very different now.
When I applied to enter teacher training college I filled out the forms for the course I wanted to do, went for the medical (knowing I would fail) and was told that because I had the necessary examination passes they could not refuse to take me but I would have to pay to go. The fee was minimal. I worked as a "junior housemistress" in a boarding school for girls and went to college at the same time. I probably worked a great deal harder than most students...after all I had to both support myself and prove to the world I could do the course.
Now, if they failed me on the medical, I could take them to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal and the authorities would be roasted for discrimination. Although it was awful at the time I think I am glad I did not have to go the second route.
My goddaughter on the other hand is about to head off to Oxford for interviews - three days of interviews. She wants to do bio-medical science there. Her second choice of university is one in the United States.
Her mother has been e-mailing me. (They live in Singapore.) "These days it is all about the subject area." That's her view. She believes that all her child's other achievements and interests will be ignored.
My view is that the subject area is very important but the interview panels are also going to look beyond that. If all that mattered was the subject area and your results then they might not bother to interview. They might assume, well you managed to get this far so you probably have the personality and the study skills to continue. It is what they assumed when I went to teacher training college. They did not recognise most students were not passionate about teaching. It was a way of getting a tertiary education and being paid for doing it. Being "bonded" for three years afterwards was considered the price you paid.
Now I think they will not only want to know why you want to do your chosen course (I certainly would) but whether you really might have the personality to take up an expensive place and succeed. Do you have the necessary organisation and study skills? What will you contribute to the course? How will you mix with your fellow students? What are you likely to do in your limited free time and how will that help you? Will it reflect well or badly on your chosen college and the university as a whole? What do you see as being your career options? Why here, why not somewhere else?
I had an "interview" of sorts before I went to law school. I happened to be in hospital (post knee surgery) and a member of staff rang me there. "Why here, why not where you are now?" I explained they concentrated on two areas of law I felt I needed. "Why do you need to study those things in particular?"
I explained about the way my present work was developing. There was silence at the other end of the phone and then he said, "We'll see you when university starts."
I wonder if it would be that easy now? I doubt it. I know that even then the younger students had rigorous interviews and that the staff were interested in much more than "I want to be a lawyer".
So subject choice will not be everything for my goddaughter. They just might, even if they do not tell her, be interested in the fact that she can put a string on her cello and defend it with a judo throw against a thief.