The Oxford Diaries: (2) I Am The Application Drama Queen


In November, 2012 I applied to Oxford for the MSc course. I learned a number of things a long the way that I believe, or hope, will help future students sort of stuck in my situation.


Application Drama Lesson 1: Ask References very early, seriously, ask at least a month ahead

I did this and I thank the lucky stars I did it this way because even with a months notice and weekly reminders every single reference cut it close to the deadline. I mean I told them in October 2012 and the day before the deadline no one had written it yet. It’s not like I wasn’t persistently reminding them, if it is one thing I know I can do it is nag.

There isn’t nothin’ like seeing your application done and all ready and shiny, but you can’t send it because your references haven’t sent theirs in yet. I was fortunate because Oxford had an automatic update system so when my references uploaded their documents I was able to see this pronto, but if the school you’re applying to doesn’t have this I recommend asking your references to send you an email confirming completion of the reference.

I’m an incredibly awkward person (can’t you tell :)? ) so asking for references or help or anything like that always sends me into a sort of wheezy tizzy. This leads me to the second lesson I learned.

Application Drama Lesson 2: All you can do is ask. Reminding references or people helping you is OK but don’t cross the line and piss them off.

I got so worked up asking them for help that I was shocked to realise that they actually wanted to see me succeed.

Application Drama Lesson 3: No man is an island.

I think this is my most important lesson to date. I got myself worked up about Oxford real bad because I wanted to do this course that badly, so when others offered to help I was very surprised. Have family, friends or coworkers read over your Personal Statements. Have someone who is detailed oriented look over your CV. Shoot, even having someone to listen to me when I had a freak out session was valuable. People, friends and family are all there for you. They want you to succeed.

Don’t isolate yourself or you’ll give yourself a panic attack.

Application Drama Lesson 4: Get everything done at least 1 week ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate.

Don’t be like me, where the day of the application I was still trying to collate documents, my transcripts, writing samples and so on. It just increases your chance of having more typos and making silly mistakes. I remember being told whilst doing my BA that colleges pay attention to details. If it looks like you’ve laid things out in an organized way with proper headings, consistent fonts, page numbers and so on, they’ll think better of you and appreciate you for making your life easier. Remember you’re probably one of many applicants and they have spots for a smaller number.

So this is my running on a bit but you get the point. I panicked a lot and felt very insecure because I let the rep of the school I was applying get to my head. Eventually you buck up and get over yourself. I sure did and I must have did something right because in January 2013 I was screaming around my office because I received my acceptance letter. The best part of that day? Seeing my coworkers, friends and family happy as well because they knew that they had helped me get to where I wanted to be.


That’s the lesson for the day folks. It’s all very cheesy but I know I’ll look back on these lessons for my PhD and go the saner, safer path.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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4 Responses to The Oxford Diaries: (2) I Am The Application Drama Queen

  1. aimee says:

    I found a similar experience with my law school applications. I actually asked for references a YEAR in advance and received them… a few days before I intended to mail them (a whole year later). D: Some people are really prompt, and other professors needed to be prompted to send it repeatedly before they actually did. *sigh* I don’t even know what I would have done had they just… never sent it, and I really hate relying on other people to do important things like that (but of course, with reference letters, it’s unavoidable).

    And thankfully, all of my friends and the random, lovely people who volunteered to proofread/critique my personal statement were efficient and got back to me ASAP because I could not have written that without them, no matter how many drafts I attempted on my own.

    So yes to ALL of this extremely helpful advice. (Making my brother read it because he’s also applying to grad schools right now.) Great post!

    • Claire (BWB) says:

      Thanks! I feel you on the not-wanting-to-rely on others thing. I hate that part (the references). I can whip out an application in a week, a solid week but the wait for the references? They make me panic and squirm. It’s not that I don’t trust people, I’d just rather do it myself.

  2. I absolutely love this feature. I actually am going to grad school in the fall at Kingston over in the UK, so I’m right with you on this crazy adventure. Luckily, there was no deadline for me and I had everything completely extremely early so I didn’t have to deal with as much stress (especially because my references got my letters to me asap). Glad everything worked out for you though and you were accepted! Congrats! šŸ™‚

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