Oak Hall senior Brittney Olinger has always valued academics as a priority in her life. So when the chance to go to one of the most prestigious universites in the world, Oxford, came about she didn't think twice. The third place finisher as a junior in the 3200 meters at the 1A state meet and third at the 1A Cross Country Finals, she talks about the recruiting process, as well as running and studying at her future home, and much more!
What was the recruiting process like for you?
For me, recruiting was a little different. Academics has always been the top priority for me, so I only contacted coaches who coach for schools with great business, economics, and finance programs. By my junior year, I had narrowed down my list of potential future colleges to around nine universities. I took official and unofficial visits several schools including Wake Forest and Columbia, and was considering taking a couple more until I was accepted to Oxford. Overall, the process was very relaxed and nice.
I know you waited until after NSD to pick a school. Was that intentional to just take your time?
I really didn’t even think about which day was National Signing Day. I wanted to take as much time as I needed to ensure I picked the right school. As a wise coach once told me, “It’s not just a four year decision. It’s a forty year decision.”
Where all were you considering?
I narrowed down my choices to Wake Forest and Columbia for running, but I was also considering Oxford, Harvard, Yale, and UPenn solely for academics.
You ended up picking Oxford, a prestigious academic institution in England. How did you wind up there?
I had always heard fantastic things about Oxford, but I had never met anyone who attended. The summer before my senior year, I researched as much as I could and decided it was a university that I wanted to look into. In order to apply, I had to send in all the American standardized tests, take the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment), a UK test, and write a personal statement to go with my application. The personal statement is an essay around 1,000 words long that explains why you want to study the subject for which you are applying. That’s one of the big differences between American and British universities: in England, you pick your major before you apply. I applied for Economics and Management in October, and in December, I was notified that I had made it through the first round and was invited to Oxford for the mandatory interview. Unfortunately, traveling to England the week before finals didn’t work for me, so I had a skype interview with the Economics and Management tutors, where they questioned me on everything from Economic theory to game theory to American politics. It was lots of fun, but I didn’t get my hopes up because their international acceptance rate is so low. However, On January 8th I received an unconditional offer to study E&M!
What was your visit like and what sold you?
My visit was great! From the moment you drive up, you see old, majestic gothic architecture that, in some cases, dates back to the Middle Ages.= Oxford is a University composed of 38 different colleges, so every student who receives an offer is assigned to a different one. I received my offer to study at Hertford, so upon arrival, my parents and I met with the Hertford Management tutor to talk about the course. He is an expert in his field and was so nice to take time out of his day to meet with me. He even remembered from my interview that I founded ReRun! The next day, a member of the faculty gave us a tour of the college and libraries. In the end, the specificity of the course, the beautiful, safe town, and the faculty sold me. I can definitely see myself studying and running there for the next few years!
What's the running system like in the UK?
Competitions aren’t organized in the same way as the NCAA. Oxford makes it very clear that it is an academic institution and wants those enrolled to put their studies before athletics. That being said, they have a thriving club program in a plethora of sports. Cross country and track, or “athletics,” have several clubs, but the most serious one is the Oxford Full Blue team. They compete against other universities in the UK, most importantly Cambridge, and go to the national meet at the end of the season.The cross country season is from October to March, and the track season goes from April to June. Cross country distances range from the 5k to a 4-mile, and the courses are typically very muddy.
Did you ever think when you started school/running you'd be running at one of the most prestigious schools for academics?
When I first started running, I had hoped to continue with it at the next level, but I never pictured the journey would take me to another country! Running has always been a great stress reliever for me. I love the pure competitive spirit of the sport and have made some of my closest friends through it. That being said, my studies have always come first, and I knew that if I ran in college, it would have to be a place where I would be happy even if the running side didn’t work out. Oxford is a great mix of both.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out on your journey?
First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents. They are incredible people who have always supported me without pushing me. They have encouraged me to follow my dreams and ambitions wherever they take me. I would not have had the courage to accept Oxford’s offer without them behind me. Of course my coaches, Coach Mac and Coach Perlette have supported me through everything. They, along with my teammates, kept running a central and important part of my life. I would also like to thank my two little sisters Katie Grace and Reece, and my great friends who kept me sane through it all. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me from the very start of my running career. Every one of you has had a lasting impact on my life, and I am incredibly grateful for it
What are your short term and long term goals?
In the immediate future, I want to have a great outdoor track season and enjoy this last season with my team. Further down the road, I hope to gain a great amount of knowledge and understanding in pursuit of my degree and see my running improve on the Oxford Blue team.