As a high school junior on one of many college tours, I was blown away when I first learned about UT’s Honors Program, and the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Oxford. Then, as a freshman I saw those I considered campus celebrities being sent off to Oxford and thought, “I would never get picked for something like that.” Well somewhere between then and this past March I decided to give it a shot, and the Honors Program has accepted my proposal for chosen me the Oxford Study Abroad Program (OSAP) in Fall of 2015, along with the brilliant and beautiful Lauren Candemeres and Victoria Suslovitch. However, getting chosen for OSAP takes more than just a stroke of luck. There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your interview and application.
An Experienced Mentor
Behind every young Skywalker there’s a wise Obi-Wan. Without the help of my advisor, Dr. Dooghan, I wouldn’t have had any idea what to expect from the application process. A great mentor will know the ropes of the application process, so they will be able to help you tweak your essays and help prepare you for the interview. Previous OSAP students also make great mentors, especially if they studied topics you are interested in.
An Oxford Worthy Project (or Two)
Students aren’t being sent to Oxford because they’re good at writing essays and being interviewed. Applicants have to prove they’re worthy of UT’s highest honor because they need it. Each applicant will be asked to identify two potential tutorial topics, which if chosen will be their subject for one-on-one independent studies with Oxford Dons. These studies are built around about a billion words in weekly research papers, which are then discussed and analyzed at meetings. Pick something you’re not only passionate about, but well informed on. You need to be able to prove to the honors board that you’ve been working on your project(s), but it (they) can only be advanced with the knowledge of the Oxford Dons and seemingly endless resources in the Oxford libraries. Your topic can be anything you want, but don’t feel the need to make it incredibly complex. Picking a topic because it seems fancy and complicated might seem like a good strategy, but if you’re chosen you’ll be faced with that topic for an entire semester. Instead, pick something UT has limited to no classes or resources on, or a subject that is just picking up speed in the academic world.
A Flawless Interview and Application
This is the part where your mentor comes in, but they can’t do all the work. Pick your topics wisely and make sure you express in both the interview and the application essays that you know what OSAP is about. Name-drop specific libraries and museums you’d like to study at and take a look at OSAP’s online database to see specific resources they’ll have on your topic.
Name-dropping also comes in handy during the interview for reminding the honors board of UT students who have been through OSAP and studied similar topics to what you have chosen. Be prepared to tell the honors board why OSAP will help your career in the long-term, and how you will be able to benefit UT and the honors program once you return. Make sure your essays are as specific as possible (which is unfortunately hard to do in 200 words each) and try to make your interview (which will be the shortest or longest 10 minutes of your life) surprise-free.
A Bit of Maturity
While being chosen for OSAP is prestigious, the program isn’t for everyone. You’ll need to prepare yourself to live across the pond for an entire semester and travel alone. OSAP also isn’t a typical study abroad program. While many study abroad programs are rumored to have easy classes and offer more sight-seeing than studying, OSAP is the exact opposite. Chosen students will be seeing the inside of the Bodleian library for the majority of their time, and while excursions and travel opportunities are available, seeing the rest of the UK and other countries will have to wait until the semester is over.
Before students are even chosen, they need to understand that UT’s OSAP selection is one of the school’s most competitive programs, and there’s no shame in applying more than once. However, each application experience needs to be learned from and improved upon.
Selene San Felice can be reached at email@example.com