Alex, 2nd Year, Geography
Hi, I'm Alex and I study Geography. I applied to the subject because I'm really interested in learning about the world around me, and I enjoy the variety of different subjects Geography allows me to look at. This year, I have studied hurricanes, the effect of education on Indian rural populations, why the woolly mammoths died out and lots more, as well as more philosophical questions about 'what is science?'. There's really something to interest almost anyone. I applied to Worcester because I fell in love with the grounds and the buildings straight away - I was just fortunate that it has turned out to be the friendliest, best placed college in Oxford as well!
My interviews were naturally a very daunting prospect beforehand. I went down to Oxford the night before and spent the evening worrying - I needn't have. The students from college who help out at interviews deserve a mention here - they did a brilliant job of making me feel comfortable. The interviews (one for physical, one for human) are fairly short, very informal conversations between you, a tutor from the University and a sixth form teacher or similar expert. They were both really friendly, and made a big effort to make the interview pleasant for me. A lot of the interview was based on images or text that was given to me during it - for example, in my physical interview I was given an image and asked to say what I thought it was of. I said it was a satellite photograph of some tropical islands, and suggested the Maldives. This then prompted a discussion when the tutor asked me to simply talk about 'issues that might affect this area in the future'. Of course, some of the interview is just question based. In my human interview, I was asked 'whether you can have economy without ecology' and then asked to design a study into multiculturalism in my home town. The point is not so much to test you on your A level knowledge as to assess your ability to discuss issues that may be new to you, as well as looking at whether you have read around the subject. Therefore, my recommendation for interviews would be to make sure to read a lot beyond the classroom! As well as that, don't lie and say you have read a book you haven't, or try to make up a fact on the spot. Usually, the tutors will be the people involved in writing or proof reading those books, and so they will probably catch you out!
Every week there is an essay to write, which is usually 1500-2000 words in length. This is written from a reading list with about 5 books on it and maybe 7 or 8 journal articles. You are not expected to read everything for every essay, just enough that you understand the topic and can talk coherently about it. You will then take the essay to your tutorial and talk about the broader topics mentioned in the reading and what you learnt from the texts. The tutorials are really quite friendly and informal, and certainly nothing to panic about. There will be at least two of you in each tutorial, which makes for more of a discussion. There will also be practicals on things like Earth Observation (ie how we observe and record phenomena of geographical interest), which are usually just a couple of hours long on an afternoon. Sometimes you will have classes, which generally include a sheet of shorter questions to work through before you go to the class.
Oxford is brilliant at allowing you to do just more than the academic work - I captain the college basketball team, am planning a University trip to Mexico and am Green Rep on the college JCR (Junior Common Room) committee. Because a lot of the Geography timetable is based on when you want to do the work, you can really throw yourself into sport/music/drama or whatever else takes your fancy, all of which Worcester is super for.
In conclusion, Geography is a really interesting subject, and Oxford is a great place to do it. So cast off any Oxford stereotypes you may have, come and have a look around and I wish you every success with your application!