Alumnus: Michael Poolton
When I applied to Oxford, I applied because of a reputation for excellence – and because I preferred the look of the place compared to Cambridge! Looking back after four years, whilst these reasons still hold true, with a consistent top ranking in league tables and buildings that still manage to inspire and impress me in equal measure, the reasons why I would advise you to apply here are different. First, there is the teaching and educational excellence, taking place within the collegiate university environment and then there is the position Oxford has put me in for the future.
The teaching here comes in the form of tutorials. Tutorials are a conversation with an expert in the subject you are studying, based around the week’s reading. During these tutorials you are pushed to develop your own views on the subject matter as well as enabling a clarification of understanding, and this is really special. Reading that has taken a day or more to understand can often be summarised and explained by a tutor in two sentences and this enables you to really get to grips with the subject. This depth of understanding and the clarification of difficult material cannot be reached in a seminar or lectures and it is this that sets the Oxford experience apart. The small group sizes also means that the tutors really get to know you as a student, and this allows for better support in what you do, be it references for jobs or extra support in areas that you’re struggling in.
The collegiate university environment is also a unique aspect of Oxford life. Everyone is affiliated to a college, and this is where you eat, sleep and socialise, as well as have most of your teaching. It is often described as a mini-university within a university. The college environment is special as it allows you to socialise across all years, be it in the college bar or on the sports pitch, meaning those in the years above you are more than willing to help with subjects you are struggling on or job applications, having been through it the year before you. This advice and guidance is invaluable, especially when it comes to the final reason of why you should apply to Oxford, the position it puts you in for the future.
Oxford has links across the major industries both in and out of the City, with unique access to recruitment events; open days, skills workshops, networking dinners, and more. This, coupled with the skill set given to you by the unique tutorial system (giving you confidence and belief in yourself, the ability to think on your feet, to form an argument in seconds), leaves you in a great place when you, unfortunately, have to leave the university.