How do you refrain from being snarky to Oxford?

So….just for academic shits and giggles, I began looking into what it takes to get into Oxford. I mean, since I’m applying to Columbia, why keep aiming higher? I had a good rummage around their website and couldn’t find anything that pertained to Mature International students. Only mature students, or international students. The problem with this is that they then require me to have an SAT score that is relevant. Because I don’t have one of those since I took the SATs ten years ago, I need to know what is required of me.


My name is Nicola. I’m a dual citizen (U.K. and American), but I’ve lived in the U.S. most of my life, which means all of my education has been in the U.S. I graduated high school in 2005, and didn’t do particularly well then. However, during April of 2014, I returned to school, taking classes at my local community college. I graduate this upcoming December, and have so far maintained a 3.98, have been working as a writing tutor, have been a mentor, am in the honors program, am a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and have won the award for Academic Excellence in the English Discipline. Because it has been ten years since I’ve taken the SATs, most universities that I’ve been in touch with don’t consider my score relevant. 

I’m trying to figure out what requirements I might need to meet in my current position to be considered for placement at the University of Cambridge. I’ve wandered all over the website, though am not finding anything applicable to my current, delayed-returning-to-school situation. I was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction? 

Thank you very much!

I emailed admissions, and at first got back the automated response which said they would get to me when they could and so on and so forth.

Today, I finally received a response:

Dear Nicola


Thank you for your email.

If you will be 21 or over by 1 October in the year in which you hope to come to Cambridge and have not previously completed a course of higher education, then your application will be treated as that of a mature student.

The University welcomes mature students: we value the breadth of experience they bring, as well as their motivation and commitment.

The nature and demands of Cambridge courses mean they do require academic preparation, and mature students must be of equal academic standard to school leavers. Therefore, you’ll be expected to demonstrate evidence of recent academic achievement at a high level, for example in one or more A Levels, an Access to HE Diploma or an Open University course (Level 2 or above)

More advice for mature students can be found on the Mature Student section of our website.

For more information on admission to Cambridge please see the Undergraduate Study website.

Best wishes


Cambridge Admissions Office

How on earth do I email the back and say “do you mind actually reading my email before responding to it?” in a….polite, respectful, academic Oxford??

Well, that’s the minor problem I have for the day.


…..just….you know….not stayin on task….

I’m feeling burnt out. I have been up since three studying for this final for my Anthropology class. It’s now 6:15 a.m. and I have perhaps collectively done 45 minutes of studying, an hour and a half of Facebooking, half an hour of researching how to enhance my ability to recall details during a test, and the rest of the time walking around in circles trying to stay awake and procrastinate.

I have an hour and 15 minutes before I have to leave the house and get to the test. I hate finals. I’m so burnt out.

Five down, two to go

Here it is, I’m winding up my fifth quarter as a college student. Well, I say I’m “winding” it up, but really I’m procrastinating all the crap I still have left to do by Sunday morning. But to continue with the idea that I’m a responsible college student and adult, we’ll go with “winding up”.

It’s been nice not having to worry about math any more. It’s weird how I’ve had four classes but it hasn’t seemed like it. As I started writing this, I was struggling to come up with just which classes I have been taking the last couple of months.

My IDS class (Gender, Science and Literature), wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. It had some interesting content, though as a whole I felt like it could have been more brain-picking. We watched more movies in that class than I have watched in the last 12 months on my own free time. However, some of them were really good, and some of them were so good they had a fairly negative effect on me. However, that negative effect turned into a positive result–or at least, I think it’s positive. It’s turned me toward a personal project I’m working on during the summer, one that I hope will become something bigger for me, though I’m not really sure I’m ready to discuss it.

I have discovered that I have an absolute love-hate relationship with French. When I get it, I love it. When I don’t get it, and we have class every day (which makes sense, it really should be every day), I feel too stressed out to be able to absorb it. As a result, I’ve resolved that I don’t want to do another French class until I know that I have less classes to deal with, and more time to point in its direction. I had part I of my finals today, tomorrow is part II. I’m not feeling too confident, for all that I studied relentlessly. Hopefully I can keep the A I’ve somehow managed to have all year.

As it would turn out, all the next two quarters, I only have two more required classes, and all the rest are electives. I don’t really know what to do with them. All the classes I’m interested in are English classes, and I’ve been advised (perhaps quite wisely), not to fill up my schedule with writing-intensive classes. So, over the summer, online, I will be doing Nutrition, Introduction to Philosophy, and Introduction to World Literature. These classes are all online, which will hopefully prove to be a positive experience. Meanwhile, for Fall quarter I have enrolled in an Honors English class, another IDS class (Religion, Sociology, and the Conscious Self), Introduction to World Religion (another philosophy class) and English 202 (which is online).

The good news about that insane work load….I’LL BE DONE! As soon as I finish all that malarkey during fall quarter, I will graduate.

It’s what I keep telling myself: two more quarters and then I can have a nine month break. Two more quarters…

In Other Adult News…

I have to say, the last week I’ve been rather proud of myself. I managed to get myself a car (well, ok, I had some amazing donations from strangers, and some even more amazing donations from some special surround people, including my parents) – which I’m kind of in love with. For only a grand, Gus (it’s name is Gus Landavaticus) is kind of amazing and perfect for me. I never knew I could love a car so much. Being a 1998 VW Golf, it is the newest care I have ever owned. Never owned a car that was made this millennium.

Sunday, I finished the last of my French homework. No more until there’s more! Hurrah! Ok, I suppose this would count as no more French homework at the community college. I keep going back and forth as to whether or not I want to do the first quarter of year 2 French, but I don’t know that I can hack the stress of it. I love the students I’ve gotten to know over the last three quarters, and I adore my French teachers (she’s pretty amazing), but I don’t know that I can justify spending money on a book and workbook designed to last me a whole year and only use it for a quarter. And it’s just stressful.

Yesterday I crossed off everything on my to-do list. I was quite proud of myself. I got my sign-off to register for my honors class during the fall quarter, I turned in the sheet, I got the sign-off to graduate at the end of fall quarter with honors, I (kind of) started my IDS paper, I found two articles for my other class – and just for my own personal extra credit, I even ordered all my books for one of my classes over summer quarter.

Today my list includes cashing my pay check and paying my remaining four bills for the month, buying groceries (been needing that for a while), and studying for my two final tests…and writing my four – count ’em four – papers.

Look at me adulting all over the place!

I Did That?

This has been a long time coming…Well, I suppose not that long, really. But considering how big I consider the news and how long it has taken me to “report” it, it has been a long time coming.

This has been a pretty big week for me. On Thursday there was a ceremony at the community college in which two of my coworkers in the writing center, as well as a former roommate of mine, all won awards–myself included. I really didn’t know too much as to what to expect, only that I was to be issued an award and that my unofficial, and perhaps somewhat unknowing, mentor was to be presenting me.

I ran into him straight away, though it was a saddening moment. I learned that this would be his last quarter with us at Whatcom Community College, that he would be going back to LA and back to school into a PhD program. However, when he explained himself, I realized that there was no way I could be sad about this. He was going to have the opportunity to study under all the modern philosophers he showed us in class. This was an amazing opportunity for him.

As the awards were given in alphabetical order, I suddenly became nervous, knowing that while there were no words I would need to speak, I would have to stand there, in front of the people filling the Heiner theater, and look pleased, but not too pleased, modest, and know not to fidget. What on earth was I going to do with myself while I was up there?

My mentor was announced to the stage, and called me forth. I made my way there, trying so hard no to laugh. The whole thing was quite ridiculous. Had they really no one better to award than myself? My name was called, and I made my way to the stage, unaware of the idea of tripping up the steps, more concerned with having to stand there for hourly minutes while words were said about me. The lights were bright, I couldn’t see passed the first row of seats, so I focused there, then realized how intense I must be, staring at my coworkers and friends. I saw a flash of a camera, and knew that must be my family, and thus averted my eyes to their direction. I realized the words being said, and experienced an overwhelming mixture of wanting to laugh and wanting to cry. This was a jibe, a jest, a joke, it had to be.

But then I turned, and the medal was placed over my head. All I could think to do or say was, “Thank you, Nathan,” to my mentor. We pivoted and together left the stage. It was over, it was done.

I had a medal of Academic Excellence in the English Discipline. Somehow, I had earned that.

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27 Interesting Facts about Words

I absolutely love this. It is my love of words that got me into school as it is, so of course I’m going to share this fun post!

Interesting Literature

Fun facts about words and the English language

The stuff of literature is, of course, words. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge observed, ‘Prose = words in their best order; – poetry = the best words in the best order.’ In this post, we’ve gathered up 27 of the best facts about words that we’ve unearthed since beginning this blog a couple of years ago. Where necessary, we’ve provided a link to further information.

If you enjoy these facts, you might also like our favourite facts about books.

The word ‘onomatomania’ means ‘intense mental anguish at the inability to recall some word or to name a thing’.

A ‘dysphemism’ is an unpleasant or derogatory word or expression substituted for a pleasant or inoffensive one; the opposite of a euphemism.

Though of uncertain origin, the word ‘bad’ may stem from the Old English ‘bæddel’ meaning ‘hermaphrodite’ or ‘effeminate or homosexual man’.


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In the battle against climate change, Seattle is on the front lines

I got to see the rig this weekend. These photos don’t do it justice as far as its size goes


On May 13, the Polar Pioneer chugged determinedly across Puget Sound toward Seattle, ignoring requests from the mayor and port officials to stay away.

The Pioneer is a fourth-generation, semisubmersible drilling rig, designed by the Japanese firm Polar Hitachi and built in the shipyard in Ariake, Japan, to withstand some of the world’s harshest conditions. With a deck that is larger than two football fields, and a central derrick towering 33 stories above the waterline, the rig is capable of drilling in waters up to 1,640 feet deep, penetrating as far as 25,000 feet into the sea floor. Its quarry: A motherlode buried beneath the remote Chukchi Sea called the Burger Prospect that could, some believe, produce a million barrels of oil a day. Ann Pickard, Royal Dutch Shell’s executive vice president for the Arctic, calls the deposit simply “the prize.”


Shell plans to use Seattle as…

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