On the 26th and 27th of June, 7 sixth formers, myself included, had the opportunity to attend the Oxford University open days, spending one night at Oriel college.
This residential was a great chance to experience the university beyond its website: A tour of Oriel College from current Oxford Students, made me see how the collegiate system in Oxford differs from the campus systems in other universities such as Manchester or Leeds. The key difference being that you could potentially live in the same place as the person who teaches your subject. These people are called tutors and they organise tutorials at their college for the relevant students, this means that you don’t have to wait until the next lecture to ask for assistance with work or projects. Furthermore, colleges in Oxford can be occupied by first year undergraduates right through to 3rd or 4th years and so the college system seems to create an environment where there is always someone nearby to offer guidance and advice, something which is really important to me.
After the guided tour of Oriel, we got a taste of what independent student life would be like as we were left to find our subject departments around the university. The subject buildings at Oxford were truly unique: it was the first time that I had seen a 200 year old library right next to a modern, state-of –the –art Mathematics department with glass windows and tessellated marble patterns. It was clear to see that Oxford takes pride in its past whilst embracing the future. The students in the Mathematics department, where I spent most of my time, were friendly and informative. They explained the course structure to me and how I would be assessed. It was a bit daunting to find out that the assessments are almost always exam based, but with the amount of support that would be available to me in the form of one-to-one tutorials, the prospect of becoming a student at this institution became more and more attractive.
In the meeting with subject tutors it was made clear to me again the amount of hard work that is necessary to do well at a University of the calibre of Oxford. The entry requirements are high of course, but the work doesn’t stop after A –levels; as an Oxford Mathematics student you are required to attend up to seven Maths lectures a week whilst preparing for what are called ‘prelims’ (a set of gruelling exams sat during first year). Being as passionate about mathematics as I am, I saw the hard work as a challenge to be accepted and a new experience to look forward to. Whilst I’m still undecided on where I want to study come autumn 2019, I definitely feel I’m in a position to make a fully informed decision when the time comes.
Felix D-P – A Student Blog
After a morning of exploring Oxford, it was time for the most important part of the day, meeting with subject tutors.
My specific area of interest is engineering, so I would meet one of the engineering tutors at Oriel College, where we had stayed the night.
The helpful students at the college were willing to take me to the correct building, an enthusiastic attitude which ran throughout the university; not a single student who wasn’t engaging with A level students such as myself.
Now, having expected a lecture room full of students, I was pleasantly surprised at the more intimate atmosphere when I realised there was only one other student than myself in the tutor’s office. This really helped recreate the one to one (or two to one) experience that Oxbridge students have regularly in their tutor meetings, unlike the much larger tutor groups which other universities use to discuss work. This immediately encourages high level engagement and establishes a close connection between yourself and the tutor as there is nowhere to hide, which I see as a highly positive aspect of Oxford University.
At first the tutor asked us where we came from and what we were currently studying, and if there was anything we wanted to ask right away. Nothing came to mind just yet, so he gave us a brief overview on engineering at Oxford, and how it is taught. As a result we had some questions regarding the course which he answered well, also discussing aspects of the application process. I found this very useful as I have found that over the course of the year, many different lecturers (at university events) have given slightly different perspectives about the best way to apply for Oxbridge, so who better to ask than someone who conducts engineering applicant interviews and reviews applications himself.
On the topic of interviews, the tutor explained an example of an interview problem he had given in the past and the type of responses he had, and how solving the problem is not the end goal of an interview but rather the process in which it is attempted, a recurring theme regarding university interviews.
All in all I found this experience very inspiring, and it felt like I could naturally learn in this type of environment. Unfortunately for myself, the course at Oxford doesn’t contain some of the engineering modules which I wish to study (in particular those regarding aerospace), though it seems like a great place to study engineering otherwise.