Separate the fact from the fiction with our student-written guide
There are lots of myths and misinformation out there about applying to Oxford – so much so that people can be put off from applying to Oxford. A worrying Sutton Trust survey recently found that over 4 in 10 state school teachers rarely or never advise smart pupils to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. To help combat this, we have put together this myth-busting page, written by students at Teddy Hall, to give you a better idea what life at the Hall is really like.
Reality: Studying at Oxford is hard work, as the short 8 week terms means there is quite a lot to fit in. However, studying a subject of your choice that you love makes it much easier, and a little time management means that there is actually time for lots of other activities. There is a general 8-8-8 suggestion for each day: 8 hours working, 8 hours free time, 8 hours sleep, which illustrates that there is plenty of time to spend as you wish.
At Teddy Hall there’s a great range of activities on offer. We are known as one of the sportiest colleges in Oxford – there’s football, rugby, netball, hockey, rowing and so much more. These clubs accommodate everybody, whether you’re a serious sportsman/woman or just want to get involved casually.
Yet there is far more than just sport at the College. On the arts and music front, to name just a few of the clubs on offer, there is the Music Society, the John Oldham Drama Society and creative writing workshops. Teddy Hall even offers Masterclass funding, a scheme unique to this College, offering up to £1000 each year for students who want to get advanced coaching in an extra-curricular activity, because the College recognises that studying isn’t the only part of people’s lives.
Additionally, it’s also not true that students at Oxford don’t go out and enjoy the nightlife that Oxford has to offer. There are cheap student nights on every night of the week, just like at other universities, and those who enjoy going clubbing make the most of them. Each college has its own bar as well, where the prices are much cheaper than any pubs you’ll find on the city centre, so these are popular with the students as well.
Reality: Oxford does have a ‘uniform’ of sorts, which is called sub-fusc (for a glossary of all the strange Oxford terms, check the useful links section at the bottom of the page), but this is only worn very occasionally. It consists of formal clothing and a gown and is only worn for exams (although you can take off your gown and tie as soon as you get in the exam hall) and matriculation, which is a ceremony in which you officially become a member of the university. It’s only in TV shows that you see students wearing gowns all the time.
However, for the vast majority of the time we dress in normal, everyday clothes. We turn up to tutorials in a t-shirt and jeans, and sometimes go to early morning lectures barely out of our pyjamas!
Reality: Most Oxford professors are forthcoming and friendly. The relationship students here have with their tutors is very different to the relationship pupils at school have with their teachers, being one between adults and based more upon discussion. Tutors appreciate interested students and are here because they want to teach you. They will listen to your opinions and aim to develop and guide you academically. Most students get on very well with their tutors and aren’t treated as inferior, but with great consideration.
Reality: This simply isn’t true. Once you get to Oxford, you’ll realise that the vast majority of students (and all of the tutors) do not care what school you went to or what background you’ve come from. When interviewing prospective students, tutors are looking for academic potential, not for whether you shake hands or how you dress etc. In 2020, Oxford offered more places to state school students than ever before, and the proportion of state school students has been increasing for years. Students and staff alike recognise that Oxford is bright students who love their subject, and as a result there is strong mutual respect and students from different backgrounds often become lifelong friends. Oxford is for people who are enthusiastic, talented and passionate about their subject, regardless of their background.
Reality: University is a time where we all develop personally as well as academically and in a busy environment that means we can all feel stressed from time to time. There are lots of systems to help you deal with stress. On a university-wide level, there is the Oxford Counselling Service and the Oxford Nightline, and specific systems run by societies such as the LGBTQ+ Society, all of which offer completely confidential support to any student. Tutors are also understanding and will usually allow deadline extensions or provide additional support wherever required.
Here at Teddy Hall, the welfare supervision is also superb. We have a College Nurse and a College Chaplain, who are both experienced counsellors available to talk to you about any issues you may encounter during your time at university. We also have both a male and female undergraduate Welfare Officer, who are elected by the student body to be in charge of the welfare of the undergraduates here at Teddy Hall. The Welfare Officers are assisted by a team of Peer Supporters – students who go through roughly 30 hours of training and are there to discuss any issues you might be having.
If for whatever reasons you need support or just somebody to talk to, then there’s definitely someone who can help you.
Reality: You may be asked some unusual questions, but the tutors are not trying to trip you up or confuse you. Instead, they’re looking to see how you think and how you cope when you’re given a question that you might not be expecting or haven’t thought about before. The tutors will be looking to challenge you and see that you’re able to think independently and critically. Don’t worry if you get the wrong answer or if you make a mistake – that’s completely normal and everybody finds their interviews hard. Don’t be put off by anyone who claims their interviews were easy!
You may have to stay for a few days for your interviews and you will usually have at least two interviews, although you may have more, depending on your subject and other circumstances. For more information, check out the University’s advice on interviews.
Reality: For UK-based students, the tuition fees at Oxford are the same as most other universities and there is an extensive range of university bursaries and grants available. Your financial background shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t come to Oxford. More information about Oxford’s fees and funding is available here.
Here at Teddy Hall, we have a number of scholarships and bursaries that are on offer to support students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and the College also has a hardship fund to which students can apply. In addition to these aids, academic scholarships and prizes are awarded to students who do particularly well whilst they are here.