Chloe offers guidance on applying to UniTuesday, May 26, 2015 12:00 AM
Hi, my name’s Chloe and I’m in my first year at the University of Oxford. I’m hoping that some of you will find my general application advice helpful, these are the things I think it would have been useful if someone had told me…
Even before my AS-Levels my parents were wondering aloud about when I’d start drafting my personal statement, ordering prospectuses, booking open days and visiting universities. You’ve still got plenty of time so don’t worry. Even so, planning over the summer can prevent a lot of stress next year when you’ll have work to be doing.
You should choose a subject you’ll enjoy!
At some point during your studies you are going to have to work really hard. You have to have the motivation to stay in and study when it’s really sunny outside and you’d prefer to be out and about. You’ll only do this if studying your subject is something you really want to do! If you have a general idea of what you’d like to study make sure you look into all the options out there. If you can’t settle on a single subject that’s fine, that’s what the talks at open days are for. In my AS year I changed my mind between applying for maths, physics or engineering several times and in the end it was a week of work experience I did that made my mind up. If you can organise something like that for your time during the summer it may be really helpful.
Visit the universities you’re applying to.
Once exams are over you might be tempted to collapse in a heap and not surface until you go back to college September (which lots of people do!). But this is where the planning comes in. I didn’t look into open days until quite late and found that most unis have their first ones at the end of June/early July. This is a great time to go to open days and will help you get ahead! It’s particularly useful if you’re thinking of making an application to Oxbridge, or for one of the courses that has an October deadline.
Think about the university location
I love where I live and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and I think this is as important as the course I’m doing. If you don’t like where you end up living you’ll be miserable so make sure it fits with you – all the league tables and stats in the world can’t give you an idea of whether you’ll like the place.
Start your personal statement early.
I started my personal statement three weeks before the deadline and in the end it turned out OK, but it could have gone very badly wrong. Unless you’re an incredibly proficient writer you will sit staring at a blank page for ages before you write anything at all. There’s also a good chance that the first thing you write won’t be all that great (I shudder to think of the first draft of my personal statement). It’s difficult to not make it sound cheesy, but the more time you give yourself to draft and redraft and ask for feedback the better it will be.
Think carefully about your offers
Once you get your offers you’ll have to pick your firm and insurance choices. This was easy for me because once I got the Oxford offer I didn’t want to go anywhere else. For most people it won’t be so straightforward. Do all the research you need to do (visit the places!) and then take a step back. Even though it seems like a massive decision at the time you will like wherever you end up if you made your applications well. You will meet friends wherever you go, so don’t worry too much (although this is sometimes easier said than done).
The final thing I would say is if you’re in any doubt about any part of your application find someone to talk to. Even if you can’t make an open day most universities will be able to organise for you to talk to a current student. Someone will be able to answer the questions you might have, so don’t let them worry you too much. You have a lot of big decisions looming in front of you but before you know it you’ll have made them and moved on to the next big thing!