This is a common question – and whilst not really about the interview period itself – something that we thought we should look into. Generally, there is a bit of a worry that at Oxford and Cambridge it’s all work and no play in the pursuit of academic excellence. Some of the students we’ve spoken to are worried that even if there are sociable occasions, these will have a distinctly academic spin themselves such as debating, language learning or medieval battle re-enactment. The good news is that there is plenty of fun to be had – the (slightly) bad news, is that you will – in most cases – have to do more work than your friends at other universities. If you are doing a science subject – such Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Medicine, you will spend quite a lot of your time in Labs – these usually start at about 9am and go on for most of the morning. You’ll also have a couple of tutorials a week and work set for these. Engineers, Mathematicians and Physicists usually get problem sheets to do for their next class – these are about a page long and usually take about 10 hours to complete properly (we know – madness!).
If you’re applying for a humanities, social sciences or arts degree, you’ll usually have two essays to write a week for your tutorial – most people feel that two days’ reading and one day’s writing is a realistic (but quite generous) time to devote to this. You may also have some lectures to attend in the mornings, which are beneficial to your course. There is also plenty to be doing beyond academics at Oxford and Cambridge – most members of the university are active in lots of different things, as well as being a continual presence in the common room and out and about in the town. What tends to disappear are the long lie-ins and days spent watching TV, but the advantage of Oxford and Cambridge are the long holidays – so you can catch up on all this when you’re at home. Likewise, you are not allowed to undertake many hours of paid work, so you might want to use your holidays to catch up on this.