you’ll be honest, open and communicative in a tutorial – and seeing as thats the primary form of teaching at Oxford, it’s really important that they feel they can work with you. Chill out. Show them what you do know, don’t lie about what you don’t. It’ll be fine.
5. Know your personal statement. And what you wrote in whatever sample work you handed in. There is a high chance they will ask you on it, and, contrary to the last point, here you look a lot more genuine if you can expand on what you’ve written, rather than having to quickly think of a way to talk about that thing that you near-enough made up… They have a lot of people to see, and they don’t know very much about anyone, so that statement is all they have to work with. In my personal statement I wrote that I admired strong women such as Ariadne and Medea, which they completely pulled me up on in my interview. Now if you don’t know the story of Medea, she murders both of her children in a jealous rage, in order to get back at her husband for marrying another wife. So I basically had to justify why I had said I admired a crazy person. If you can’t talk about something you’ve written they’ll wonder why you bothered putting it in in the first place. Be prepared.
6. Enjoy it. Regardless of whether you actually get a place or not, most people will only go through the experience once. And it’s a really unique experience. Enjoy being in Oxford – at my college at least there’s a bunch of stuff put on by the students in the evenings to entertain you, so go. make new friends even if you never see them again. Visit the museums, the parks, the other colleges. Don’t spend the entire time stressing over one interview that didn’t go exactly as you planned. You literally cannot know how well you’ve done, or how well anyone else did. Relax and have fun with it!
So that was a bit of a different post to usual but it was something that I really wanted to write. It felt a lot more serious than I thought it was going to be, so sorry if it intimidated anyone! Honestly, interviews are nothing to worry about, and the more you can relax and enjoy the process the easier you’ll find it.
P.S: I really just want to get this up as its so so late already, so I’m going to come back and add pictures later when I actually have time.