In my letter I was told I had to arrive at college for 10am, so like any normal nervous interviewee, I got there for 9.50, just to be on the safe side. After a calm train journey and a brisk walk from the station to the centre of Oxford I was feeling prepared and unflustered. I was directed from the porters lodge to the ‘interview gathering point’, only to be told that I was late and had an interview in 10 minutes. I had to drop my stuff and dash to the faculty. Needless to say I was no longer feeling so relaxed. Looking back, the mad rush was actually the best thing that could have happened; I had no time to worry about the interview or even worse, talk to all those awful self-professed super-humans who scare the hell out of you as they boast about all their achievements, but in the end don’t get in.
A few weeks ago my friends and I were recounting our interview stories: here’s my favourite about two friends who didn’t quite hit it off at first but are now great friends. There was a quiz put on for all interviewees and one friend was writing the down the answers for their team. She forgot to insert an apostrophe, so my other friend went mad, saying that if she couldn’t even use the correct the grammar then why the hell was she applying to Oxford!
My then-girlfriend was also interviewing but at St Peters, so most of my time was spent dodging revision and the cold by seeing her. This would prove to be my downfall, however: she’d been so kind as not to tell me she’d recently had a bout of gastric flu, which I then caught in dramatic fashion. Little did I know at the time that chundering in the communal toilets was the most accurate taste of Teddy Hall life that I could’ve hoped for, so in some sense the interview period was actually a valuable learning experience!
Whilst staying in college during my interviews, in my clumsiness I managed to drop my room key down the toilet (Don’t worry – it had been flushed!). Feeling far from a prime Oxford candidate at this stage, I had to fish them out of the toilet bowl and then coat them in half a bottle of hand sanitiser. I felt so guilty handing them back to the porter as I left at the thought of the poor student returning their room the next term, unaware of what I’d done with their keys…
At interviews I met a guy applying for Spanish and Portuguese. This wasn’t his first choice of course; he really wanted to do Spanish and Japanese but Oxford doesn’t offer it. Unfortunately, the first question he was asked in his Portuguese interview was: ‘So, why Portuguese?’ To which he replied: ‘Well, to be honest it wasn’t my first choice…’ Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get in…
One of my interviews for Modern Languages involved reading a French poem and then discussing it during the interview.Trying to show how much of a super-keen linguist I was, when they asked me at the end whether I had any questions, I asked, “I really enjoyed the poem; who was it by?”
After the tutor’s response (it was Baudelaire), I really stuck my foot in it.“I see. Did she write a lot of poetry?”“Yes” my tutor replied. “He is one of the most famous poets that France has ever produced.” Oops.
Interviewing for history is like speed-dating for the manically nerdy. You have fifteen minutes to prove exactly how much you approve of books, then, if you’re very lucky, you win a three-year long relationship with a library pass. As I waited outside my first interview I gibbered hysterically, recalling the pack of lies that constituted my personal statement. Should I just confess, cut my losses? No, I hadn’t read E.H. Carr. ‘I had this unfathomably sexy history teacher, you see…’ Happily, the interview only consisted of a source discussion. Unhappily, the source was written in Gaelic.