As I started walking, I couldn't help but look back at the boarding house I'd lived in for nearly 4 1/2 years. I knew I wouldn't be gone for long - the second term started on January 8 - but I knew my feelings towards the school would never be the same again. I was off to Oxford University.
I'm partway through my penultimate term at Winchester College. I, and every other upper Sixth Former in Britain, will have to choose at the end of the year: some will look for a job, others will take a gap year, and still others will be heading off to university. Hoping to be in the last group, I travelled to one of the oldest universities in the world last month. I had completed my application a month earlier and sat the History Aptitude Test. Oxford and Cambridge are the two most prestigious educational institutions in the country, if not the world, and both guarantee interviews as part of the application process.
I was nervous as I set off that day; I felt as if my entire future rested upon my success in the interview. We prepared at school, but we'd been told that during the actual event, anything could happen. I'd heard horror stories of applicants being reduced to tears in a matter of minutes, and warnings that if it seemed too easy, you'd already failed, but I was determined to give it my best shot.
When I entered the room, I was confronted by two history professors. As I was interviewed, it felt a bit like I was in a police interrogation room, with the professor on my left playing bad cop, and the one on my right playing good cop. Although the one on the left barely said anything, I could feel her eyes boring into the very essence of my being as I answered questions from her less frightening colleague. Time passed quickly, and before I knew it, my first interview was over. I felt slightly ill as I left the room, because I knew there were things I'd failed to mention.
The second interview came later that day, and involved a short preparation session, during which I had to study a two-page historical document. I read through it and worked out its meaning as far as I was able to, furiously scribbling notes in the margin as I did so.
When I was called to enter a different interview room, I felt somewhat more ready for what was about to come. This time, the interview consisted of a lively discussion of the text; the two interviewers quizzed me on its origins, any bias the author may have had, and other relevant deductions. I had a much better feeling about this one, and I must have done something right, because I was given a third interview at another college, which went, I thought, equally well.
After it was over, I left the university, and took the train back to London. Whether or not I get into Oxford, I know there's no going back to the way it was. My journey out of secondary school has begun.