This post was written by Ben, a first-year student in French and Spanish at St Hilda’s College. Reflecting on where he was a year ago, at which point he had just received his offer from St Hilda’s, Ben has some handy advice forYear 13 students who have received an offer to study at Oxford.
With a history spanning longer than that of the United Kingdom, a rich diversity of colleges each functioning in a slightly different manner, and the bragging rights of being known as the ‘place where Harry Potter was filmed’, the University of Oxford might appear to be shrouded in mystery and magic. Perhaps it’s for this very reason that all those on the inside (myself included) are consistently asked variations on the question, “what’s it like to be an Oxford student?”.
In a somewhat ironic turn of events, it’s this very question I found myself pondering about this time last year. Following the eternity that the month or so awaiting a response after interviews seems to last, I received that fateful email confirming my place to study French and Spanish at my current college, St Hilda’s. Relief, joy, excitement, uncertainty, a faint nervousness – these are all emotions I would use to describe my reaction to that moment, and emotions I’m certain that some of you kind enough to be reading this blog will be all too familiar with right now, offer obtained, yet unsure as to what to expect.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Now a term into my first year, perhaps the benefit of hindsight will help to shine some light on the process of receiving an offer from Oxford. Here are four pieces of advice if you do so happen to be about to embark on your journey with the University.
1. If you have been made an offer by a college different to the one you originally applied for, don’t sweat it. Whilst it is true that each has a different atmosphere, every student I have spoken to in the first year already cherishes the college that they have ended up at. And this isn’t just smooth phrasing copied and pasted from the university website, no – I’m speaking from personal experience. I myself originally applied to another college, and if I can settle in perfectly, you most certainly will too.
2. Keep an eye on your inbox. Oxford’s team of tutors and academics will often give you advice and support from the moment you’re made an offer – be that in the form of answers to any academic questions you may have, or reading lists to prepare you for the course. If you haven’t turned on notifications for your email app, now’s the time.
3. Go to an offer holder day. Many colleges will run a day specifically designed for the incoming year group. Meet others you may well be sharing a tutorial with, grill those already on the course, perhaps even just get to know the college a little better – regardless of how you spend it, it’s an event well worth attending.
4. Join Freshers’ pages. Oxford students come from a wide range of different places, yet that distance is nothing social media can’t handle. Prospective language students’ group chats are particularly lively, and a great way to meet people if talking to those on the offer holder day is just too twentieth century.
To finish this blog, whilst it may seem daunting at first, arguably the most important piece of advice is that of not panicking. Both your college and other students are fully aware that everything is novel, and that the jump from Sixth Form to university requires some getting used to. Surprising though it may sound, Freshers’ Week is in this sense far more than a social event: it will give you all the valuable information you could possibly need, settling any doubts whose answers you haven’t already found.
And so for now at least, as the expression goes, ‘keep calm and carry on’.