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?
2) Do I love my subject?
3) Will I enjoy my university experience if I go to Oxford or Cambridge?
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.