6 March 2024

1. Can you tell us your name and one interesting fact about yourself?

My name is Thomas Newman, and I can speak Croatian. 

2. What year did you graduate from Llanishen High School?

I graduated in the summer of 2022. 

3. What subjects did you study or were you particularly interested in while you were with us?
I took English Literature, French, History & Government, and Politics at A-level. I thoroughly enjoyed all four, and it was extremely difficult to choose between them when it came to deciding what I would pursue after leaving LHS. 

4. What are you doing now, and can you tell us how you got to this point?
I currently read law at Oxford. It was a long-term effort requiring much patience and stamina. Oxford requires an early application: you submit your UCAS application (including the personal statement) in October. Some courses require written work and/or an admissions test as part of the application. I completed the LNAT in November. The university will review your application and shortlist students for an interview which takes place in December. You are notified as to whether you have secured a (conditional) place in the New Year – subject to your A-level exam results. In August, on A-level results day, I confirmed my place to read law at Oxford. 

5. Did you always know this was something you wanted to pursue? If not, what other options were you considering?
My decision to study law came later than my decision to study at Oxford – which itself was rather late. I was enticed by the idea of Oxford after several visits with LHS. I was taken not only by the beauty of the city but also because it was a place which invited so much curiosity and intellectual exploration. At Oxford, people think for thinking’s sake. 

I was seriously considering studying philosophy, which I had read much about in my own time. However, I decided on law for two reasons. Firstly, I thought that the structured, rule-based, and predictable nature of law would suit me. Law seemed to me almost scientific, built upon principles of reason, rationality, and logic, capable of producing tidy solutions to what are often messy and emotional disputes. Secondly, law seemed to combine the favourite aspects of my A-level subjects: the close analysis of language in English literature; the construction of arguments and substantiated judgments in history; the study of the constitution and the function of the courts and Parliament in politics. Further, the law course at Oxford is not, in fact, called “law”, it is called “jurisprudence” i.e., ‘the philosophy of law’. I thought that not only law, but the specific law course offered at Oxford, would incorporate my interest in philosophy too.

6. Looking back, what advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Do not overestimate the importance of exams. They are important and should be prepared for as they demonstrate your academic ability and exam technique. However, they are not determinative. Especially at Oxford, admissions take a very holistic approach, considering a wide range of factors of which your exam results are only part. The advice I would give therefore is to become ‘interesting’. Read about the subjects in which you are interested. Speak to people in those fields. Attend lectures and talks. Show initiative and a thirst for knowledge. At the university level, your ability to learn and retain information no longer becomes the key objective. You must be passionate, curious, and insightful. This can only come from you – not a classroom or an exam grade. 

7. What advice would you give to students today thinking about their future?
Be sensitive not only to what you are good at, but also to what you enjoy. It is pointless to pursue something in which you lack natural ability, even if you find it fascinating, for you will become frustrated. Equally, it is fruitless (not to mention painful) to study a subject in which you lack any interest or enjoyment. You must try to find a delicate balance between the two. It is a fine line, but the more you research, and the more honest with yourself you are, I am confident that you will find it. This test produces the most sensible decision in my view.

If you’d like more information about our alumni network or would like to get involved, please complete the form on our alumni page and a member of staff will come back to you.