As a college, Brasenose is very invested in access for students from all backgrounds; and one of the best ways for us to students thinking about Brasenose (and Oxbridge in general) is by touring schools in our outreach areas. Our outreach area at Brasenose is North Yorkshire, and its especially important to me having come from one of the schools that the college works with. For the tour, we team up with St Catharine’s college, Cambridge, and this year our team consisted of the colleges’ schools officers – Joe Organ and Kathryn Singleton – as well as students from both colleges, covering a range of subjects, namely: Manish (Economics & Management recent graduate, Oxford), Amelia (2nd year Medicine, Cambridge), Maddy (2nd year Modern Languages Cambridge) and myself (3rd year Physics, Oxford).
The tour essentially consists of us touring around as many schools in North Yorkshire as we can manage, this year we visited 9 in all. We do several different types of tours, working with different age groups, but this one was focused on helping yr13 students with the applications and interview process at Oxbridge.
At each school, we would spend a few hours going over the process; first doing a Q&A about personal statements and giving general advice on what to put in and what you don’t need. We then talked about the interview process. As current students, our interviews are still fresh in our minds so we did our best to share advice and own personal experience - with the main message being that the interviewers want you to do your best, and that there is no secret to succeeding other than to be yourself and be good at what you do. The final part of our workshop was spent in smaller, subject-specific groups, where we practiced a few interview-style questions with the students, to give them better insight into what types of things they might be asked. North Yorkshire seems to be an area very interested in the physical sciences, so I usually ended up with the largest groups, which was an interesting challenge. We’d discuss the questions as a group and the aim was to get them to understand that I was more interested in how they went about solving a question than the actual answer. My explanations weren’t perfect, but the students seemed to get the gist and were certainly interested by the style of questions.
The schools we visited were spread across North Yorkshire, several in Harrogate, with others over in the Scarborough area and some more centrally located, and I could see at each of the schools, students with the potential to make it through to Oxbridge. Particularly nostalgic for me was the visit to Northallerton college – my old school. I remember being on the other side of these workshops and it was cathartic to come full circle and to help the next batch of Northallerton students aspire to apply to Oxbridge. I also got the chance to meet some of my old teachers, which was a nice experience.
On the subject of nice experiences, the trip itself was a thrill. I had a great time cruising round my home county with Joe and the gang – Manish reliving his glory days as a DJ while everyone sang along as I tried my best to navigate the ‘flying Susan’ (named on account of the ghost which apparently haunted one of the cottages we stayed in) about the many twisty roads in the beautiful countryside. A highlight of the trip for me (outside of the engaging work) was being appointed su chef for the night we had to self-cater, I managed not to poison anyone, so I take it as a victory.
If you’re reading this and you’re unsure about whether Oxbridge is right for you, come down to an open day in June or September and get a feel for the place. If you’re interested but not sure you’ll get in, I will give you the same advice as I gave to anyone I talked to at open days or other access events – you have 5 options on your UCAS form, one of them might as well be Oxbridge – if you think it’s right for you.
By Josh Form (formerly or Northallerton College, North Yorkshire)With thanks to David Goldhill, for making the North Yorkshire tours possible