Updated: Jan 8
Oxford and Cambridge have just been announced as the top two research Universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2019) so it is not surprising that they are two of the most prestigious and highly sought after Universities and attract student applications from all over the world. But there is a mystique and elitism often associated with these two which can sometimes put people off applying ……. So here we ask some of our Oxbridge Graduate tutors to debunk the myths about applying to these two bastions of academia.
It’s very competitive to get in…..
It is true that securing a place at Oxford or Cambridge is very competitive. Last year 19,500 students applied to Oxford for 3,200 places and 16,500 students applied to Cambridge for 3,300 places. Both universities are very transparent about their application statistics so it is easy to see which subjects and Colleges are very popular. Whilst it is true that these universities attract a very high number of applications, if you have what they are looking for, then you stand as good a chance as anyone else of getting in.
It's only for really clever people….
These are two of the top Universities in the world so not surprisingly they are looking for really clever people, but what they are also interested in how intellectually curious you are and how passionate you are about your subject. They want to know if you can think outside of the box and how you think about challenges and solve problems. Part of the interview process is to see if you are ‘teachable’ in a one to one environment. Entry requirements for both universities are a A A A – A* A* A for Oxford and A*A A – A*A*A for Cambridge and most students will be at the top end of these requirements. The average successful candidate achieved 2.5 A*s last year. Grades are the things that get you to interview but what gets you a place is your enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
Only ‘posh’ people go to Oxford and Cambridge…..
This is one of those myths that both universities are working hard to dispel – if your view of Oxford is from “Brideshead” days then things have changed significantly. Whilst there are still a fair proportion of students who have been educated in private schools, the majority now come from schools in the maintained sector. Oxford and Cambridge are genuinely interested in your academic pedigree not your family tree.
Only British people go to Oxford and Cambridge…..
Not true! Both universities have a diverse and robust admissions policy which welcomes applications from all over the world. Whilst a large proportion of the student body will be British they also have students from over 140 countries. Cambridge 13.5 % and Oxford 8.9% One of the great things about being educated at both universities is the friends you make from all over the world.
You have to choose a College…..
Oxford and Cambridge both have a Collegiate system and applications are made direct to a College, not the University but you don’t have to choose a College, you can make an open application. Your degree is from the University and department but the College is your home from home at University. This is where your tutorials will take place and your academic supervisor will be based.
Each College has a very distinctive character and some are known for having fantastic libraries, or dining facilities others are famous for their rowing teams or music. It is important to research your College choices to make sure you find the right fit for you. However if you cannot decide or if you really don’t mind where you go then it is perfectly possible to make an ‘Open Application’ which means you will get allocated to the college which will give you the highest chance securing an interview.
Applying to Oxbridge? Sign up for our 3 day preparation course this summer. Run by recent Oxbridge graduates. Click here for more information
It’s very hard work……
Yes it is! But although the workload is intense in a short 8 week term, if you love your subject then it is an amazing opportunity to explore it in depth with some of the world’s leading experts. There is definitely time for fun and there are lots of Clubs and Societies to get involved with. But the primary reason you are studying at Oxford of Cambridge is your course and that will always take priority.
Everyone loves it there…….
It is hard to find anyone Oxbridge who claims to have loved every minute of their time there but all will agree that the end justifies the means. It is definitely not for everybody; the academic pressure, the relentless deadlines, the incredibly heavy workload; a Natural Scientist at Cambridge can expect to have a minimum of 50 hours of work in their first year, and a Humanities undergraduate will be reading up to 5 hours a day. When friends at other universities have 12 hours of contact time, you sometimes wonder if you made the right decision. But at the end of the day no-one can take away from the fact you have an Oxbridge degree!
Oxbridge graduates get the best jobs……
Oxbridge graduates are highly sought after in the graduate recruitment market. The skills you acquire from a degree at either Cambridge or Oxford such as critical thinking, research skills, building and defending an argument and managing your time, not to mention your academic qualifications are all top requirements for employers. But the employment stats from Oxbridge graduates are not dissimilar to those of other Russell group universities.
Want to know more about Oxbridge applications? Join us for our ‘Ask the Experts’ seminar on September 14th. This will be an opportunity to hear from recent undergraduates about how they secured their places and their first hand experiences of studying there.