William – Physics
Journey to Oxford
Hi, my name’s Will and I’m from the outskirts of Bristol! I went to the local state school for GCSEs and A-Levels. Whilst there are people from private schools here, I haven’t had a problem fitting in; everyone is friendly!
Why did you choose to study your course?
I’ve always been interested in learning how things work. Why does a puddle evaporate without ever reaching 100C? Physics can answer that! Physics allows me to use my love of maths to predict and model the entire universe. Whilst learning theory is super interesting, in science an equation is nothing but a claim until proven experimentally. Being able to prove them with fancy equipment in the labs is very fun.
… As you can tell, Physics was the obvious choice for me!
What is your favourite thing about your course?
At the moment I’m enjoying special relativity as it’s something very new to what you learn at A-Level and gives you a new perspective on everything around you.
How is your course taught?
My course is split into 3 parts: lectures, labs and tutorials. We generally have around 10 lectures a week covering Maths and Physics topics at the same time. We spend one day a week in the labs with our lab partner doing various experiments that go alongside the first-year theory.
Finally, we have tutorials. Tutors set problem sheets based on lecture content and you work through these during the week. We are set 2 problem sheets a week which at first may seem like a lot but once you get settled into a routine it’s perfectly manageable. During tutorials, we discuss the problem sheets and anything we might have not understood. Normally we are in groups of 2-3 so this is a great opportunity to get personal support from a world leading expert!
Describe your average Oxford day…
My day starts with breakfast in hall with all my friends before heading off to our first lecture of the day at 9am. I then head back to college for lunch and work on the problem sheets set for the week. Generally, our afternoons are flexible (except lab days) so I have plenty of time to meet up with friends and go to clubs/societies. The day ends with dinner in the hall then a mix of socialising and working- depending on if I have any deadlines coming up!
Why did you decide to apply to St Edmund Hall? What is your favourite thing about it now you’re here?
I didn’t apply to St Edmund Hall, I got reallocated here during the interview stage. But after a few days it felt like home, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else! I think my favourite thing about Teddy Hall is the people. We are quite a small college so all first years live very close together. This makes it incredibly easy to make friends; we see each other every day for breakfast and dinner and spend a lot of time socialising in the college bar and common room.
What helped you prepare for the admissions process?
For Physics there are two parts to the admissions process: the PAT and the interviews. For the PAT, I used various online resources and practiced past papers once I learnt all the additional content I wouldn’t cover in time at school. Anything I didn’t understand I would ask my teachers- they were extremely helpful!
For interviews I participated in an outreach event by the university which debunked some common myths about Oxford interviews. I also had a mock interview with an ex-teacher at my school which was extremely useful. Being able to explain clearly what you’re thinking is very important in the interviews. Practice this as much as you can, even if the person you are explaining it to is the wall!
What was the biggest misconception you had about studying at Oxford before you came?
I think for me coming from a state school and being the first in my family to go to university it was whether I would fit in. But I quickly discovered the ‘Oxford Type’ is simply a myth! There are loads of people from all over the world embracing their different cultures and backgrounds, the idea that there is only one type of person who gets in is complete nonsense.
What would you tell your 17-year-old self about applying to and studying at Oxford/St Edmund Hall now?
Go for it, there can be no regrets if you tried. Yes it will be intense (it must be as the terms are so short!) but it’s definitely manageable. Being taught by world-leading academics and given access to the Bodleian Libraries is a once in a lifetime opportunity, why give up without trying? Just applying to Oxford is an achievement. Regardless of whether you get in or not, even considering Oxford demonstrates your enthusiasm and love for your subject and that can take you anywhere.