Somerville welcomed 127 state school applicants last Saturday for the college’s first ‘Demystifying Interviews’ day.

The new initiative allowed the attendees to see current Somerville students mock interviewed live on stage – including Junior Common Room President and 2nd year historian Emmanuel Amissah-Eshun, who was interviewed by former tutorial fellow Joanna Innes. Other subjects interviewed on the day included Biology and Physics. Each interview was preceded by a discussion of the structure and followed with a reflection on what had just taken place.

Applicants watch closely as Biology tutor Timothy Walker interviews Medicine student Maya

The event met with an enthusiastic response: “It’s amazing that Somerville does this and it has really set my mind at ease – thank you!” wrote one applicant.

“The whole day was very reassuring – it should definitely be organised for future students” commented another.

Steve Rayner, the senior tutor and a mock physics interviewer, was thrilled by the day’s success. “I’m chuffed to bits – we’ve been delighted with the response to this new initiative. A fantastic number came and they found the experience really helpful.

“It is very important to us to make sure that nothing gets in the way of people performing their best – such as being intimidated by the University and the interviews process, or having a lack of access to advice, due to their background. We are already thinking about how to improve this event for next year.”

It forms an exciting part of the college’s expanding efforts to encourage and assist applications from members of traditionally under-represented groups. “Interviews can often seem very daunting.” said Elsa Hammond, college Access Officer.

“While some students are lucky enough to have teachers who have experience of helping their students to prepare for interviews, they can be a bit of a mystery for those from less traditional backgrounds. We are hoping that, after today, these applicants can feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of coming here for an interview.”

The applicants started the day with a specially designed tour led by current students, aimed at introducing them to the areas of college used during interviews, including some of the rooms where they would be taking place. They were then given an introduction to interviews by Steve Rayner followed by lunch, before the mock interviews.

The students travelled to Somerville from across the country. Almost every state school pupil who had applied to or been assigned to Somerville was invited to attend, and half were able to make the trip down to Oxford. There was a travel bursary available for any students who found the cost prohibitive. The day itself was also entirely free of charge. Many of them will return to the college at the end of the academic term for the real thing.

If you are interested in applying to Somerville and have any questions, please get in touch at admissions@some.ox.ac.uk or have a look at our prospectus over at our website.

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