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I'm an American who just finished her second year at Oxford - AMA!

Camiv99Camiv99 4 replies1 threads New Member
Hey! I'm a Philosophy and Modern Languages student at Wadham College, and I'd be super happy to answer any questions about life here at Oxford, the tutorial system, or the application process to Oxford/Oxbridge/the UK in general, from choosing courses to preparing a personal statement to picking a college and more. I'd love to see more Americans trying their luck with Oxford, and am happy to help demystify it a bit if I can.
edited April 1
26 replies
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Replies to: I'm an American who just finished her second year at Oxford - AMA!

  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 4017 replies40 threads Senior Member
    Thank you for your kind offer! Thirty two colleges offer PPE, how does my daughter choose which to apply to, or is it best to say any college in order to maximize one's admit chances?
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  • Camiv99Camiv99 4 replies1 threads New Member
    Hi! Picking a college comes down to a few things, none of which really have much to do with maximizing one's chances. It's kind of the fun part! After doing some research, I chose my college based partly on the academics who worked there, on the size of the college, and on the stereotypes and culture of the college (Wadham, for instance, has a reputation for being very liberal and gay-friendly, and hosts a lot of cool events that appealed to me). While I didn't think to do this then, it's also smart to think about what resources the college offers (some of the richer colleges, like St John's, will offer college accommodation for all three years, resulting in somewhat cheaper living expenses). You can also think about which colleges are closest to your faculties (for PPE, any of the central ones will do), just for your own convenience.

    If you choose to make an open application, you will be randomly assigned a college to review your application. The people who read the application will not know whether you chose the college or were randomly assigned, so I don't think it really maximizes your chances. The really oversubscribed colleges will pass applications around to other colleges anyway, and you'll likely end up interviewing at multiple colleges. The way I see it, the college choice is really just an opportunity to express a preference in terms of what sort of environment you want to be in should you get in, so I'd suggest you guys browse around without having to worry too much about being tactical!
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  • Camiv99Camiv99 4 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you for your kind offer! Thirty two colleges offer PPE, how does my daughter choose which to apply to, or is it best to say any college in order to maximize one's admit chances?

    I'm so sorry! I forgot to quote your question in order to reply to it. You can find my response in the general thread. Apologies - I'm new here!
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 4017 replies40 threads Senior Member
    Thank you, very helpful! Did you find the tutorial system to be lonely at all, without classmates, or did you adjust rapidly?
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  • Camiv99Camiv99 4 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you, very helpful! Did you find the tutorial system to be lonely at all, without classmates, or did you adjust rapidly?

    Most of my tutorials (especially in first year) still had another student (a tutorial partner) in it, which made the experience a lot less intimidating and means that you still get to have something like class discussions. I would never really describe the experience as lonely, personally. We also have classes outside of tutorials, as well as lectures, so you do end up seeing your course mates! For the most part though, I made friends outside of my course, and I think things like the collegiate structure help to prevent you from feeling lonely, as you have people who live near you and attend dinners with you, etc.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 4017 replies40 threads Senior Member
    Wonderful. Would it be Ok if my daughter sends you a private message with more questions at some time? I do not mean to impose.
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  • Camiv99Camiv99 4 replies1 threads New Member
    Wonderful. Would it be Ok if my daughter sends you a private message with more questions at some time? I do not mean to impose.

    Absolutely! I was about to offer :) feel free to message anytime.
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  • historygeek1346historygeek1346 4 replies3 threads New Member
    Hi! Thank you so much for posting this thread! I'm an American student looking at History at Oxford. I have the required SATs, SAT IIs, and APs needed for admission, but I want to make sure my application is as competitive as possible. Do you have any tips?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited April 1
    Jumping in (b/c Hx) to say that you will need to submit an essay from regular schoolwork with your application- it has to be in by Nov 10 (check the exact date!), and you may not have had any 'good' assignments by then, so look at your work from this year to see if you have anything worth saving. Also, ofc, make sure you register for the HAT!!

    The other thing is what you probably already do - read read read! esp in the area of history that you are most interested in. Work on your PS over the summer. In Sept, prep your GC (or recommender) on how to write an Oxford LoR- there is info on the Oxford website (ignore the 'contextual' part- it is specific to UK students).

    @Camiv99, my sympathies for the uncertainty on your final exams....
    edited April 1
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  • xqk5jsxqk5js 26 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I don't know if this thread is still active, but I'm considering an application to Oxford's Economics and Management program. I was wondering how different aspects of an application by an American are viewed by Oxford. Obviously students from the UK have A-levels, but to my understanding, students from the US submit their SAT/ACT and AP scores instead. How do these two compare? Or in other words, what score on the SAT/ACT or on the AP test would be comparable to an A or an A* on the A-level exams.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    They tell you all of that on the website....

    The answer is only 5s on APs. For E&M (which is a very small cohort- just 85 places across the university- it has a 6% success rate) you will definitely need a 5 on Calc BC. You will also need a very strong TSA score in order to get an invitation to interview. Spend some time on the website- there is a *lot* of information on what they are looking for, what you actually study year to year, suggested reading lists, etc.
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  • xqk5jsxqk5js 26 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I've been on the website before and I have seen much of the information concerning prerequisites, such as prospective students needing at least 3 5's on their AP exams and a 1470/32 on the SAT/ACT.

    But my question is more about what scores or how many 5's I would need to be a competitive applicant. Obviously there are other factors in consideration, such as the TSA, the UCAS, and interview performance, but in order to even get shortlisted, I would imagine that an applicant would need scores above the bare minimum.

    So in that regard, what numbers would a student from America need in order to be competitive, since as you said, with only a 6% acceptance rate and a 22% interview rate, I expect that reaching the minimum stats provided simply would not cut it.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Your expectation is mistaken :)

    The TSA is a huge part of getting shortlisted- your SAT & APs just have to tick the box. Having 10 won’t impress more than having 3. The only caveat to that is subject specific: do you have the required / most applicable ones? You should have at least one essay-based AP (Lit or a Hx), and CalcBC ofc.

    It’s a series of gates: do you have the stats required? a strong LoR & PS? a high enough TSA? All of those just qualify you for interview. The interview- I trust you know this?- is not US ‘get to know you’ style- it’s a cross between an oral exam and a tutorial and is make or break. Interviews- and the decision as to who gets offers- are by the tutors who will actually be teaching you, not AOs, and for a joint subject (like E&M), tutors from both subjects have to agree on whether an offer is made.

    Note that on the website there are reading lists. You are NOT expected to have your way through them! they are provided to give you an idea of material that the subject tutors consider appropriate for a HS jr/sr who is interested in the subject. And I assume that you are already reading the Economist (most of it- not just the Finance section!) and/or the FT regularly already.
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  • xqk5jsxqk5js 26 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for the advice! I started reading the Economist a couple of months ago after learning of its usefulness and applicability for the interview.

    Obviously I understand the interview is an immense part of the application process, but with such a low shortlist rate, I'm pretty worried about even reading that point. My standardized test scores surpass the minimum amount, and I've gotten a 5 on Calc BC, so I'm pretty confident that I will at least meet the pre-requisites for ACT/SAT and AP exams. However, I understand that those are just some of the factors considered by Oxford.

    I've heard many different numbers thrown out as 'good scores' on the TSA. But for a school as competitive as Oxford and a program as small as E&M, I was wondering what exactly an applicant would need to score for an interview. I've heard anything above a 70 is 'good,' but I've also read that the average shortlisted PPE student from America achieved a 75. So what exactly should be my goal if I wanted to obtain a TSA score at least equaling the average interviewed applicant for E&M.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    In the 2019 testing round the average TSA score (for E&M applications) was 64.8; the average score of those shortlisted for interview was 73.6 and the average score of those made offers was 75.7.
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  • xqk5jsxqk5js 26 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Thanks for the information! Would you be willing to share where you found those stats? I wasn't able to find anything about average TSA scores on the Oxford website.
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  • penguin2penguin2 204 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Jumping in here - how's the interaction between colleges at Oxford? Is there a common identity as Oxford students, or is it very specific to your college?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Those stats came from Oxford, via a FOI request (not my request!). They match almost exactly Merton's stats, which they posted.

    @penguin2, 'School spirit' isn't really the same in England as in the US- except during the Oxford-Cambridge boat races!! Your college is a real part of your identity at Oxford when you are there- but you are an Oxonian when you are away. Kind of like being an Iowan when you are in the US, but an American when you are outside the US.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7749 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Following up to say that there is a *lot* of interaction between students at different colleges- through your subject and through ECs- but there aren't really college rivalries like, say, Duke & UNC-CH (except a few traditional ones, such as Balloil and Trinity, who share a wall and a rivalry that is supposed to date to the 16thC).

    Your subject is a bigger part of your identity than you might be used to- and there is at least as much shade-throwing for a person's subject as their college!
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  • TigerleTigerle 612 replies6 threads Member
    @penguin2 , Oxford colleges have traditional (or maybe) stereotypical identities the way LACs have, but students identify with that identity more or less. The usual questions apply: is this really my place if I am female - lower middle class or below - a state school student - not Anglican or even Christian - a person of colour - a foreigner? Some colleges were created to be inclusive some have managed to create inclusive identities, and others...not so much.

    Some students rather stay in their college bubble for three years, after all they all have their own halls, bars, sports facilities, boathouses, choirs, libraries....and when they are out and about on the town or go to London, they go with the friends from their colleges.
    Others prefer to socialise in university wide ECs and actively want to meet people from other colleges. The Oxford Union, theatre groups, the best music ensembles, the student newspapers are good ECs like that. Scientists may have lab times with students from other colleges.

    You may see a very clear trend among international students towards the latter.
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