Meet our students
What is it like to go to Oxford University from Scotland? Our students are here to tell you about their experiences.
Ailsa - Chinese | Michael - History | Hayley - Law | Eilidh -Archeology and Anthropology | Jonas- Law | Beth - Law
For information on fees and financial support for Scottish students at Oxford, please see our Online resources section.
Ailsa went to Kinross High School, just north of Dunfermline and studies Chinese at Pembroke college, Oxford.
It can be hard to pinpoint the exact reason I applied to Oxford, but I think one of the main drivers was that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life not knowing – I would prefer to apply and not get in than never apply and never know. During the application process I realised more and more than Oxford would be the right fit for me; the course was very different from other courses at other universities, for example: the year abroad is in second year instead of third year and there is a lot of emphasis on other areas instead of just the modern language, such as history and classical language. The idea of the tutorial system, as much as it scared me at first, really excited me as I would get to have a lot of time to pick the brains of an academic who was one of the best in their field. I am so glad I did apply, even though at the time it was really scary, I know now that I am in the place that best fits me.
I think one of the intimidating things about applying to Oxford from Scotland is how far away it seems. Out of my friends from home who were applying to uni, they were mostly going to be based in Edinburgh and Glasgow – cities with a 40-minute train running between them. There was part of me that was worried that I would be missing out if decided to go to a university which was on the other side of the country, but I quickly realised that while my friends lived closer to each other than I did to them, sometimes I saw them more than they saw each other. Oxford has very short terms – 8 weeks at a time, so when you come home you have more than enough time to do a tour of Scotland and see your friends again. I also met so many people in Oxford from all different types of backgrounds and different countries so there wasn’t exactly enough time to think too much about missing my home friends for the 8 weeks I was in Oxford. Another thing to remember is although Oxford seems far away from home, it really isn’t! It is just a train or plane away. You really can go home for a weekend if you want to – I did a couple times in first year. Also, your parents will love that you live in Oxford because it is an excuse for a wee weekend away!
My advice to someone who is thinking of applying from Scotland is first of all – just apply! There is no harm in applying and as I said, surely you would always prefer to know than spend the rest of your life thinking about it. The application process gives you a lot of time to figure out if Oxford is the right place for you and gives you a feel for what the academic side of Oxford would be like. It is also completely okay to apply and then realise that you would prefer to go somewhere else. The application process is as much of a time for you to choose Oxford as it is for Oxford to choose you. The other piece of advice I would give would be to make use of the resources available online. It was only once I arrived at Oxford that I realised that there was actually a lot of resources I could have used to help me apply. There are lots of resources that the university provide to talk you through the application process and there are many student-run mentor schemes too. Most college JCRs (Junior Common Rooms) run an Instagram page which can be a really good way to get a feel for the college if you are unable to visit in person. The last piece of advice would be there is no harm in reading! When I was applying, the thought of applying was super scary so for some reason I thought that if I read around my subject, I would somehow jinx my application (!). I think reading around your subject and watching videos about your subject can give you a good feel for if it is something you want to study at university – and there is no harm in doing this, regardless of whether you decide to apply to Oxford or not! Also, this reading and general interest can come in really handy during your application. Remember, if you take away all the gorgeous buildings and fancy halls, Oxford is really a place full of people passionate about their subject – so starting to figure out what the things are that interest you and make you excited is a great place to start.
Michael is from the southside of Glasgow and is studying History at Brasenose college, Oxford.
Oxford is a brilliant place to be Scottish. You’ll meet people from all over the world who are so keen to find out about the independence debate from a real Scottish person. There’s a sort of competition between the colleges as to who hosts the best Burns’ Night (everyone will tell you their college’s is the ‘famous one’) and as a Scot you basically get treated like royalty for the night.
In S5, set aside a couple of hours a week to think about what you want to study at university. Look at the courses Oxford offers and explore any you find interesting through podcasts and introductory books. Always try taking notes as you read things and find a friend you can speak to (or at!) about what you’re researching. Never be afraid to send a wee email to colleges and outreach societies if you’re confused about the application process or just want some advice. Joe Organ at Brasenose is a particularly great guy to contact with questions.
Hayley is from the North East of Scotland, and is studying Law at Harris Manchester college, Oxford.
Eilidh went to Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh, and studies Archaeology and Anthropology at St John's college, Oxford.
Jonas is from Giffnock, a town in suburban Glasgow and went to Woodfarm High School in East Renfrewshire. Jonas is studying law at Brasenose college, Oxford.
I applied to Oxford because I wanted to study at the best university I could. I didn’t get a chance to visit before applying, so it was all very new to me when I came down for interview. I knew I wanted to study law, and there are some really great universities for law in Scotland, but I felt I was capable of getting into Oxford and thought I would regret not using one of my 5 choices to at least see what happened. Because of the way Highers work in Scotland, I already had the grades I needed to get into my backup (Edinburgh), so I thought I had nothing to lose by applying to Oxford to see what happened.
What is it like for Scottish students who come to study at Oxford? It’s what you make of it! I think its very easy to talk yourself out of doing something challenging based on what you might have heard or your own pre-conceived ideas. In order to really achieve as much as you can then you need to make the most of every opportunity you get. I’ve not found being at Oxford any different than how many of my friends who have come from other parts of the country (or indeed the world). Although I’ll admit I still enjoy going home in the vacations (the tap water in Scotland is far superior). I’ve made great friends, been the President of the Oxford Law Society, and had a really great time here – even if most of it is spent procrastinating away hours in the library. Oxford is a great place, and there is lots of support available at the start to help you settle in and make the most of your time here.
My advice for Scottish students thinking of applying, is to apply and see what happens. If you don’t get in, I’m sure you’ll go on to have a great experience somewhere else. But life doesn’t give us many opportunities to really change our life, so I think that whenever we get them it is necessary to grab them with both hands. The application process is really simple, and I definitely enjoyed getting it out of the way earlier and not having to worry about it as work ramped up during sixth year. If you are someone who has the grades to get into Oxford then you have lots of potential, and it is your responsibility to use it to the best of your ability. Good luck for your upcoming applications!
Beth is from Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire and went to the Lenzie Academy. Beth is reading Law at Mansfield college, Oxford.
I had always wanted to leave home for university, and knew I wanted to study law which is offered at so many different Universities. All I knew of Oxford was its reputation but when I actually looked at it I really liked the tutorial system and the idea of being really challenged in the small group setting by leading academics. It was a plus that it seemed like a nice and pretty place to live for 3 years.
What is it like for a Scottish students who come to study at Oxford? It’s strange because you aren’t really far from home or in that different of a place but sometimes it can feel completely different. It was weird that being Scottish was a characteristic or my accent was a conversation starter. But one of the best things about Oxford is the fact it attracts students from all across the world, so you are never the only person in the room away from home.
The first thing I would say to Scottish students thinking of applying, is that you should research access. When I applied I had no idea of the amount of effort people put in to help make Oxford a realistic option for people from Scotland and particularly state schools. There are schemes like the Clydeside Project where you can access a mentor who will conduct mock interviews etc. Just small things that can make the application much less stressful. Oxford isn’t always advertised in Scottish schools for lots of reasons so it likely that there is help out there that your school wont know about. Open days in Oxford might be unrealistic because of travel but students and staff from oxford do give presentations in Scotland. Look for Instagram pages, websites, and summer programmes – there are lots of existing students and alumni who would help you, just ask!