Applying to the University of Oxford

A group of Rainford Sixth Formers spend a couple of days acclimatising to life at the premier university.

No one quite knew what to expect from our visit to the University of Oxford. We all had heard the same things; students of a high-class disposition sat in ornate great halls, living in archaic castles, ostentatiously reciting poetry. One thing we never expected was to find friendly students, who engaged with us throughout the Open Day.

After a long journey down the M6 in a swelteringly hot minibus, eight Rainford students took in the amazing spectacle of Christ Church college, where we would stay for our visit. Founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, Christ Church is the largest and most famous college at Oxford. Christ Church has produced thirteen of Britain’s Prime Ministers, and was also the college that Einstein lived in when he lectured here on his theory of relativity. Staying in such a prominent and historic college could not help but fill us with a sense of what we could achieve in our own studies. After talking in our lodgings, we took a stroll down to the River Cam and tried our hand at punting…as they say: when in Rome!

If we thought the minibus was hot, that was nothing compared to the metal punt. Thanks to my excellent steering and propulsion though, we survived the experience and returned to the college for a tour. The main quadrangle ‘Tom Quad’ is the largest in Oxford (above photo) and helps to create a real sense of grandeur. However, that had nothing on the dining hall. It is the one and only Great Hall used in the first Harry Potter film (a duplicate was built for the subsequent films). The hall is ornately decorated in rich wood panelling, stained glass windows and portraits of scholars from throughout the centuries, overlooked by a huge portrait of Henry VIII, the college’s founder. Learning that this is where we would have our evening meal was a real privilege, and we all became a little daunted about using the correct cutlery and side plate. You can imagine our surprise when we were served that northern delicacy – fish and chips! Following our evening meal, some of us played a quiz the Junior Common Room with some of Oxford’s lovely students, whilst other degenerates (two of our own, who shall remain nameless) went to the lecture theatre to watch ‘Love Island’ (Einstein must be turning in his grave!). The following morning, after breakfast once again in the Great Hall, some of us visited the Bodleian Library.

With over 13 million texts, it is the second biggest library in Europe and contains a copy of every text ever published. In typical Oxford style, its architecture was impressive and imposing, and the library itself had the sweet aroma of antique books. We spent the rest of the day visiting many of Oxford’s colleges (there are over 40 across the city) and attending a variety of lectures relevant to our subject specialisms and the application process. We met the lecturers and the students and were able find out about the expectations of an Oxford undergraduate. We left the city and university in the afternoon, feeling inspired and motivated to do the best we could in our continuance exams the following week. There may only be two or three out of the eight of us who will apply to Oxford or Cambridge, but even those who don’t will be left with some fantastic memories and the lasting feeling that our futures are filled with real promise and potential. Thank you for giving us this experience, Rainford staff (especially Grant for driving the minibus and only making one wrong turn!).