Sunday, 11 December 2011

Interviews

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks. I had a lovely time in Oxford for four days doing interviews. The people were fantastic, as was the food (very important) and the city as a whole. I'll do my best to relate my experiences in the hope that they may be useful for those who are still due to head down there this week, or indeed are thinking about applying next year.

I arrived at my college at just before 6pm on Sunday, and I wasn't feeling all that confident. Being thrust into a pressurising situation amongst a whole group of people we have never met before isn't something many would see as being a walk in the park, and it was the same for me. I gave my parents one last nervous wave before they drove off, and stepped through the intimidatingly elegant doorway to meet the porter. He handed me my key (and remained lovely and helpful throughout the rest of my stay). So, I trooped off to a room where the student helpers were waiting to take us to our rooms.

There is no danger of getting lost around the college. You are equipped with a map of Oxford and of the college itself, and the student helpers are always around to guide you (they were distinguishable from the applicants at my college because all the helpers were equipped with pink scarves). I was taken up to my room, then whiled away the last few minutes before dinner.

Meals are the best time to chat to everyone and to get to know people. This was especially the case for me, as the PPE students were the first batch to arrive. You realise that everyone else there is just like you - perhaps a little unsure of themselves, eager to make friends, and there's a lot of cameraderie as people prepare for interviews. Some of them might be your competition, sure, but they're so lovely and obviously amazing that this doesn't really cross your mind for a moment. I had a great first evening there, getting to know people's different backstories, reasons for applying, and personal interests.

After dinner, I went off to check the JCR noticeboard, where interview times are posted. The JCR is the centre of the whole experience - you'll spend lots of your time in there, chatting and just generally relaxing. I guess it depends which college you go to, but at mine there was a pool table, games, and the whole thing was decorated ready for Christmas. This contributed towards making the whole place feel very homely, and it was obvious the student helpers had spent a lot of time making it look nice for us.

Anyway, I discovered - to my horror - that I had the very first interview of the day on Monday. 9:30am sharp. Having convinced myself this was an awful development, I whiled away the evening with the fellow PPE students at G&Ds, the local ice cream shop. The helpers will organise an activity every evening - this could be a quiz night, a film night, a games night - and, as it was for me, these activities can be exceptionally useful in terms of getting your mind off things. Following this, I returned to my bedroom to start preparing.

If there's one ultimate piece of advice I could give, it would be to advise everyone to bring a pair of warm socks. I couldn't sleep at all that night - all the facts I'd just reread during my preparation time were whirling around in my head for what felt like hours, and I became convinced that the reason I woke up about two hours before my alarm went off was because my feet were cold. It's best to prepare for any eventuality, I suppose! Anyway, next morning dawned, bright and early, and I trooped down the hall to have a shower and to try not to expire with fear.

As it turns out, the tutors could not have made it more comfortable for me. You have to remember that they're really trying to get the best out of you and to see how you think, and as long as you keep calm, you should be able to enjoy the experience. I'll do a separate post in a week detailing the exact questions, which may be particularly useful for PPE applicants. Yet I think my main emotion after I walked out of the office where the interview was held was relief that the whole process was over.

Or so I thought. Given that I had had the first interview of all 22 interviewed applicants, by virtue of my surname being high in the alphabet, I had a lot of free time. I spent it shopping, chatting, visiting the library, relaxing, and just generally enjoying the opportunity to spend a couple of days in such a beautiful and inspiring location. And so, Wednesday morning dawned, bright and early; I would be departing in just two hours; and I made my way to the JCR to check to see if I would be among the group to be given a second interview at another college. It wasn't particularly likely, but you don't want to be the one who has left the county by the time you get a call from College X asking why you have failed to turn up.

As I expect you have guessed by now - I had been given a second interview. I calmed my rapidly resurfacing nerves by reminding myself how lucky I was to have been given this second chance. So, I made my way to the other college and went through the same process again. It seemed that my first interview hadn't been the exception, but the rule - I can't stress this enough - they do try to get the best out of you. If you enjoy yourself as much as possible, you'll be comfortable enough to think quickly. Whether or not I get in, being interviewed was an incredible experience that I was very grateful to have, and one that I will not forget in a hurry.

Have a happy holiday! As always, if you have any comments or queries, don't hesitate to leave them below.

Emma

10 comments:

  1. Well.. I got rejected pre-interview, thx to the TSA. But I can't say I regret the experience. I'd love to read PPE there though. Good luck with your app, seems to be going well. :)

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  2. That sucks :( The TSA can be so frustrating. I wish they interviewed everyone like they used to! Thank you very much for the good wishes, I wish you the best of luck as well :D

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  3. Hey Emma :)

    Which college were you interviewed at?

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  4. I'm loving your blog, I personally experienced staying in Merton college (during one of the open days) and clearly remember playing scrabble (and losing against the English Language undergrads), as well as watching the apprentice on their huge screen in the JCR common room.

    I have also (relatively recently) started a blog, I am afraid that I haven't been quite as disciplined as you in keeping to a particular topic, however, it is quite fun and I do occupationally mention my UCAS/offers and things...
    anyway, check it out:
    lifeisaboutbeingalive.blogspot.com

    Also you might be quite interested to know that I know 2 people who have applied for PPE at Oxford (it must be popular), one of them has already got an offer, the another is yet to get an interview. Good Luck with your appilications!

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  5. Hey amirrozlan! I was interviewed first at Pembroke, and secondly at Keble :)

    Alex - thank you so much! Merton is really lovely college, I hope you enjoyed it! I've just had a look at your blog and it's fantastic :D I have to stick to a particular topic aka applications on here but I'd love to do one like yours someday. Just followed it! :D

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  6. my, you're up early, replying at "06:21", are you able to sleep?, the application must be large on your mind!
    I hope you hear soon, (the tension and waiting can be hard!)
    Also what's your second choice after Oxford? (sorry, if I missed it and you have already mentioned this)

    I was thinking about applying to Oxford, but I decided that I wanted to go to Scotland (since living in Belgium, I count as a EU student, therefore no tuition fees :) )

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  7. It was about 2pm in the afternoon UK time, I guess the clock is messed up haha :D I heard and luckily/shockingly I got an offer! :D LSE was my second choice. If you do end up applying to Oxford don't hesitate to ask for any specific advice! There are lots of awesome Scottish unis, I definitely would have applied to Edinburugh or St Andrew's if they did my course!

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  8. Hi were you asked Math questions for your PPE interview? I'm applying for E&M and I'm concerned about the Math questions for Economics? How did you fair for the TSA by the way?

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    1. Hi! I wrote a more detailed breakdown of the interviews, you can read it if you click on the 'interview' tag and it's the first post :) I wasn't asked anything too technical but I did have to work out things for the economics question. In the TSA I got 70.5 with 80.5 in problem solving and 60.5 in critical thinking.

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  9. Hi! :)
    Your blog is really lovely and helpful - and I hope you're still checking it from time to time ;)
    I've been invited to an interview at Oxford myself now and I'm not sure what I should wear for it...any advice?
    Thank you!

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