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    Incoming Oxford freshers react to A Levels Results Day

    Maurício Alencar speaks to Oxford 2021 freshers after they received their A-level results.

    A number of students with confirmed places to study at Oxford spoke to Cherwell to share their thoughts on their successful results day. 

    Image: Eva Bailey

    Matt Robyns-Landricombe, who will read French at Wadham, told Cherwell that it felt like “such a weight off my shoulders” to have had his place confirmed, whereas Mukhtar Quraishi, who will read Chemistry at New College, said that it feels “very surreal”.

    Tanzim Chowdhury, who will read Engineering at St Hugh’s, said: “I feel amazing”.

    Eva Bailey, who is looking forward to reading English and French at Queen’s, said she was thankful that she will “no longer have to add ‘hopefully’ at the end of my sentence when I tell someone I’m going to Oxford”. 

    The University stated that it was expecting to admit around 3,265 undergraduate students in October 2021, in line with average acceptance rates in normal years.

    Axel Marinho, who will read Philosophy and Theology at Regent’s, is relieved “after a year of uncertainty and disappointments to finally have a concrete offer” which “almost seems too good to be true”.

    Daniyal Hussain, who will be the first from his family to attend Oxford, will read Psychology and Philosophy at New College. He told Cherwell: “I’m definitely looking forward to living in Oxford. It’s such a beautiful city and, of course, the student experience at Oxford is something I’ve heard incredible things about. Would it be wrong for me to say I’m excited for everything?” 

    Janey Little, who got 5 A*s and one A in her A Levels across two years and works as a Young Liberals Policy Officer, will read PPE at Lady Margaret Hall. She told Cherwell that she was “most looking forward to studying what I love and what I’m passionate about”.

    Ash Silva, who will read Biology at the same college as Janey, said she is looking forward to living in Oxford and finally visiting the Natural History Museum. 

    Image: Anas Dayeh

    As standardised A Level and AS Level exams were cancelled this year due to COVID-19 disruption, the government allowed schools to determine students’ grades using mock results, coursework and other assessment grades.

    In most cases, students sat important end of year exams. However, some students said that they were anxious going into results day as they were unsure how different assessments would be weighted against each other. Weronika Szpak, who will read Classics at Corpus Christi, told Cherwell: “The biggest uncertainty was not knowing how my grades would actually be determined. My grades had fluctuated over the two years so it was difficult to tell which grades would be used as evidence, but it all worked out for the best. Honestly I coped with the stress of results day by telling myself ‘it is what it is’.”

    Following last year’s government U-turn due to the backlash against the use of postcode algorithms to decide students’ results, some students were anxious about their grades going into this year. Anas Dayeh, who will read PPE at St John’s, moved to the UK in 2018. Anas has lived by himself since the age of 16. He told Cherwell that he “was scared” his grades would be lowered as his college “has a historical average grade of D+”. Anas got 2 A*s and an A in his A Levels this year.

    Leon Coyle, who will read History at Trinity, summarised: “I could never guarantee that everything would actually work out properly for me”. 

    A* and A grades rose to record highs this year, making up 44.8% of grades awarded. But this year’s cohort have struggled immensely, having to work from home for much of the academic year. Admission interviews were all done online in late 2020.

    Ash said she got through her year “by spending as much time as possible with my friends”. Hannah Fogg, who will read English at Worcester, told Cherwell she “coped with the stress of it all by having a good support system around me that uplifted me throughout the entire process”. 

    Image: Fiona Zeka

    Fiona Zeka, who is a daughter of Kosovan refugees, had to share devices and her “whole day” with three older siblings. She told Cherwell about the impact her parents’ experiences had on her determination to apply to Oxford, and eventually achieve three A*s: “They felt keenly a need for something taken away from them. After being offered a place, my mum told me that she could never [have imagined] that one of her children will reach Oxford when she first arrived here.”

    Fiona told Cherwell she couldn’t wait to “just overindulge in knowledge” while studying English at Hertford College. “I’m already in the planning stages of a feminist festival at Oxford with a fellow female offer-holder. I can’t wait to organise and partake in activities I’m passionate about…Part of my uni bucket-list is to write for and eventually become editor of Cherwell. I want to write pieces raising awareness about human rights, particularly refugee and women’s rights,” she continued.

    After a long, difficult academic year of uncertainty, students will now be able to celebrate their achievements. Ciara Rushton, who will read History and Politics at Magdalen, is celebrating by “ironically going for a night out in Cambridge!”.

    Daniyal will be able to go out for a double celebration as his birthday is the day after results day. Eva said that she was looking forward to getting her free Nandos for lunch, whereas Hannah said she received some gifts from her local tea shop.

    Image: Hannah Fogg

    Axel and Weronika said that, because the last 18 months have been so difficult, they will be celebrating by getting some sleep. 

    This article was updated on August 12th 2020 to include Fiona’s story.

    Featured Image credit: Anas Dayeh, Eva Bailey and Hannah Fogg. Collage by Charlie Hancock

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