I grew up in an ex-mining town near Nottingham and went to a very standard state school. I always wanted to go to university, but coming from an area with little to no Oxbridge progression, I assumed it would be a local uni and I’d end up staying at home.
In the spring and summer term of year 9, my mental health took a big drop and I ended up spending a total of a month in hospital due to mental health problems. This was a really difficult time for me and my family, that I love to pieces, so the decision was made for me to go into local authority care.
I spent most of my time in care in a children’s home (think Tracy Beaker!), but moved to live independently the week after the Year 11 prom. 16 year-old me hardly knew how to cook, never mind run a home, keep herself alive, deal with mice infestations (!) and balance her A-levels. But, with the support of my sixth form, I managed it.
Coming home to an empty house (except my cat Sparkle – as pictured as I’ve brought her to live with me at Brasenose College) during exams was hard - I found myself stressing more about having heating than I did about “normal” teenage girl things. I sometimes think I grew up *too quickly*, but it gave me independence I never knew I had.
My advice to any Oxford applicant would be to make the most of the support sixth form's offer. Mine had never had a successful Oxford applicant, but we muddled through improv mock interviews and pieced together a personal statement as best we could. The Oxford UNIQ summer school had a massive impact on my application - taking advantage of any outreach schemes is SO beneficial. Opening my grades on results day, I never imagined I would be studying in a place like Oxford (6% of care leavers go to uni!) in a matter of weeks, but I did. The conventional path and the “normal” teenage upbringing isn’t always the one that gets you to the place you need to be. Oxford aren’t looking for any particular “type” - just a person with passion for their subject and the ability to thrive in the environment, regardless of the path that got you here.
Bry - 1st Year Law student