My story of applying to Oxford is quite interesting. My Dad used to read to me the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials books when I was young, and I then found out it was a real place: Exeter College! I started thinking about applying to Oxford after my GCSEs and my school was quite good about encouraging people to apply.
One of the ways I explored my subject before applying was by reading quite a lot of political and philosophical books. Thinking about current affairs and politics, and why you think and believe certain things and certain parties, rather than just subscribing to one party’s views, can be really useful. Make sure you interrogate your own thinking. I think they want to see how you think, and this is a useful way of practising!
One of my tips for interview would be not to try to learn your subject. Instead, to practise, question why you think things, and try and explain the reasoning behind them to yourself. If you think two people should be treated differently in the law or in politics, ask yourself why you think that. What’s the difference between those two cases, and why is that difference important. I think that will be far more productive and useful. I thought my interviews went terribly so don’t worry too much about what the tutors said, or whether they thought you were right or wrong. It’s about them exploring how you think. Often they’re just playing devil’s advocate, so don’t be put off if they disagree with you.
I’m Junior Common Room (JCR) president here at Exeter College. The JCR is both a social room in the College and a society which represents the views of the undergraduate body as a whole. It’s comprised of 300 members and 25 elected representatives with a whole range of roles, each focussing on particular issues. We try to take the views of the whole student body, and then take them to the College to explain why we think something should be done differently. It’s good fun! You get to feel like you’re making a tangible difference, especially within a smaller college like Exeter, and get to be involved with some of the decisions that affect Exeter’s students’ lives.