The following article featured in The Daily Telegraph outlines “5 Things You Should Know about Oxbridge Applications”.
1. Apply early
The deadline for Oxbridge – as well as medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences – is October 15. Don’t miss it. Many candidates will have applied already.
2. Pick a college
You apply to a college, not just a university. You can file an open application, but more and more people are applying to a specific college. Pick a place where you will enjoy living and working. Remember, some colleges don’t offer certain subjects. Go to open days if you can, though tutors are often more than happy to see you on an ad hoc basis during informal visits. Consider whether you want a central location, a smaller community, or are interested in a thriving sport or music scene. You can also look at the published statistics to see which are more academic – or competitive – but remember, it’s a very personal choice.
3. Prepare to be tested
Admissions tests are increasingly common for many subjects, and you are more likely to have to take one at Oxbridge than elsewhere. The approach is different between the two universities. Oxford will require you to take a test before offering you an interview, while at Cambridge tests are sat at the same time as interviews by those who have made it that far. Cambridge tests are also less centralised – not all colleges set tests, and those that do (which depends on the staff’s preference, not how competitive or prestigious they are) often set their own.
4. Show your best work
Some subjects and colleges will require you to submit written work along with your application. This should be work produced in the course of your A-levels, and should be your best and most interesting work.
5. Expect to be interviewed
Universities such as Durham and UCL are beginning to interview candidates more again, but at Oxbridge you won’t get an offer without going through two or three interviews. These are not formulaic – they differ massively college to college – but around 75 per cent of candidates will be given unseen material, such as a poem to analyse for English students. At Oxford you may be “pooled” during your interview visit and meet tutors from various colleges, whereas Cambridge will only enter you into the pool after your initial interviews.