Jessica Swafford




United States



By Jessica Swafford

What led me to the Oxford MBA

Last year, I completed a decade long goal to visit all 50 American states before turning 30. I road tripped from one ocean to the other, I went glamping in Montana on the way to Glacier National Park, and I attended the Houston (Texas) Rodeo after touring NASA among other trips and adventures.

While visiting all of the states was a fun goal I accomplished, the point of sharing my travels is not to stroll down memory lane. Rather, the point is to share my background and what I learned along the way that led me to attend Oxford for an MBA.

My 20’s were a decade of fun, for sure, but when I invented my travel goal at age 19 I didn’t think I’d make it. I was a first generation college student from a rural area, and I, like most of us, had no idea what I was doing. My first “job” was driving a hay bale truck at age 12, and in undergrad I worked everywhere from the school newspaper to McDonald’s. My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 17, and at age 19 I learned that she never saw the ocean or left our home state. This changed my trajectory as it prompted me to create goals, and I never stopped chasing them.

I contemplated these things last year as I sat in a kayak in Alaska just before my 30th birthday. I reflected on a decade prior when I’d been on the cusp of turning 20. So much had been accomplished since then, I thought. What would my 30’s hold?

Essentially, I was in a place of uncertainty when I contemplated this question. I had big ideas with little idea about how to execute them. Much like being in a kayak without a paddle, it was pretty useless. That autumn I began thinking through what I loved about my life (so many things) and also what I wanted to change (so many things)—loving your life and wanting to change it can, and often do, coexist. Grad school seemed to be the best choice so I took the GRE and applied to Oxford in Round 4. It was ironically the same feeling as age 19… I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did.

As I have now embarked on my 30’s I see them unfolding in a similar way to my 20’s. I am in school, and I am unsure of what the future holds. Perhaps every decade begins this way (minus the school), so my best advice is to think through what you’d like to accomplish, make a plan, and start chasing it.

I made so many excuses of why Oxford wouldn’t work for me. I thought people “like me” didn’t attend Oxford, and I was wrong. I thought by starting to study for entrance exams later I’d never make it, and I was wrong. I thought if I applied in a later round I’d never get in, and I was wrong. I thought people in their 30’s didn’t attend grad school, and I was way wrong.

One of my favourite quotes is, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” It is often erroneously attributed to famous Oxford graduate CS Lewis (Magdalen College), but it is uncertain who actually said it. Perhaps there’s a poetic meaning to that. The unknown isn’t essential, but rather, it’s what you see and put energy towards that matter.

Attending Oxford will undoubtedly be a highlight to my life, and I am glad I started a new decade here. I can only guess how it will impact this upcoming chapter of my life. New beginnings are around us all of the time. All we have to do is chase them.

Back to top of article

Share this post:

follow us in feedly