Applying to Oxbridge is a daunting task no matter what. Your academic achievements, performance at interview and score in the admissions test must be outstanding in order to stand out from hundreds, even thousands, of other talented applicants.
The application process can be even more daunting for international applicants, who are less familiar with the English education system and have a much harder time attending open days! One positive consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is that information has been made much more accessible remotely; for example, through virtual tours of colleges, online Q&As and videos.
Oxford and Cambridge universities are both incredibly welcoming to international students and from our experience, do everything they can to bridge the geographical distance and keep you informed from afar, during the application process. At Oxbridge Applications, a third of the students and families we work with are based overseas, so we have collected some useful tips here to get you started on the right track.
The number one priority for an applicant who studies a qualification that varies from those that are most common in the UK (A Levels, International Baccalaureate, Pre-U) is to check that Oxford and Cambridge accept it. In some cases, your school certificate may not be recognised as giving you a sufficiently similar educational background to the UK’s educational system and additional qualifications may be required, such as APs. Naturally, it is handy to know this far in advance of making your application to university in the UK.
This is extremely important for all students as you will need to demonstrate a deep commitment to that particular academic discipline through the application process. Oxbridge courses (like most in the UK) tend to be academically specialist and focused on one or two narrow subjects.
Course decision can impact whether you ultimately receive an offer to study at the university, since the competition for each course can vary massively. The Oxbridge Applications team regularly tour schools around the world and one thing we always notice from our conversations with students is that they only tend to talk about five of the most famous courses… If you explore the catalogue of options in more depth, there is almost certainly a less competitive pathway to achieving your dream of studying at Oxbridge. This is a discussion topic that our Senior Consultants have a lot of experience with and can explore in a personalised way during a Private Consultation.
The Admissions Test
Many Oxbridge applicants must sit an admissions test in early November of their application year. Check with a teacher to confirm that your school is registered as a test centre because you will otherwise need to seek out a test centre nearby. Typically, the British Council will offer support by hosting you at a test centre.
Another vital tip from the Oxbridge Applications team is to remind you to register for applicable admissions tests at the same time as you submit your UCAS form (if your school does not do that for you). Don’t forget, as failure to register will almost certainly jeopardise your whole application!
The Oxbridge interview
Of the various application milestones, the Oxbridge interview is the most famous and, indeed, the most important. International applicants are sometimes given the opportunity to visit the university for their interview, have the interview online, or attend an interview in their home (or nearby) country. This choice may be a personal one but there are benefits to each that will suit some students over others. It’s important to consider this option early as those students who opt to have an interview from the International Interviews Team in their home country have earlier deadlines for submitting their application.
The other parts of the admissions process are thankfully exactly the same as students applying to Oxbridge from the UK. Whilst international applicants historically were required to fill in additional forms, these have been decommissioned.
A final hint from us: remember that the UCAS deadline is advertised in UK time so leave plenty of time when submitting your application. Try to submit the form at least a couple of days before just in case you have calculated the time difference incorrectly… You wouldn’t be the first person to…
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