Map Oxbridge Applications, 58 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

Having spent some of my most formative years at an Oxford College, and now working in an environment in which I speak to applicants and graduates on a daily basis, it quickly becomes evident that there is no typical background for an Oxbridge undergraduate. I know some people who can trace Oxbridge back in their families the way most people can trace crooked noses, small feet or a bizarre enjoyment of wet and rainy camping trips; others have no history of further education in their families, or come from distant countries where Oxbridge has no cultural significance whatsoever.   I know that some people knew from the age of 6 what they wanted to study, where and why, whilst others had a brainwave (no doubt fairly late in the day on 14th October) and realised that they quite liked the sound of the Arch & Anth course at Cambridge.  My decision to apply to Oxbridge is probably fairly typical, and may well ring true with you too. My parents are both Bristol graduates, so unless I had been a complete dunce, there was always a tacit understanding that I would go on to university after my A levels.  I had done well at school and had an impressive clutch of A*s at GCSE and some not entirely hopeless predicted A level grades.  I also really enjoyed my subject and was keen to continue it at university. Having said this, I don’t think anyone, even in a particularly generous mood, would have said that I was any kind of child genius.   There was no eccentric but brilliant teacher who championed my cause, nor a kindly older cousin to impart his or her wisdom.  I was just an ordinary applicant and in the end the attitude was really ‘why not?’ If you’re currently deliberating over whether to apply to Oxford or Cambridge this year or wondering how you can kick start your application, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself.   Every application is different; there are no hard and fast rules as to who will succeed and who will not, so don’t feel that you shouldn’t be thinking of Oxbridge if you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions.

1)      Do I have the right grades?

  • The minimum offer for applicants is AAA at A level (or 38 points in the IB or D2, D2, D3 if you are taking Pre-Us).  Science subjects at Oxford and all subjects at Cambridge have the minimum requirement of A*AA or A*A*A, so you need to be confident that your teachers will be predicting you these grades at the beginning of the year you’re applying and that ultimately you can achieve these marks.
  • Most successful applicants have a good number of A*s at GCSE.   Some colleges state that they are unlikely to accept candidates with fewer than seven A*s at GCSE, but we have seen cases where people with three or four A*s or fewer are successful at other colleges within the university.

2)      Do I love my subject?

  • It is essential that you really love the course that you are going to apply for as you will be studying it fairly intensely for at least three years with people who live and breathe the subject.
  • Whilst you are applying you’ll need to be doing lots of extra reading around your subject and keeping up with any developments going on.  You should find this a really enjoyable exercise, rather than a chore, as it is what you will be doing when you get to university.
  • If you haven’t yet found your ideal course, it is worth visiting the Oxford and Cambridge websites and finding our which subjects they offer.  You may find that you are a keen Linguistics student or a Materials Scientist, even though these aren’t subjects you’ve studied at school. Doing the research to find your perfect course is essential!

3)      Will I enjoy my university experience if I go to Oxford or Cambridge?

  • University life at Oxford and Cambridge is very different to that at most universities.  There is quite a heavy workload and the learning experience can be quite intense, as much of the work is done orally in small groups (tutorials at Oxford, supervisions at Cambridge). If you are the kind of person who enjoys debating topics, playing with ideas aloud and being quite forceful with your opinion, you are likely enjoy it.   If this sounds like hell, you should do your own research and try to speak to some graduates before you decide to apply so you have a good idea of what your tutorials or supervisions will be like.

It’s always worth speaking to someone with a bit of experience in these matters.  The Oxford and Cambridge admissions offices are really helpful and can always direct you to the right person to answer your question.  Alternatively, you could give one of us a call.  We’re all Oxbridge graduates and we were in your position not very many years ago. Although the Oxbridge deadline for personal statements is in October, it is a really positive step to make your decision to apply early on in the year.  It allows you so much more time to read around your subject, which will be hugely beneficial at interview, understand why you want to study the course you are applying for and do the research to ensure you pick the best college for you. Our research has shown that it is those applicants who are most proactive about their application, who do the legwork to find out all they can and who take advantage of the opportunities that are offered who are most successful come December. If you’re not deciding whether or not to apply this year, you may well be deciding whether or not to reapply.   I’ll be blogging some more information about this next week and the things you should consider in making this decision, so watch this space.  If you would like to speak to one of us about this, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you ever have any questions about your application or what it’s like at Oxford or Cambridge, give us a call on +44 (0)20 7499 2394.  Alternatively you can tweet your question to us by beginning the tweet @applytoOxbridge and we’ll answer as soon as we can. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Our Oxbridge-graduate consultants are available between 9.00 am – 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday, with additional evening availability when requested.

Oxbridge Applications, 58 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AJ

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