5 Sep 2015
Did you know you could meet college subject tutors on open days? Not just a general meet and listen to admissions talk but a Q&A session! You might be thinking this is the chance to impress your future interviewers to get a head start. It may be it may not, probably wouldn't affect that much.
But the real value in meeting tutors is that you get to know who will be tutoring you for the next 3,4 years. For me personally (Oxford Biochemist, 2010-2014), meeting my tutor at the July open day definitely influenced my college selection. As well as college location, accommodation offered, college ground, in my opinion tutor choice should also be a factor for college selection.
How to plan the open day
Not all colleges offer such college subject tutor sessions. If you are one of the applicants who don't have a fixed college and don't know which colleges to visit, visiting the ones that provide these sessions might be an idea. That's what I have done. Having said that, since there are over 20 colleges, it is possible to have several colleges holding this sessions at the same time in which case a choice will have to be made.
What are the potential questions to ask tutors?
It will be a good idea to have a read of the college subject tutors areas of academic interests and research.
For one of the two session I've attended, there were 2 applicants including me in the one hour session. So the session was a very intimate session. Not only did we ask about what to expect in the interviews and the general admissions related things but also about specifc Biochemistry topics (in an attempt to impress the tutor). In fact, except the first 15 minutes, our whole conversation was just like the tutor teaching us a topic.
On the other hand, for the other college, there were 9 people for the 30 minute session. There was one person who attempted to ask an academic question but for this many audience, the general consensus was let this be the admissions Q&A session.
[Academic life at Oxford]
"I heard that some students might only have one tutorial per week. If that’s the case, what’s the work load of one tutorial homework like?”
“I looked through the syllabus and was wondering how much students will be studying about stem cells during the 4 years?"
[Question to impress?]
"I had a look through your paper on ‘potential vaccine therapy for HIV’ which is absolutely fascinating. Do you have some more resources I could look into? The text books suggested by the department is quite hard to get hold of.”
How do I sign up to meet my college subject tutor?
The colleges that offer such sessions will have the sign up form or email address on their open day page. Here is an example: Cambridge, Fitzwilliam College
It is advised to book these sessions in advance in case there are too many sign ups for a limited space.