Lil's Story: My Awful Oxbridge Application

The thought of university was already slightly daunting. I hadn’t even started my second year at college and was still using BBC Bitesize to help me with homework. I was yet to feel the full force of a thumping hangover and I’d be lying if I told you my mum didn’t still pack me a lunchbox. But after a few minutes of blankly staring at some unexpected exam results, (I believe my mother started every text she sent that day with the word ‘blimey!’), some odd voice in the back of my head shouted, with far more justification this time: you really could apply to Cambridge now.

And so, with a creeping suspicion that I did not belong, I began the application process. Let me tell you: there is only a certain number of times you can rewrite the same personal statement, and passing that number is not a happy achievement of mine. By the end of the 31st draft, my academic confidence had taken a hit – there’s no feeling like getting back a piece of work and seeing eight question marks speckled across it (what do you mean I can’t say lmao on a personal statement?). The end result, whilst shipshape, would have been a lot less impressive had I been honest with the admissions tutors on the other end of my UCAS form and written my religious studies teacher’s name at the top of the page. I was a fraud - I didn’t even complete D of E, and the only time I’ve ever really been proud of myself is that evening where I ate twelve profiteroles in one sitting.

We continue with the Admissions Test. Every subject has a different test name – the BMAT for medicine, the LNAT for Law. The other HATs and TWATs filed into the same room as me, where the fun began, and we could see just how well our middle-class education had prepared us for the intensity of an Oxbridge exam. The first section was multiple choice (very much a ‘well, I haven’t chosen B in a while’ situation), and the second was an essay question. It sounds a little scary, but me cheerfully guessing answers wasn’t even the worst part – I spotted this really cute boy a few seats ahead of me! And, immediately of course, my attention from the non-duality of Zen Buddhism had been stolen by him. Had I seen him before? What subject is he applying for? Why are you doing this in the middle of an entrance exam for Cambridge? Classic.

Please do take the word ‘blundering’ quite seriously here, because somehow I really did manage to get an interview. Cue me in an ugly skirt awkwardly shaking hands with the Director of Studies at my chosen college. I sat down on a large, pink, squishy sofa and began rambling about the concept of identity. The two interviewers sat across from me at quite a distance, giving sympathising keep-acting-like-you-know-where-you’re-going-with-this smiles, and writing things down. Do I look the Director of Studies in the eye? No, just look at the floor. Ah, now it looks like you’ve just looked him up and down and checked him out. Nice.

That interview was fine. I mean, it’s never fine when you’re being asked your favourite questions on the existence of God whilst sweating in a woolly coat, but you know, relatively speaking. The next interview, however, went a little differently. Firstly, one of the interviewers was ANOTHER handsome guy (do you see a pattern here?) and I still looked like a World War II evacuee in my ugly skirt and jumper. But it was even worse, because I was a sweaty World War II evacuee. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate intently on a graph showing the decline of infant baptism and still look cute? Pretty hard. Prepare yourself for this question I was asked by the main interviewer: ‘Dr Cute* lives very near me, he’s a very good Theologian, I often see him out running,’ - no way, you run? Me too, wow we have so much in common – ‘and he’s very nice. Is it reasonable to assume that he will not steal my pen if I rest it here for a moment on this chair?’

Haha, what. Don’t even bother wondering what I replied, because I didn’t. I laughed. In a Cambridge interview. It came out before I could stop it, and I walked away feeling pretty confident I’d never see that cute doctor again. I was also asked if it was reasonable to believe Britain was an island – I’m not too sure, but I’d be willing to jump off a cliff now and find out for you?

The Oxbridge application process is never an easy experience, but it certainly was fun. It’s pretty cool knowing you’ve spoken with experts in your field, even if you did laugh in their face. Such a diverse mix of people apply nowadays, it’s nice knowing that you won’t be surrounded by Maximilian the IIIV’s. And maybe, just maybe, they won’t regret offering me a place… (lmao).

*real names of cute doctors have been changed for privacy.