It is fair to say that the application processes to Oxford and Cambridge are like no other, with success requiring dedication and drive. With the submission of work and a personal statement, admissions tests for most courses, and a series of interviews to contend with, you need resilience to make it out to the other side! Achieving success is possible, however, which I hope to help you with by sharing my own experience of the admissions process.
The first step of the process is to decide on a course and college. Ever since I stumbled upon Lincoln College at a university open day, I knew that it was the ideal environment for me; my tour guide was lovely, mirroring my experience of the whole Lincoln community, and the position of the college in the centre of Oxford was another significant advantage – it means that I don’t have to trek very far to get to lectures!
I did spend longer debating my course choice, however, as Modern Languages can be studied in a variety of course combinations. I eventually decided to study German on its own, and am very glad that I did; I have been able to fully explore the course without having to balance another subject on top.
To begin my application, I was invited to submit two pieces of written work – one in English, one in German – alongside my personal statement, which allowed me to demonstrate my writing abilities and to convince the tutors that I was capable of writing pieces longer than the 4000 characters that UCAS permits for the personal statement. My advice for submitted work is to pick pieces that you are genuinely proud of – you may be asked about them at interview, and the tutors will be able to tell your level of passion for whatever it is that you have written about! Making sure to double-check your grammar and spelling is also key, especially for work in a foreign language where the tutors are particularly assessing your linguistic ability.
My personal statement followed the general theme of how we can authentically engage with German culture – if you can easily sum up the overall message of your statement then I would say that’s a good sign, as it indicates that the different elements within it should logically link together, making the statement feel purposeful in how it has been constructed.
After this submission of work came the MLAT (the admissions test for Modern Languages). The format varies slightly depending on the language, but most of them are high-speed grammar tests. Preparation is key here – you will inevitably find similarities in content if you seek out past exams on the university website, and I clearly remember noticing identical grammatical structures being used in multiple papers that helped me narrow down my revision topics. I made sure to do as many past papers as I could find, and I would highly recommend that you do the same.
The interviews are the most spoken about part of the admissions process, and for good reason – they allow the tutors to get a sense of what teaching you full-time would be like, and therefore are one of the most significant parts of the offer-determining process. There is lots of advice online for tackling interviews – such as those found here on the Oxbridge Applications blog – so all I will say for now is to make sure you practise verbally expressing your love for your subject so that the tutors can appreciate your dedication despite the stressful interview setting.
All that was left after my interviews was to wait for decision day, and thankfully my application was successful!
Two years after I submitted my application, I am glad to say that I am thoroughly enjoying my studies here. I have just begun my Final Honours course (the papers that you are examined on at the end of your degree) and am preparing for my upcoming year abroad in Germany! Alongside my studies I have been able to get involved in other areas of university life, from representing the views of those studying German at faculty level to utilising my interest in media and design within various student societies. Oxford is an amazing place to be, and I am very grateful that my tutors saw enough potential in me to invite me to study here.
It is evident that the process of applying to Oxbridge is a tough one, but this need not be a deterrent to anyone who wants to give it a try.
One of the best ways to approach the process is through preparation – Oxbridge Applications offer a variety of resources to help with this, from blog articles (such as this!) covering every aspect of the process that you can think of, to offering other services such as private consultations and events to help you reach your educational goals (or to help your children reach theirs).
The most important thing to remember is that, whatever your background or life experience, Oxford is by no means an impossible goal and that the tutors are genuinely excited to meet you – as long as you have a true love of your subject, and of learning itself, this will shine through.
I wish everyone who is applying to Oxbridge the best of luck with their applications!
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