Henry Fahrenkamp graduated with his International Baccalaureate Diploma from LIS in 2019 with a faultless maximum scoreof45 points.An enormous achievement, which cemented his acceptance to his first choice of university – Oxford University. Before he set off on this new chapter of his life, he gave us an interview and some insight into his achievements and motivations.
Hi Henry, firstly congratulations on your excellent IB Results and on getting into Oxford University. It has recently been ranked the number one university in the world for the fourth year in a row.
Thank you so much! Oh, and „take that, Cambridge“ 😉
What will you be studying there? Can you tell us a bit about what
attracted you to this University?
I’ll be studying for a BA in Jurisprudence, which is Oxford’s
version of a three-year undergraduate law degree. I can’t say that I was
passionate about wanting to study law ever since I was a child (few people are,
I think), but in my final years at LIS, I became more and more interested in
the subject, since it’s incredibly relevant to how the world works on both a
large and a small scale. Why Oxford? Well, I’m afraid I don’t have a
particularly unique answer to that question, but I did choose to apply there as
opposed to Cambridge since Oxford tends to be described as larger and more
I hear the entrance programme is quite rigorous. Could you talk us
through what it was like for you?
The admissions process itself isn’t too different from other UK
universities, actually. Like all of my peers going to the UK, I applied using
UCAS, an online admissions service that lets you create a single application
for the several institutions you’re considering. While that does save quite a
bit of paperwork and patience, I remember that I felt lots of pressure to get
this one application exactly right – i.e. to make it engaging, relevant,
convincing, and, most importantly, no longer than 4000 characters (in essence,
a UCAS application is something of an extended twitter post). At the same time,
I was preparing for an aptitude test that Oxford requires all of its law
applicants to complete, which involves answering 42 fiendishly difficult
multiple choice questions as well as writing an essay on an unknown prompt, all
within a rather tight time limit.
How did your mentors support or guide you in this process?
I’m very grateful to Mr Smith and Mr Sands, who helped me in
completing my UCAS application and prepared me for the part of the Oxford
admissions process that might well be the scariest – interviews. We managed to
fit in a practice interview before I left for the ‘real deal’ in December last
year, and I genuinely believe that those few minutes had a great impact on my
performance. I got a taste of what the interviewers might ask, and let me tell
you, the real interview did not disappoint in terms of creative, startling
questions that really tested my ability to think on the spot.
What are some of the things, academic and otherwise, that you
learned at LIS that prepared you for getting into a University with such high
I’ve been a
student at LIS ever since I joined as a three-year-old in pre-school, so I
think it’s fair to say that I learned quite a bit in the fifteen years I spent
here. Unfortunately, the subject I chose to pursue now doesn’t overlap nicely
with any of those I took at LIS, so I’m afraid I’ll have only
few opportunities to impress with my knowledge of the mitochondrion being
the powerhouse of the cell. Instead, I think that LIS prepared me for
Oxford by allowing me to develop some crucial skills that the admissions tutors
look for in an applicant. The IB taught me how to be not only a student, but an
inquirer (to quote the IB Learner Profile we all know and love) and an
independent thinker – valuable traits to possess at university.
Extracurriculars, however, have had a profound influence on my academic life
too: for example, flexibility and spontaneity are but two of the many skills
that I have developed as a member of the LIS big band, and I have come to
realise that both are highly applicable to the work I did in the IB. Taking
part in activities such as the European Youth Parliament brought out the
competitive side in me, and the hours I spent at this particular event debating
with fellow participants made the interview at Oxford less of a daunting
prospect than an intellectual challenge to look forward to.
What subjects did you take for IB? What extracurricular activities
were you involved in?
I sat examinations in seven IB subjects, those being German
literature, biology and music at higher level and English language and
literature, business management and mathematics at standard level with French B
SL as an additional subject. In terms of extracurriculars, I was a member of
the LIS big band, the politics club, student council, EYP, and I took part in
the International Award programme as well as in several GISST sports.
How did you deal with the pressure of such a full schedule?
I don’t believe that my extracurricular activities were a source
of stress, because I thoroughly enjoyed them; after all, they did, each in
their own way, help me cope with the IB programme. As for dealing with academic
stress, however, I’m afraid I wasn’t exactly a model student: when larger
pieces of work were due in the foreseeable future, I, not unlike many other IB
students, harnessed the power of concentrated procrastination. Although that
didn’t usually do much good, which is why I don’t endorse leaving tasks for the
last minute, I think that it did allow me to come to terms with my own
capabilities and limits when dealing with a high workload and tight
What do you think is essential to academic success?
Well, I guess there’s some truth in Woody Allen’s remark that
“80% of success is showing up”. A number of people in my grade have
been very successful academically, and as far as I know, they have very
different approaches to learning. That’s why I don’t feel qualified to give
advice on academic success, because individuals differ in what helps them
perform to the best of their abilities. Whether it’s long study sessions,
beautiful handwritten notes, or simply raw talent in a given subject, it’s all
about finding your personal way to fill those remaining 20% once you’ve managed
to show up.
What are you nervous about?
To be honest, I’m still slightly nervous about my university
accommodation. During interviews, I stayed in one of the student rooms at my
college in Oxford (Magdalen College), and a monstrous hairy spider showed up in
different places around the room on a regular basis. I’ll let you know if it
comes back to greet me in October…
What are you really excited about?
At Oxford, students are expected to wear an academic uniform,
known as ‘sub fusc’, on formal occasions and when sitting exams. It consists of
several parts, including a suit, a bow tie and a gown, all of which must
conform to the university’s strict regulations. I just ordered mine, and I’m
very excited to find out how the outfit looks on me. If you are too, follow me
on Instagram @henry_fahrenkamp!
Do you have any advice for other students who are aiming at a
First of all, I’d advise students not to be afraid to aim at such
goals, because there’s nothing to be lost in taking a chance at being accepted
to a top university. I’d be happy to offer specific help and advice if
anyone’s keen on it, but generally, it’s very important that you begin boosting
your application as early as possible. That means, firstly, keeping your grades
high, and secondly, showing enthusiasm for the subject you intend to study
(think work experience, reading books about the subject, etc., but also making
the most of the extracurriculars available at LIS).
What do you imagine you will do when you are finished with your
I haven’t a clue. Brexit isn’t helping, to be honest.
What are your hopes for LIS for the future?
I’d be delighted if LIS were to do even more than it already does
to motivate and support its students to aim high academically, since I believe
that the potential for success is definitely there! I hope that the school also
continues to offer the vast range of extracurriculars that give students the
opportunity to enjoy themselves while developing skills that may come in handy
later on. And finally, I’m very happy that the school is now keeping in touch
with its alumni, because it is the community surrounding LIS that makes it so
special to me.
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