Fred – Mathematics
Journey to Oxford
I went to a state school in North London – my parents both went to university, but didn’t know anything about Oxford, and were initially sceptical when my teachers encouraged me to apply. But they were very supportive, and it worked in the end!
Why did you choose to study your course?
It’s a cliché, but I had always loved maths at school – choosing to take A-level Maths and Further Maths was a no-brainer for me. I wasn’t sure between Maths, Physics or Computer Science in Year 12, but after doing some research on these different courses, and through taking part in various Maths competitions, it was clear that was what I wanted to do.
What is your favourite thing about it?
I absolutely love my course – the breadth of mathematics you get to study in the first couple of years, and the depth of the courses in the 3rd and 4th years means you receive a very comprehensive mathematical education, while also being able to specialise in your chosen areas. I can honestly say I really enjoy doing the work for my course, and that moment when you finally get something you have been stuck on is an unparalleled feeling!
How is your course taught?
In the first year, there are 2 lectures every morning. These take place in the Mathematical Institute, in the main lecture theatre, with the entire Mathematics cohort. There are 2 lectures for each course per week, and 5 courses per term, in a wide range of pure and applied mathematics. Other years also have an average of 2 lectures a day, but this can vary a little more.
In first year, you also have 4 or 5 tutorials every week, where you go through a problem sheet you have attempted, usually with one other student and a tutor. Tutorials are such a great way to consolidate your understanding of content and improve your skills as a Mathematician – and our tutors do an amazing job of helping you do this. You have 2 or 3 tutorials a week in 2nd year, and these are then replaced with a couple of classes a week in the Maths Institute in 3rd and 4th year.
Aside from lectures and tutorials, your time is yours – your weekly workload will consist of 5 problem sheets, which are roughly meant to be about 6 to 8 hours of work each, and you can structure your week in whatever way suits your working style!
Describe your average Oxford day…
I always start with college breakfast at 8:30am, which is often the highlight of my day! Then, I just crack on with my problem sheets, stopping for lunch, as well as any classes or lectures I might have that day. After dinner at around 6pm, I tend to stop working and relax – hanging out with my friends in college, watching a film, going to my band rehearsals etc. On weekends, I also have choir, and try to work a little less than I do during the week.
Why did you decide to apply to St Edmund Hall? What is your favourite thing about it now you’re here?
I was actually offered a choral scholarship here, before I applied, so the choice of college was an easy one for me! I didn’t know it at the time, but I was very lucky to have ended up at Teddy Hall – there are so many great things I can say about the Hall, but the thing which has been really noticeable to me is how excellent the mathematics tutors are here. They cover the whole spectrum of pure and applied maths, and are incredibly supportive.
What helped you prepare for the admissions process?
The main thing I did was just to do all the MAT papers over summer as practice! They are a different style to the maths from school, so the more practice you can do, the better. There isn’t really any secret formula for admissions, all you can do is prepare as well as you can and give it your best shot!
What was the biggest misconception you had about studying at Oxford before you came?
That it would be impossible to keep up – I was really worried I’d be the worst student in my whole year, but while the course is obviously tough, this has definitely not been the case. The tutorial system in particular really helps you keep up with the course, and not get left behind.
What would you tell your 17-year-old self about applying to and studying at Oxford/St Edmund Hall now?
That it will be incredibly rewarding, with so many opportunities, and just to be really excited about going to university, wherever that may be!