Annie Burton has become the first student at La Cañada High School in memory to gain admission to the University of Oxford as a full undergraduate.
The LCHS senior will begin her studies in modern history and politics at the British institution in October.
Burton's successful application culminates a rigorous 12-week process which began last September. The process involved two application forms, multiple writing samples, a six-part essay test and an oral examination with an Oxford professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Burton credits her success to the preparation of her advanced placement history teachers at LCHS: James Cartnal (AP U.S. History) and Marina Chahine (AP European History).
"The oral exam question seemed to come straight out of Ms. Chahine's class," she said. "I did so well because Ms. Chahine had done such a good job teaching us philosophies and movements throughout history."
Cartnal prepared Burton's letter of recommendation, which plays a significant role in the Oxford application process.
"Mr. Cartnal wrote an incredible letter, but more importantly, he always made time for me," Burton said. "His commitment, encouragement, and superior teaching, more than anything else, have inspired my love of history."
Educated entirely within the award-winning La Cañada Unified School District, Burton attended Palm Crest Elementary from kindergarten through sixth grade and LCHS thereafter. She began her education at La Cañada's own St. George's Preschool.
Burton last year was named a National AP Scholar with Honors for superior performance on four advanced placement exams, and achieved SAT I and II scores among the very best students in the nation.
But Oxford, with a reputation for hand-picking its students, uses its oral exam to distinguish among the most qualified. Burton was given the unidentified writing of an historical figure just 15 minutes before the exam, and, with no further clues, correctly identified the time period in which it was written, the philosophical movement it represented, and the nationality of the writer.
The University's approach to education resembles an American graduate school program more than an undergraduate one. "Oxonians" are not required to attend large lecture halls to learn subjects outside their field of interest. Instead, they study just the subject of their major in depth, writing frequent papers and meeting weekly with an Oxford professor for one-on-one "tutorials" in each course. The school calendar is divided into three intensive eight-week terms.
Students at Oxford apply to one of 39 different undergraduate "colleges" that comprise the University, much like the Hogwarts' schools of Gryffindor or Ravenclaw of Harry Potter fame.
Burton will attend Lady Margaret Hall, part of a select group of 12 students accepted to study history there. Lady Margaret Hall, with just 440 students, has become one of the most sought-after colleges at Oxford. One of Burton's classmates at LMH will be the son of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and another will be the son of the British attorney general.
Burton will be one of the youngest students at the university. As the British elementary and secondary school system is a 13-year program, rather than the 12-year program of the United States, the typical "fresher" is 19 or even 20 years old. But, having just turned 17 last fall, she is accustomed to being the youngest, even in La Cañada.