The Oxbridge application and admissions process is one of the most daunting experiences you would ever go through. Not only is it difficult, but it requires tons of hard work and dedication to a specific set of ideals and methods if you are well-informed on what you need to do. For some, the journey begins so early in childhood, either because they have parents who attended any of the Oxbridge universities or they admire a prominent person in the society who turns out to be an alumnus. And for others, having good grades in secondary schools opened up opportunities to Oxbridge. Regardless, the components of the application are the same for all.
Components of an Oxbridge application
The application consists of the following general framework:
- GCSEs: The race begins here for a set few aiming for a course at Oxbridge from an early age. The usual requirement by most colleges is to have at least six 9s from your list of subjects.
- A-Levels and other qualifications: There are tales that one’s actual assessment of academic excellence begins at this stage, over the GCSEs. I can’t say. The only grade “alphabet” Oxbridge tutors hope to see in this part of your application are As, As, and more As. It might seem like a steep slope, but you would be surprised that almost every applicant submits an A in their application. It is doable. Other qualifications like the International Baccalaureate are also accepted.
- UCAS application, including your personal statement
- The admissions tests: More colleges now insist on candidates taking an admissions test for some courses before shortlisting is done. These tests are designed not just to test your knowledge of the related subject but also your ability to apply critical thinking skills to different aspects or theories of the field of study.
- The interview: Of all the steps, this is the most unpredictable and scariest to prepare for. Getting an invite for an interview in the first place is a huge burden lifted off your shoulders because you are part of that 20%.
It truly is a long journey to embark on. I walked the same path not so long ago to get into Oxford to study PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics). The good news is that I got in, but I didn’t do it alone. I got exhausted and was on the brink of flunking out of my A-Level classes when a friend shared his secret with me – using tutors from Oxbridge Mind. I gave them a ring, and the rest is history. My Oxbridge tutor taught me how to differentiate myself from other applicants. And I believe this to be the main question on the minds of most Oxbridge aspirants – how can I be different?
Anyone and almost everyone can have good grades, but those ‘As’ aside, what other aspects of your application can distinguish you from the others? Let’s look into it together.
From the admissions process listed above, the parts of your application that are devoid of grades are your personal statement and your performance at the interview. These are two areas for you to ‘sell yourself’ and show the Oxbridge admissions board the person behind those high grades. A window into who you are. But you have to do it well. These are your golden tickets.
For most colleges, it is wise to add “super-curricular activities” to your personal statements. I am afraid most people do not understand the meaning of these and how much impact they can make on your application. Ironically, a paragraph or two could be a determining factor as to whether or not you should be shortlisted for an interview, but it could be your secret weapon. This would be part of our focus in this text.
Supra-curriculars: What are they, and how can they help?
Simply put, supra-curriculars are anything you do to support your subject in and out of school. At an Oxbridge conference heard in 2019, it was described as anything you do that fuels your interest in the chosen course, asides from your compulsory subjects.
These span through almost anything, like listening to podcasts, reading books, studying certain websites, magazines, or journals, volunteering, etc. They differ from ‘extra-curricular’ activities because those do not support your course. Examples of these are playing football or practicing the guitar etc.
Why do they matter so much?
Your personal statement would demonstrate these things to the admissions board:
- That you have a unique, broad, and deep interest in your course.
- That you have more knowledge outside what you’ve been taught in school.
- That you can learn independently.
The third is key to the interviewers because the learning style in Oxbridge involves independent studying. Candidates that can exhibit this well in their application are indirectly informing the college that they can thrive in the Oxbridge environment.
Do the needed work, and find yourself flawlessly tapping into genuine thoughts in your personal statement and eventual interview.
Tips on how to master them
- Identify and follow the things that fascinate you: Ask a friend or a tutor for resources that will be beneficial to you. Once you find that spark, follow it. If a book leads to another and another, keep going. This would enable you to think and build a robust bank of ideas and knowledge related to your course.
- Review your thoughts and put them down somewhere: Gaining knowledge is not the end. You have to reflect on those thoughts and ideas and consider if they coincide with your convictions or not. If they don’t? How? Then you record it all. These are some of the fine details an Oxbridge tutor would work on with you to develop a stellar personal statement.
- Develop a routine: Pick specific times of the day to maybe read a book, listen to a podcast, watch the news channel etc. Do it long enough, and it becomes part of you.
These also help you hone critical thinking skills you never knew you had.
This is another key to getting into Oxbridge. The interview does vary from one individual to another and one course to the other, but the intent remains the same. This is designed to do two main things: check how much you know and relate to the course and then watch for your reaction when faced with new information.
Your personal statement was your introduction, and the interview is to learn more about you. They want to see your passion and also know if you are teachable.
These are some of the little things I learned from Oxbridge tutoring, and I believe they can help you get in too.