This may seem like a silly question, but have you ever actually asked yourself why you ‘re planning an application to Oxford or Cambridge?
Such is the nature of Oxbridge’s prestige that plenty of applicants find themselves applying by default without actually considering whether it would be a good fit for them in the long run. Just because it would sound impressive to say that you have been to Oxford or Cambridge, and whilst of course both universities offer an excellent degree-level education, it doesn’t necessarily mean that spending years at either uni would be the best use of your individual time and resources.
As much as we here are big advocates for an Oxbridge education (it is in our name after all!), we are in no two minds that an Oxford or Cambridge education is not the right choice for everyone, be that because of the way teaching is structured, the lifestyle, or anything in between. With this in mind, we’ve brought together our top tips on what to consider when thinking critically about whether or not Oxford or Cambridge is the right place for you.
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Perhaps the most obvious consideration is to be realistic about your chances of getting in, and then thriving, in the challenging academic setting of Oxford or Cambridge. You should assess whether you will make an impressive applicant against the criteria that colleges look for in an application, which include:
The main thing that Oxbridge universities are looking for is a demonstration of academic potential, so it’s important that you are capable and confident of showing this at all stages of your application. The first and most clear-cut step for assessing your position as a candidate is to look at your grades.
Even the most meticulous, hardworking Oxbridge applicants can be daunted by the prospect of long hours of work that a degree at Oxford or Cambridge entails. And this is a very fair concern; after all, university is as much about studying as it is getting the chance to leave home, meet people, and try new things.
We’ll begin by saying that, yes, it is true that studying at Oxbridge can mean a higher workload than friends at other Russell Group universities (think up to two essays a week compared to three or four a term at other universities), setting a pace which is both tough and rewarding in equal measure.
We want, however, to dispel the myth that this means students at Oxford and Cambridge only ever study day in day out. In fact, this could not be further from the truth. In our experience, Oxbridge unis are host to a plethora of extracurricular clubs, societies, and events with which to fill your spare time. Whether you want to discuss International Relations, learn how to play underwater hockey, or spend your weekends at gatherings of the Taylor Swift society, there truly is something for everyone.
In the space of a short 8-week term, Oxbridge students manage somehow to pack in huge amounts of work alongside their favourite pastimes, often forgoing TV and sleep in the process (not that we would recommend the latter). In short, you absolutely can do it all, but you need to be prepared to have a very packed schedule indeed.
As we’ve discussed, Oxbridge students are set a large amount of work across a shorter length of term compared to most other unis, meaning that you will be spending an awful lot of time in the presence of your chosen subject, be that in lectures, supervisions/tutorials, or reading at home. This is why tutors are on the look out only for students who can prove that they truly love their subject, and will continue to be passionate about it for the long haul.
Whilst this doesn’t mean you’re going to love every second of pulling an all-nighter to finish that important essay, or spending hours on a Saturday afternoon locked in the library reading sources, having passion for your subject makes these more difficult of times a whole lot more bearable. Therefore, an inherent interest in your subject (not just choosing it because you’re good at it or you think it will be easy!) is the most important thing to consider if you’ve not chosen one already. Read our article on how best to choose your university course here.
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, 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR