What you need to know about applications to Oxbridge in six easy steps

Education, Oxbridge, Specialist Applications

21st September 2018

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So the Oxbridge application season has rolled around. In the first of our Oxbridge specific blogs, we’ll give you a run-down of all the basic information you need to get your application in on time, and make it a success. For many of you who have been religiously researching this from before you could even spell ‘hallowed institution of academic excellence’, much of this is unlikely to come as a big surprise. However, a recap can’t hurt, and hopefully for those of you still on the fence (my advice – do it! You really don’t have anything to lose) then this overview might help you to show it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think.

  1. The deadline for the UCAS application is the 15th October – giving you less time than most other university applicants. But you don’t want to leave it that late, do you? C’mon, get your act together! You also need to have checked what exams might be associated with your application – such as the LNAT for Law and the BMAT for Medicine – and make sure you get your application for these in before their respective deadlines.
  2. You can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge. Yes, they’re a bit precious like that. Is there an important difference? As a die-hard Oxford girl this hurts me to say but… No, not really. If you haven’t already, take a day trip to both to get a feel for the subtle differences between the two places.
  3. You don’t necessarily need straight As for entry. Let’s not kid ourselves – it is competitive, but the benefit of the additional subject specific tests (see above), your personal statement and eventually your interview is that if they see something in you that appeals – something they recognise as engaging, teachable, enquiring and analytical – they can bend the offer a little. That said, Oxford offers tend to range from either straight A*s to straight As, whilst Cambridge tend to standardise at A*, A, A. As well as the various elements above, Cambridge send out a supplementary questionnaire which asks for your AS module marks as well. Oxford doesn’t do this. Both may ask to see some of your coursework too.
  4. Oxbridge is divided into colleges, and in many ways you are applying to this as much as you are to the university as a whole (though you can do an open application – we’ve got a handy article on that a little bit further back in our blog archive). However, choice of college won’t affect your chances of success – but it will impact your eventual student life, since that’s where you’ll eat, sleep, drink snakebite (or maybe Moet if you end up at King’s,..) fall asleep in the library and have most of your tutorials.
  5. After you’ve submitted your personal statement and all the associated UCAS paraphernalia, the game isn’t over yet – success at this stage means you’ll be called for interview, so there’s still a big hurdle to cross, and sadly many people still fall at this stage (though we’ll be blogging about interviews nearer the time – December – to give you a helping hand). At Oxford this tends to last a few days, you stay in the college as a guest and may visit other colleges for interview, whereas at Cambridge it tends to be a more compact process and is often squeezed into just one day.
  6. The personal statement is roughly the same in terms of structural limits, but a slightly different approach in style and content is required to give you the greatest chances success. Make sure you check back next week, where we’ll be blogging on the key elements of an effective Oxbridge personal statement.

That’s it. With all that info at your hands, it’s time to get writing. Or alternatively pick up the phone and give us a call so that you can help guide you through the process on a one-to-one basis.