Applying to New College - Oxford University

New College is situated in the heart of Oxford and one of the largest and most architecturally striking colleges at Oxford University. The campus combines outstanding facilities with spectacular buildings and gardens set against the medieval city wall. 

As one of the largest Oxford colleges, New College has approximately 430 undergraduates and 360 graduates. New College is an autonomous, self-governing institution. The Governing Body consists of The Warden (the head of New College) and Fellows, with both undergraduate and graduate students represented.

At this time, New College is undergoing its fourth big expansion in its storied history. Named after Chris Gradel, an Old Member who generously provided the core funding for the project, the Gradel Quadrangles received planning permission in June 2018 and will provide an additional 70 student rooms, as well as a flexible learning hub, and a performance base.

Why did you apply to New College?

I decided on New College for a number of reasons. One of the most important was the the large size of the college, meaning I'd be likelier to find people with whom I got on, and less likely to find myself in a close-knit cliquey environment. Factors also worth considering (for me) were the subject specific college fellows (what are their areas of interest) and the intake demographics (i.e. state:private, male:female ratios), although I failed to note the state:private ratio before applying >_<  (Profile 351)

Lots of reasons - it is one of the biggest colleges, it has a reputation for being strong musically and my shallow reason was that it's old (despite being called 'New') and has pretty buildings!! (Profile 34)

New College is a large college, known for its sociable atmosphere and friendliness towards students from other colleges. I thought this would make finding friends slightly easier. Aside from this, the college has a stellar academic record (New College is usually in the top five or so colleges in the Norrington Table) and seemed particularly keen on taking applicants for Joint Schools. 

New College also has a reputation for excellence in Sport, Drama and Music, the last of which was of particular importance to me. I knew, were I to receive a place, I would be able to take part in both a college orchestra and a choir. What's more, being established in 1379 (not new by anyone's standards) it wasn't short of beautiful buildings and curious features. The chapel in particular is awe-inspiring, along with the fantastically preserved if rather imposing old City Wall, dating from around 900. Another fantastic feature of the college is the beautiful grounds, complete with a Elizabethan decorative mound. What's not to love?! (Profile 931)

New College has a great reputation for music and quite a large chemistry group - also it just 'felt right'. (Profile 1069)

What was your general impression of New College and any other colleges you visited?

Nice, old, but possibly a bit posh/tory :( (Profile 351)

New was beautiful and the people there were really lovely. I also visited Wadham which was really nice as well (i hate using the word 'nice', but it was). St Cathereines however looked like a car park - but the people there were very helpful when I realised I was late for my interview! (Profile 34)

Beautiful >_<. Seriously though, they were really lovely-looking, and seemed to be really friendly, cosy places. (Profile 1069)

The college was beautiful although in december it was very bleak. The bar was closed for the duration of our stay but it looked like it had potential in a medieval, mead-drinking kind of way. (Profile 281)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: All first years at New College are housed in the New Buildings, which is where almost everyone stays for interview. These rooms are usually quite large and are mostly en suite. My room wasn't massive, but was a perfectly comfortable size with plenty of storage, HUGE windows looking out onto Hollywell Street and my very own bathroom with a decent shower. Nothing to complain about at all.

- Food: Honestly. The food was probably the worst aspect of the college. It certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was by no means inedible. From the sounds of things, the JCR are working to improve the food, so this shouldn't discourage any prospective applicants. (Profile 931)

- Accommodation: Room I stayed in was surprisingly spacious, and had en-suite bathroom 

- Food: Edible, not delectable. (Profile 351)

- Accommodation: My room at New College was lovely - I had a double bed, a big desk and a window looking out onto the street outside. I also had a big bathroom, which was a massive bonus! No idea about how it compared to the rest of the rooms though.

- Food: On the whole, really tasty, although I can't imagine wanting to eat there every night/morning. (Profile 1069)

- Accommodation: I think it's all been recently refurbished - so every room had an ensuite toilet/shower room. My room was also quite big.

- Food:  Awful. The food wasn't that bad… I was feeling really nervous so I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it whatever it was. (Profile 34)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at New College?

- Tutors: I loved each and every one of them! They were all perfectly nice and not at all as Oxford tutors are often painted. They had their 'interview' moments, when they would ask a tricky question and you'd silently curse them for a few minutes while the silence echoed around you, but by and large they came across as lovely, if slightly eccentric, people.

- Students: Obviously I saw only a minute proportion of the undergrads at New, but all were really welcoming. They would shepherd you to your interviews at other colleges and try to keep you calm on your way to tests etc. Some were a little like your stereotypical Oxbridge student, but they were lovely people nonetheless. (Profile 931)

- Tutors: Really friendly actually.

- Students: Nice. Watched a few Disney films with them (lol) (Profile 351)

- Tutors: I only met one, and that was in the interview - Dr Boyce. I thought she was lovely, very friendly - she made me feel really at ease.

- Students: The college students were really nice - very polite, helpful and friendly - not patronising at all (I think they remember the pain of interview). (Profile 34)

- Tutors: Interesting, friendly, slightly quirky.

- Students: Very normal, if a little geeky. Also very diverse. (Profile 1069)

Did you have to submit any written work prior to the interview?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] One History essay on Nazi ideology and one English essay on Blake because they were vaguely relevant pieces of good work. (Profile 113)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Yes - two pieces. The first was a timed essay I did in September 2001 on recession and my forecasts for the UK economy based on previous economic data and events. The other was an essay on oligopolistic competition and how it affects the consumer. This piece I wrote with Oxford in mind and was mammoth. I hand wrote both essays for that personal touch :) (Profile 148)

[Music] I submitted the following: 1 marked Bach Chorale harmonisation, 1 marked Contrapuntalish study (was my first time), 1 marked Music essay, 1 marked English essay, 1 composition (Profile 351)

Did you have to take any exams as part of your interview(s)?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Yes. A three part exam which I didn't and you can't prepare for. The first part was a comprehension exercise on unity of the individual, the second was a mathematical/game theory problem, and the third was a series of word triplets where the task was to differentiate their meaning. The first question I found the hardest as I didn't know what unity was so I sat there for the first 10 minutes scratching my head (which was the point I take it?). The second question was okay but be careful not to make loads of assumptions and if you do write them down. The third part was the easiest and didn't take too long.

I would not worry about the exam though since every one seemed to find it hard and it's only a small part of the information they gather about you. The interviews are far more important. (Profile 148)

[Music] 1 hour Bach Chorale harmonisation exam. It was pretty tough, and I didn't have enough time to harmonise every chord. I suppose the message is not to worry too much about this. People are taught this stuff to completely different standards, and in some schools it doesnt even feature on the course. Clearly do your best, and get some practise in if you can, but screwing up a bit on this isn't the end of the world. (Profile 351)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Mathematics] at new college everyone who applies for maths has 3 interviews one on one. couldn't really prepare directly for them. colleges differed greatly with questions - some even asked applied maths which I didn't think they could and some were easier to prepare for i think.

The first had some math-related puzzles, a bit of everything really. The second was very specific - lots to do with pure maths which I liked . Second college was Pembroke. Had a whole booklet of questions and asked me what type of maths i liked and picked random questions out of the booklet (Profile 602)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Economics - Not very taxing. Just some game theory type problems (seemed to be very popular with all the colleges) and talked about equity and equality. Politics - Went over the article for the first 5 minutes which was harder then it sounds, then talked about deriving nationality, ideology, and a little on Afghanistan. Philosophy - Just chatted for the first 10 minutes about why I am doing Geography A-level and whether I think more Economists should study it. Then we talked about valuing nature and the intrinsic beauty of the environment. Next we talked about morality and whether I could ever morally justify torturing the innocent. (Profile 148)

I was asked to comment on a page of music (possible composer/form/harmony/etc.), to comment on an extract from a book (about music). Other areas of discussions included my submitted essays/composition, globalisation and its effects on music, national identity and temperaments/tuning. I'd summarise the interview content as:

- Assessment of technical knowledge 

- Assessment of how you respond to new information

- Discussion of your interests (i.e. to show independent interest in the subject) (Profile 351)

[Human Sciences] I found all the questions were really individual to each person, they asked questions on things you had mentioned in your personal statement so that they were hopefully asking something you had an idea about. But, having said that, they asked me some really hideous questions - my first one being 'Is maths something you are born with?' which led on to 'do animals have any awareness of maths?' (which i thought was a pretty evil question!) At New they also asked me to analyse some data (which i tried but failed to do). At St Catherines, I was asked some pretty standard questions such as 'What is Human Sciences?' but also things like 'How are animals different to humans?' (Don't worry if you wouldn't be able to answer some of these because all the interviews were really tailored to each person's A-level subjects and the interests they had mentioned in their personal statement.) (Profile 34)

[Classics and Modern Languages] My first interview was an informal talk with Robin Lane Fox, the Ancient History tutor, at which Jane Lightfoot, the fellow in Classics, was present. It was a short interview and we talked about everything from French to Ancient History to the Classics test I had had earlier that day.

My next interview was an interview in Philosophy with Paolo Crivelli the next morning. I was given a series of questions designed, presumably, for Philosophy beginners, and worked my way through them with him. 

I then had an informal interview with David Raeburn, who had asked specifically to see me about my learning Latin outside of school. He was very complimentary and enormously encouraging. He did ask some more interview-like questions about some of the Greek drama I had mentioned in my personal statement.

Later that afternoon I had an interview designed for students applying for course II (without Latin or Greek) in which I was questioned about the similarities between Latin and the languages I had studied. Others said they had been over aspects of the Language Aptitude Test with the interviewers.

That evening I had my main interview with Jane Lightfoot for which I had to read and prepare an extract from a Latin writer (I got Lucretius). The discussion was incredibly challenging, but, at the same time, truly fascinating. I left the interview feeling exhausted, but knowing that I wanted more.

The next day I had my French test in the morning, followed by an interview with the two French tutors for which I had been given two extracts the day before. We discussed the literary passage in English after a brief talk about my submitted work and then moved onto a journalistic passage which we talked about in French.

I waited until the next day to hear about my interview at another college (St Anne's) and had a really enjoyable interview, similar to the one with Jane Lightfoot, in which I had to prepare passages from two poems. We also spoke in French about the link between Classics and French and the similarities between Greek and French tragedy. (Profile 931)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Read Economist, Spectator, New Statesman, know about some key figures in thought eg Marx. Calm down and enjoy your stay there. (Profile 113)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)]  If you are applying to do PPE you should be well read anyway. If you are not then just read a good quality broadsheet paper everyday, the Economist and then a couple of Economics or Philosophy books. They didnt actually ask me about any of the books I had read but reading them puts you in the right frame of mind and boosts your confidence (unless reading the books might cause you to realise you are actually thick). (Profile 148)

[Classics and Modern Languages] By all means read up, but remember that this isn't a guarantee of a place. It's all too easy to get so wrapped up in Oxbridge entrance that you build up your interviews to the extent that you make yourself incredibly nervous. My advice would be to arrange mock interviews with as many people as possible, just to practice appearing calm and confident - this is surprisingly helpful when you're being questioned. Do bear in mind, though, that these mock interviews will probably be nothing like your interviews in college; they're good practice nonetheless. 

Talk to any friends you have at Oxbridge and just make sure you're well-informed as to what each stage of the process entails. Nasty shocks will only serve to make you nervous. (Profile 931)