As thousands of young people begin a new academic year at Oxford this October, three current students share an insight into the academic bridging programme that helped to prepare them for success in their studies.
Now in its third year, to-date Opportunity Oxford has supported 445 students from backgrounds underrepresented at Oxford in their transition from school or college to the University and helps prepare them for life as an Oxford student. Last month, nearly 190 students attended a residential where they undertook classroom and independent work, experienced lectures and tutorials, and got a head-start on settling into university life with the help of a team of 25 student ambassadors, many of whom were once participants themselves.
Opportunity Oxford was one of the winners of the recent Vice-Chancellor's Education Awards, which celebrates high-quality education across the collegiate University, recognising new and innovative approaches to teaching, and the steps being taken to further students' educational experience at Oxford.
Professor Martin Williams, Pro Vice Chancellor (Education), said: ‘This programme enables learners to feel confident in their academic ability and has made a significant contribution to supporting students to have the best possible preparation for the rigours of an Oxford degree.’
Opportunity Oxford ambassador Patricia is a third-year undergraduate at St Edmund Hall, studying Earth Science.
I think it really helps to build your confidence as a new student. You get to know your way around Oxford, as well as what to expect from your degree. My secondary school teacher had once described the transition into university as going from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a massive pond where you must just keep swimming to stay afloat, and he couldn’t have been more correct.
The experience means that when everyone is starting out in fresher’s week you have had a head start to familiarise yourself with Oxford and can jump into your academics on a level playing field. It also allows you to meet like-minded people from similar backgrounds, which really helps in making the university transition feel a lot less lonely.
Oxford has been a roller coaster for me personally. I’ve had my ups and downs but once you figure out how to navigate your time here things start to move smoothly, there’s always someone here that will listen to you or share your concerns.
I think it’s the vast variety of people that make up the foundation of Oxford and make it special. Without their different perspectives and experiences Oxford wouldn’t be the place it is, you can learn so much simply by just talking to fellow students.
Make the most out of every opportunity that arises because time will fly by you and before you know it, you’ll be in the Sheldonian Theatre wearing your gown, graduating Oxford.
Opportunity Oxford ambassador Benedict, a second-year undergraduate at St Peter’s College studying Economics and Management.
I went to a school that only sent one person to Oxbridge every two-three years, and Oxford wasn’t something that my school actively suggested as an option for students. However, I felt that I could thrive within the Oxford academic environment, and therefore I tried my luck and applied.
I was a student on the Opportunity Oxford programme in 2021. It helps students prepare for the rigorous academic environment through academic sessions that helps them get used to note-taking, reading efficiently, getting the most out of tutorials, and importantly, managing your academic and social life.
I have really enjoyed my time here at Oxford so far; I have made great friends, have gotten involved in enjoyable college and university activities and societies, and I somehow still love my degree! I am the JCR Treasurer of my college this year, so I am really looking forward to working with the JCR finances as well as the rest of the lovely St Peter’s College Junior Common Room committee.
Remember that there is a social side to Oxford – engage in college and university societies and find a group of friends who will not only have a great time with you but will also act as a support network for when you really need it.
Opportunity Oxford ambassador Tahmid Rayhan is a third-year undergraduate at Magdalen College studying Medicine.
I have been involved with Opportunity Oxford for the past three years, first as a student and now as an ambassador. The programme gives offer holders the chance to get to grips with the academic work in a low-pressure environment, familiarise themselves with the city, and form connections with students from similar backgrounds so that when they start in October they will already have a support network in place. From my own personal experience, I would say that the programme was the best insight I had into what studying at Oxford is like.
One of the best things about Oxford is that there are so many different opportunities to get involved in cutting-edge research, and there are a lot of systems in place to encourage and support students to do so.
To the new students starting this year, the best piece of advice I can give is to not be afraid when it comes to asking for help. Oxford can be quite intense (academically, socially, or otherwise), but there are plenty of support systems in place at both a college and university level that you can access – you just need to ask.
Find out more about Opportunity Oxford here.