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How to get into Oxbridge

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      10.06.2011 18:33

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      My experiences going for interview at Oxford university for Computer Science, 2010.

      An overview first: I applied in 2010 for 2011 entry, and was granted a place.

      My Experiences:

      Fortunately, these days Oxford make you do the MAT (Maths Admissions Test, taken by Maths or Computer Science applicants) before you go for interviews now. The first advantage is that you typically take the test at your school (or a local center if your school doesn't offer it), so you are more comfortable and relaxed. Secondly it means that if you do make it to interview you know you are at least a little special. While they still interview many times more people than they have places, you are a smaller bunch as more people have been weeded out before you get there.

      On the first day you arrive at your college and get shown to your room. In my experience the rooms were lovely. Very large, warm, and cosy. I later learned that I had one of the cheap, rubbish rooms which (shock horror) meant you had to share a bathroom with one other person! Having seen my brother accommodation at Warwick uni, and spent a week of my own at York, I was very pleasantly surprised by how good the room was.
      You are then supposed to check in to the JCR (Junior Common Room) to find out when your first interview is. I had one in a few hours, just enough time to mingle around and get to know some people. The people there are generally wonderful, by the way. A great mix of people from inner-city and private schools. I got to know a guy from Eton and, I have to say, he was exceptionally friendly, down to earth, and not at all like the tabloids would have you believe!
      We were given a very brief talk, all the Compsci and Physics applicants there, basically telling us we could dress however we liked.
      My first interview was a *relatively* relaxed occasion (of course it was a serious, academic interview though). My interviewer was a man who looks remarkable like Father Christmas, and just as friendly. There was also a PhD student present, but he just wrong notes and participated only when specifically prompted by Father Christmas, so it felt very much like a one-on-one interview. That being said, there was none of the "let's talk about your Personal Statement" waffle I got in my interviews at other universities. We got straight down to tackling pure maths and logic questions. It went really well.

      In the evening you are free to do whatever you want. I mainly huge around in the JCR (which you must check regularly at all hours as they pin up short-notice interviews without warning there), and hit Oxford town in the evening. I won't go into detail, but the town itself is very beautiful and nice.
      They also provided 3 meals a day for us, free of charge. Breakfast was very nice (full English, breads, fruit salad), lunch was good, but the dinners were positively lavish. Three courses, served by waiters, and delicious. You sit at these long Harry-potter style tables and it is an amazing opportunity to socialise.

      The next day we all had interviews at our other college. Oxford assign you a second college, so if your first college has too many good applicants, they can ship you to another college. That interview was much the same deal (I had a very nice, young interviewer). It was harder, but also went well.

      Next, some of us had a second interview at our first choice college. We had proceeded to the next round. (They tell you not to try to read into how many interviews you have, but it was obvious). Unfortunately I massively messed it up, and the interviewer (not Father Christmas, a grumpy-seeming man) looked disappointed.
      Now, some people did really well in that interviews and got places (although they didn't find out immediately). For me and a few others, they were unsure. I had aced the first one, but cocked up the second. They arranged for two more interviews, one at each college. I had gone smart-casual or in a suit for all my previous interviews, but on day 4 was tired, it was rainy, and so I just wore jeans and a hoodie. One of the tutors actually said "you have dressed down today", but continued to say that on day 4 it was understandable that I just wanted to relax a bit.
      Fortunately I did well in my first interview, and positively dominated the second (the interview shook my hand at the end, looked me in the eye, and told me he was deeply impressed).
      Two weeks later I got the interview saying I had a place.

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      18.12.2010 11:58
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      Good Luck!!!!

      Here is my journey to applying to Cambridge for architecture. I hope you can learn from my own experience and hopefully it will help "get you into Oxbridge"

      I have always been interested in architecture, but never really considered the course, having heard it was a seven year course and it just wasn't something I had passion about at the time. Whilst completing my GCSE and AS Level art project, my final pieces were all three dimensional and structural, and that was the first time I felt I had potential for a career in architecture.

      With a spark of passion, I did a ton of research into which unis did architecture and ordered prospectuses from them all, which I can read, highlight, rip out and make a sort of scrapbook for them.

      Alongside university research, I also conducted research into the subject by following architectural blogs, visiting exhibitions, and reading books. The RIBA website is a great place to start as it lists the latest events relating to architecture as well as prizewinners, competitions and high profile architecture projects.

      I read two books (Structures by Gordon and Towards a new architecture by Le Corbusier), both of which gave me a deeper understanding of the subject. It is also useful to get work experience if possible. I visited two architecture practices and did a day course on the subject.

      If you are sure of your subject, it's time to move on to applying for a place at Oxbridge! Note that some subjects are not taught at both universities. Architecture is only taught at Cambridge. That eliminates the problem of choosing between the two. The best way to do so for subjects that are taught at both unis is to visit and see the environment in which the subject is taught under and perhaps speak to students undergoing the course.

      Both universities are split into colleges, and it is essential you pick the right one. This could be down to several factors, the environment it is in, the location, the teaching staff, what subjects it is known for etc. Again, visiting and doing some research into it is the best way forward.

      UCAS is the norm for university applications and it is completed electronically. All your details need to be entered including grades from higher education (GCSE and A Levels) as well as any other qualification you may have achieved. For me, I also played piano and completed Duke of Edinburgh award.

      Apart from grades, one of the most important aspects is the Personal Statement. As many people will be achieving top grades, this is the segment which will separate you from other candidates. You have 4000 characters to impress the university. The most important thing to show is passion, potential and commitment. I wrote about my interest in the subject, my influences and what I had done to find out more to further my interest. I mentioned my artistic ability and achievement in that area, which shows potential and skill, and finally I concluded with my attitude towards studying the subject if given a chance, which hopefully shows commitment and maturity.

      NOTE Oxbridge Applications deadline for UCAS is Mid-October, so it must be completed and sent off well in time.

      For Oxbridge, an additional questionnaire called the SAQ needs to be filled in. This includes marks obtained per module (UMS marks) and also some extra questions relating to you and the subject you are applying for. You will also need to submit a passport photo.

      Within several weeks of my application being sent off, I received a letter inviting me for interview. For Cambridge, interviews are conducted over just one day, whilst at Oxford over several days (allows for pooling). Your interview will be held at the college you applied for.

      Several colleges may ask for written work, portfolios or a test to be completed before or during the interview period. For me, I was asked to bring in a portfolio for the interview. Some colleges also set a task for architecture students which will decide if they get an interview, an example of which being Clare college.

      Interviews are usually conducted in early and mid December. I had two separate interviews over one day, which is the norm for most subjects. The content of the interview for most subjects is academic; they will ask you about things you should have studied and learnt in school (modules and topics you provided in your SAQ). For me, one interview was focussed on my portfolio, and the second on my academics. I was mainly asked to discuss ideas from picture sources, and was only asked two academic questions overall.

      At this point, you have done all you could to obtain a place, and all that is left is waiting for the results. Results of the interview will be sent to candidates in January. You either get a conditional offer (usually A*AA) or a rejection. For Cambridge, they may contact you for additional interviews if they choose to pool you to another college.

      I am currently waiting for my response. If I get in, then great, follow in my footsteps! If not, then this is what NOT to do!

      Once you have obtained your offer, it is time to work hard on getting the grades you need to get into the university!!! If you are rejected, you can always apply again the following year or go to another university you have applied to.

      OUTLINE OF ACTION POINTS
      1. Choose a Course, Uni and College
      2. Research
      3. UCAS Application - Personal Statement
      4. SAQ
      5. Interviews
      6. Response
      7. Obtain Grades

      Good Luck!

      UPDATE: Unfortunately I was unsuccessful but that was to be expected given one of the interviews went slightly pear shaped and I could tell the interviewer was NOT happy but not that bummed out as the course is very technical and not quite for me.

      One of my friends who has basically given up a social life did manage to get an offer of A*A*A which was for law, so even if you do get an offer, it can be very difficult to achieve.

      Good luck to those who are applying this year!

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        03.01.2004 02:17
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        I have just been accepted by Downing College, Cambridge, so while I might not have the inside scoop on what Cambridge is actually like, I can give you a pretty up-to-date idea of what to expect from an interview. First of all, I'll deal with the application. It's essentially a pain in the neck. Why is it necessary to fill out an extra application form? To write an extra statement? To send in a photo? To basically duplicate your UCAS form? The truth is I do not know. But it'll only take you an hour and to be honest it can come as a welcome excuse for not doing that essay. Next they'll send you a letter asking for written work. I've seen people say you must make sure that only the best work gets sent off - I didn't, primarily because my History teacher had yet to mark what was my best piece of work to date. And to be honest, it doesn't matter. Provided that your work is usually of a high standard you shouldn't have much problem digging something of worth out. What are a pain are the cover sheets you have to fill out for each piece of work. Next comes the interview. I received my invitation exactly two weeks beforehand, so be prepared to cancel any prior engagements you might have already made. My advice is DO NOT OVER-PREPARE. Learning answers does not work; it's a waste of time that could be better spent doing some related reading or briefly looking over French verb constructions (I applied for Modern Languages). My friend spent her time learning "answers" by rote only to fall apart in the interview when she was thrown a curve-ball of a question. And the interview itself? Well, let me first tell you that by December I had already been to two interviews (at King's College London and UCL). The French portion of both interviews was taken up with overly-simple "Tell me about your last trip to France"-style questions. Easy, you might think - we all did that at GCSE. But in all honesty
        such questions can be extremely restrictive. I left feeling frustrated. Cambridge was different. I was given a piece of French text about linguistic psycho-analysis ten minutes before my first interview. I was asked to read it and then discuss it in French. A bit more difficult, you might think. Perhaps. But it's far more free - you can really cut loose and actually experiment with your French. I came out feeling quite happy, and as if I'd actually had fun. My second (and final!) interview (FIVE hours later by the way) was more challenging - they fired a few questions on linguistics and Russian literature at me - but if I recall, a large portion of the interview seemed to be taken up discussing how my Polish grandparents made it to England. It's a massive cliché but expect the unexpected. Don't be afraid to make your interviewer laugh. And saying anything is better than saying nothing. Cambridge interviews ARE there to test you - be under no illusions. But they can actually be rather satistifying and (dare I say it) fun experiences.

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          20.08.2003 20:44
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          Ok, so you've read about how stressful and scary it all is. Nobody would have guessed id have got a place. I'm not the most academically gifted person. Nor am i incredibly good at interviews. I did the following though, and it worked. For me anyway. I can relate to the cambridge application process, and some of this advice may be helpful for those applying to oxford. choice of subject Choose your subject wisely. Don't be tempted to apply for a different course at oxbridge from the ones at your other universities as most likely they'll pick up on this immediately on reading your ucas form. Check that you've taken the required A levels, if you haven't dont give up hope! just follow the next piece of advice (I didnt take the "right" a-levels to do computer science, and am starting in october) Deciding on the college You can save yourself an awful lot of time and effort if you seriously consider the college you wish to apply to. At the back of the prospectus there is a list of colleges by subject, and the ratio of applicants to places is listed. Don't be put off if one college is over subscribed. Decide the college which you most prefer the look of, and then go to www.cam.ac.uk and look up the contact details for that college. Email the head fellow for your subject and describe your a level subjects and gcses, and ask for his advice on which college would be most suited to you. Repeat at another college, and see if you get the same advice. Don't be afraid to email the tutors or admissions secretaries. They are very helpful the majority of the time. Also they give more advice through email than over the phone. Background reading/writing your ucas form DO NOT LIE! Do not think that you'll have read a book by the time your interview comes round. Do not presume that you'll have used VBA by the time your i
          nterview comes round (ahem.)not that i did any such thing.. ok i did. And it is incredibly hard to pull the interview round after a glitch like that has been picked up upon. The best thing is to get advice from the people that would know. The tutors. Don't be afraid to ask for any recommended reading. They can't bite you're head off if you're at your computer in a completely different geographic area. If they do get annoyed, just don't apply to that college. You have nothing to lose. Always bear this in mind. On writing your cambridge form, just be brief. I didn't have much to say on it at all. They didn't dwell on it. They just looked at my gcse results and said "oh those are very good" then looked at the ucas form. practice interviews Worth the money a lot of the time. I found mine helped a lot. gave me an idea of what to expect before i got there, and made the whole day a lot less stressful. The day of the interview Wear something you'll be comfortable in. My interview was on the coldest day in winter last year. I wore black trousers, and a shirt. There are a lot of people that wore suits, and I felt quite out of place. I also threw on a tatty old jumper under a coat because i was freezing. Don't do this. I was warm yes, very warm when i was in the waiting room. I couldnt take my jumper off though without looking like i was stripping, so i just zipped my coat right up and waited. They're all friendly at cambridge in my experience, particularly at fitzwilliam college. When my first interview came round they offered to take my coat. My face! i was so embarrased. My shirt sleeves were longer then my jumper, and my shirt was longer then my jumper. I looked a mess. The lesson to be learnt here is that they don't care too much what you look like. Just dress smartly, but comfortably. Get t
          here early. When i say early, i mean plan to be there an hour before hand. There was a huge queue for taxis from the station to the colleges, because EVERYONE has interviews on the same day. Being early does no harm, and it gives you more time to settle in. Bring food i didn't. Big mistake. They provide biscuits and drinks, but there was an awful lot of people being interviewed that day. Talk to other candidates. Don't be shy, they're probably nervous like you. I made the effort to talk to everyone, it will make you feel a whole lot better. The interviews You will have two interviews. One will be "general" one will be subject specific. My "general" interview was much worse then my subject specific. Mind you it wasnt general. It was all based on chemistry and maths, with a little bit of computer science thrown in. The setting was for me in a room, which was like a living room. I was made to sit on sofas, that you will sink into. DONT lean back. Its a big mistake, you'll spend the rest of the interview struggling to save yourself from drowning in them. Instead lean forward, look interested even if your not, and watch your body language. The interviews may not seem to go that well, but dont be to concerned. I know I was annoyed afterwards, and a friend of mine that also got in cried afterwards. They will ask you questions you don't know the answer to. don't be afraid to ask for help if you're struggling, its much worse to continue struggling. Tests: I had a general aptitude test. Take this hint. Email the admissions secretary and ask for a little more explanation on what its about before the day. You will be suprised. Well, I was. I say no more. Afterwards: around christmas you will hear either way. I was made a conditional of fer of AAA. Somehow i got the g
          rades and will be starting in october. Have a huge background reading list now, and i guess i shall start on it.. not that ive been sittin at my pc putting it off for months now or anythin.. i gave it 5 stars (dunno exactly what i means) because they gave me a place. Very nice university indeed :oP ps, i didnt go to the right school - or i dunno if thats true. I think about 16 girls from my school applied to oxbridge and 3 got places at their first choice college, one at a different college. If you're from a state school (like moi) look at fitzwilliam college. They have 70% of their pupils from state schools, this partly influenced my reason for applying to fitz.

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            28.03.2002 23:48
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            I got invited to interview for physics at jesus college oxford this year, I got 5 A's at AS level, and am predicted straight A's in A2 level. I also won the physics olympiad bronze medal. I am a well rounded individual and take part in many sports, and am on the board of a local charity, i also run a small internet based company (i.e. i am not just a physics bookworm). However i was still rejected?hmmm (enough bitterness already!) Why you may ask? 1)Maybe im underqualified? - well alright i know that oxbridge recieves far too many qualified applications for the amount of places. 2) is it because i am from a comprehensive school (and grew up on a council estate)?? I am not sure, i dont think this is really a prejudice anymore in its own right. However coming from a comprehensive school without a tradition of sending people to oxbridge, i do feel that i was not as well prepared for the interview process as those at a better comprehensive or private school. Maybe this is the intrinsic flaw with the entrance process, but what way is there around it? I must admit the private/comprehensive ratio was about evens. 3)Maybe its beacause im from the midlands- it would be a shame if i was rejected because im from staffordshire and dont have a home counties accent, i dont think that is likely, although i have heard that only 1.9% of offers are given to the north of england???????? 4)Possibly its a money issue? I would hope not, although all of the other applicants seemed wealthier than me, i dont think they were bribing the college (although some have tried!) 5)Gender? Physics is a male dominated subject, there were only 2 or 3 female applicants and about 25 male, maybe this is a statistic against the boys, as the college cant be seen to be turning away girls when there is such a dire shortage in the subject. Coincidentally a female friend at my school did get an offer from her second choice college (st Catz, s
            he was rejected by St. Johns), and we are evenly matched academically speaking. ANYWAY In reality it is probably just that there were a number of other applicants better than me on the day (although in my bitterness this is hard to accept) In conclusion, the interview process was probably the worst experience i can remember. I had to endure 5 interviews and a maths exam, and i wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy. But dont let this put you off applying (its all character building, or so they tell you). Honestly.... I think its all a bit of a lottery unless your the next einstein. I am doing the typical reject thing and going to durham. DO NOT TAKE A YEAR OFF AND REAPPLY, unless you had already planned a gap year, or your college has reccomended you to do so. anyway, is oxford all its cracked up to be? sure its a beautiful place and one can be taken aback by the reputatoin and grandeur of the whole thing, but the people were quite unfriendly, over-competitive and mostly pompous idiots (although there are a few gems. In conclusion, the girls are much fitter at durham so go thre instead (and you get to live in a castle) :)

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              29.01.2002 03:57
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              My adventures began one Thursday afternoon in a singing lesson, when my singing teacher, having finished prodding and poking me (something to do with breathing) mentioned that I should consider trying for a choral scholarship to Oxbridge. A week later my organ teached mentioned the same thing about an organ scholarship (without the prodding and poking). I thought this sounded pretty groovy, and began to get applying to these two great establishments of education. Not the usual start for most people I'm sure, but mine nonetheless. *NOTE* For those who don't know what Oxbridge is, its Oxford and Cambridge University. Cunning really, and sounds better than Camford. This was all very fine and dandy being told I should consider a choral and organ scholarship, but sadly two things remained in my way. 1) I was not a very good organist. 2) I wasn't particulary bright. My GCSE results had been ok (A*, 7As, 2Bs) but nothing like the grades of all the other Oxbridge hopefuls (mostly all A*-freaks). However, with all the GCSE sciences out the way, and now concentrating on music at AS level, it was decided I should go for it. The first thing that came about, was my withdrawal of the organ scholarship. I attended a 'summer school' in Oundle for the organ (!) and although I enjoyed myself, I hated all things organ, and most organists having finished the seven days. As some of you might know, the only things worse than organists are slugs and getting up in the morning, and I was way out of my league, especially as I had left all my music at home when arriving at the course. After filling in forms, completing UCAS forms, stretching the truth as far as I could on my personal statement, I soon found myself at a choral/organ open day at Oxford (my choice over Cambridge). I met up with an old organ acquaintence from the summer who was appalled that I was there as a prespective choral scholar and has never spoken to me
              since (mainly because I haven't seen him since). After this open day, (where I got lost in Oxford and caught the train back early because I was so irritated with myself) I had decided on my first choice college, Magdalen. This was because of the setting (Magdalen has a huge deer park. No sadly not a beer park, but nice all the same), a great choir and was the only college to have its own cinema equipment (or something along those lines). I had since then got my AS level results. Pleasingly I had got 3 As, but somewhat of a disaster was my C in History. I had got an E in one module which I find very strange, as it was the one exam I had taken my notes into. Before you start ringing up my school in complaint, I had arrived rather late from some last minute revision and for some reason my hand had decided to keep hold of the notes as I entered the room. Judging from the bulging eyes of the person next to me, I had either brought my notes in with me, or I was completely naked. Fairly sure that it wasn't the latter, I hastily chucked the notes into the bin before the exam begun. *Note* my History paper has infact been through three remarks and is apparently still on the go. Anyway, in September last year I tried for the choral scholarship. As that was a rather long affair and maybe material for a later op, I will cut the story short and say that the Magdalen important people agreed I had the 'musical skill' to now have an interview. Not surprisingly, all of the other 14 applicants got this too. So, after a year of filling in forms, worrying, eating toast, watching England lose the Ashes again and sleeping, my interview arrived. (At last I hear you cry (I have good hearing obviously) he has reached the point of this op, well please bear with me). It was a cold December morning (ok get on with it, Ed) and Magdalen was packed with nervous, clever people and me, a nervous fool as far as I was concerned. There
              was a quick drinks with all the other muscial applicants and the profs and then my first interview. Welcoming me into a seat I was confronted by two differing professors. One, Mr.Ives, just sat there smiling at me and played 'good interviewer' while the other sat stone faced and served up annoying questions, hardening his stare every time I squirmed or said 'errm' (something I did quite alot). He was Dr.Skinner, the 'bad interviewer' I was hoping to have 'Skinner and Ives' unplanned but sadly it was just Skinner very well planned. It went ok so I thought. Next up was an old professor who was rather ill at the time. I entered Dr.Bujon Bojic's room and the first thing he did was learn back in his chair, look up at the ceiling, and say (in a thick Czech accent) 'supposing...you had a rich uncle who wanted you to set up a music magazine. What would you do?' I really really wanted to say that I'd have a crossword at the back, a little quiz in the middle pages, a free cd every week and a page of viola jokes, but I thought I had to say something remotely intelligent. I didn't. Luckily it lasted just ten minutes and I was glad to leave. The rest of the stay (3 days) was spent with me watching DVDs, eating horrible food, and meeting the other applicants. As usual there were the stereotypical lot: 1) Shy, modest girl: 'I don't know why I'm here! I didn't expect to even get an interview' 2) Confident bloke: 'Well I've been singing with Portsmouth Cathedral, and last week we performed one of my pieces' 3) All round nice guy: 'Good luck in your interview, you'll be fine!' x100 4) Intimidated: 'That professor was a complete t*at. I hate this place, ARRGGHHH!! On the final day I had one last interview at another college. Considering I spent much of it commenting on the large kangaroo teddy bear they had in the room, and how well
              Kent had done in the cricket, I guessed this one was not too important. I left Oxford pretty sure I was going to end up in Bristol. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later the letter arrived. 'You're f*cking stupid' it could have read, it didn't but I hadn't got in. Luckily I have neither pushy parents nor too much of a bother and am delighted to have accepted an offer to Bristol for CCC to read music. So (at last sorry about the length). To sum up: 1) Give it a try-even if your GCSE's aren't exceptional like mine give it a go. Its much more important you have good AS level grades and predictions for A level. 2) In the interview, try and be really keen, and 'enthusiastic'. If your faced with an old Czech prof who asks annoying questions and twiddle his thumbs while you try to say something clever, then...err...deal with it. 3) Do practice interviews at school. These really help with confidence and practice (obviously) 4) Take it easy 5) Good luck

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                27.01.2002 20:31
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                Want to get into Oxbridge? Well, the application process can be quite daunting, and I certainly can’t promise you a place, but I’m here (currently in my second year of PPE at Oxford), so there’s hope for everyone! Right, I’ll say a bit about my experience, then take you through stages bit by bit... (I’ll provide a quick summary at the end too) Me Thankfully I went to a good Grammar School with a tradition of sending around eight people a year to Oxbridge. They were quite prepared to guide us in the applications process, offer us a trip to Oxford to see the colleges and some training at interviews. I decided in the end to apply for Politics, Philosophy and Economics as it looked an interesting combination and kept my options open. I didn’t look at all the colleges – I made my choice mainly between Jesus and Christ Church and Jesus won because it was a smaller friendlier seeming place, and offered accommodation for all three years of my course. The interview wasn’t as bad as I expected. Everyone was very friendly, and the whole process didn’t seem as daunting (or difficult) as I expected. PPE’s the first subject interviewed (3rd-5th of December 1999 in my case) and I received my offer on the 21st. Obviously what I’m going to say comes primarily from my experience. It may seem strange for me to be writing now (half way through my second year) but I’ve discussed admissions with those in the years above and below me, people from my old school (those who were accepted and rejected) and some of the people attending interview in December 2001. The process varies a lot, so keep in mind that my experience is of Jesus for PPE – in other colleges, subjects and years it may be very different (although as I say I have spoken to several other people and hope this will be of some use to everyone). Do you really want to go Oxbridge? This is an important ques
                tion to consider. Some people feel pressurised by teachers or parents into applying, which means either their heart’s not in it and they don’t get in, or they do and don’t enjoy it here. Oxford and Cambridge are different from just about any other university – there’ll be lots of hard work to do, and you’ll be surrounded by lots of other clever people (I’ve known people drop out because they’re used to being ‘top of the class’ and can’t adapt to this), they can also be quite traditional/old-fashioned in many ways. Don’t assume an Oxbridge education will automatically be the best, there are many top class universities that can offer similar – not just the old or respected ones like Durham or York, but even new ones can be very good in specialist areas (particularly ‘new’ subjects – the Oxbridge curriculum tends to be rather traditional). Applying Believe it or not, this stage probably weeds out the most people! I remember having a meeting in our lower sixth for any interested Oxbridge applicants – there must have been over 80 people there, yet less than a third of those actually applied... Of course, there are many reasons why people might change their minds. If you’re going to apply, you need decent grades – the sixth form college in our town recommended minimum GCSEs of 3 A*s and 6 As, plus good A-level predictions. These aren’t essential – there are people here whose GCSEs are quite a bit worse than that, but on the other hand I’ve known other people turned down without interview. Exactly how the new AS levels work remains to be seen... Anyway, whatever situation you’re in, you won’t get into Oxbridge without applying. The number of applicants per place varies tremendously, but is typically much lower than at other universities. You may not be sure you’re the ‘Oxbridge type&#
                8217; but the reason more people from state schools and the like don’t get in is usually that they don’t apply! I should warn you though that you should be ready for possible rejection. The applications system isn’t foolproof, and is very competitive, so no matter how good you are, it may happen. It’s best to treat it as like a lottery ticket – you don’t expect but know you have to be in it to win it. Do your best to enjoy the applications process, not many people get the chance, and just keep your fingers crossed. I have heard it said also that other universities discriminate against Oxbridge candidates – they’re less likely to give you an offer, or will make you a high one (like AAB) to force you to pick them or Oxford. Technically I don’t think they should do this, but it does seem to happen – certainly in my case although I got to Oxford I had only three offers (out of a possible six) through UCAS. The ‘Oxbridge type’ The perception is still of rich public school kids. Thankfully that’s not so much the case now. I won’t deny that in some cases ‘who you know’ does seem to help – someone in my year (who shall remain anonymous) did go to a good private school, and was told by his teacher that he could be ‘helped’ into Christ Church (he rejected the offer and is at Jesus with me). Interestingly, there were 27 people from his private school who received offers, but only 16 made the grades – which shows you still have to be good enough in the end! There are all sorts of schemes such as Target Schools to encourage applications from ‘poor’ schools – one of my flatmates went to a London comprehensive and hence was let in with slightly lower grades too. Currently the intake is about half-and-half between boys and girls and state and private-schooled people. One of my friends’ dads was a
                n admissions tutor at Cambridge, and apparently from any intake he would pick out the definite offers and rejections, but decide between the many ‘maybes’ partly by trying to balance the intake on these criteria – in the wake of Laura Spence and other cases, not being the ‘Oxford type’ may help quite a bit. Although I still think teachers at public schools may receive better interview training, I know this doesn’t always impress tutors either. Oh, and don’t think you have to be rich either. Ok, house prices in Oxford and Cambridge may be pretty high (and balls cost a lot too!) but they’re not much more expensive than other universities (thank goodness the government hasn’t introduced ‘top up fees’ for ‘top’ universities!). All students face financial difficulties, but you’ll be eligible for LEA-paid fees, student loans and hardship funds just like everyone else; you don’t have to be rich to come to Oxbridge any more. Open Days and choice of College It’s best if you can to come to an open day to get a feel for the place – you may decide not to come after all! – and have a look at the colleges. Picking a college shouldn’t be a hugely daunting task, on the other hand, some will tell you it doesn’t matter, and that’s not true either. What a lot of people don’t understand is you don’t really go to ‘Oxford University’ (or Cambridge for that matter), as far as practical matters go, you belong to a College. No one’s going to interrogate you as to your choice and interview, and it doesn’t really matter where your uncle went or whatever. Have a look at what’s on offer, because your choice does make a big difference – older colleges are often richer so may offer more benefits, bigger libraries etc but on the other hand newer colleges may have more modern accommodation an
                d less ‘stuffy’ traditions. Think what appeals to you – some colleges are sporty, some quite academic. Think about location, intake etc and pick whichever you like the look of. If you don’t care, you can have a college allocated to you (it’ll probably be an under-subscribed one, which may be easier to get in). You’ll be allocated ‘reserves’ too – if you’re a good applicant but don’t quite make it to your first preference, one of these other colleges may still make you an offer. Wherever you go, by the end of the first term you’ll doubtless have bonded with your college and be happily partaking in the silly traditions and feuds... <plug> There’s a VERY brief overview of the Oxford colleges, and more information about Oxford University generally, in my opinion on Oxford University </plug> Application Forms When applying to Oxbridge you have to submit an additional form for Oxford or Cambridge in addition to your standard UCAS form. There’s an additional fee (around £12) accompanying this – that pays for your interview if you get one and is pretty reasonable compared with the offer Durham made me for overnight accommodation with my interview. The form itself is pretty simple. The only difficulty is choosing a college (see above) – you can leave this blank and will be allocated a less popular one (girls normally get allocated the all-girls St Hilda’s in Oxford). There’s room for an additional personal statement, but if you have nothing worth adding to your UCAS one don’t bother – it is optional. The Interview Obviously this is the most significant part of the whole thing. Unfortunately it’s where I can offer the least advice because they differ so much. Be assured although ‘urban myths’ of really strange goings on abound (tutors doing disconcerting things like standing on the
                ir head, throwing apples at interviewees or simply saying ‘surprise me’) I haven’t heard of anyone actually having one like that! My interview was actually far simpler. We had a written test in the morning; we were given a passage of political theory with some questions at the bottom, had the day to study it (until our allocated interview time) and then went into the room with the two tutors who basically asked us the questions... Of course, it might sound really easy to just ask a friend or look in a book for the ‘answers’. Obviously for my subject the point is there aren’t answers anyway, but tutors will try to draw out your responses – whatever you answer (and it may not matter so much if you’re ‘right’ they’ll ask ‘why?’). They’re impressed not so much with what you know (the whole point is to teach you) but with how you reason and argue. You won’t get trick questions as such, but some are a bit unexpected. The physicists were asked whether a room containing a fridge with the door open will get warmer or colder (it may be surprising at first, but it will get warmer). Some economists were asked to draw a supply and demand graph for some well-known theoretical anomaly – many who’d been coached were able to get it right straight away, but not necessarily understand why; tutors were more impressed apparently with those who started off wrong but could reason onto the right track with a few prompts. It’s commonly said that if you think you’ve failed or the interview was impossibly difficult it may be the tutors were impressed and tested you further. Predicting results is very difficult, and you should try not to worry about it (particularly with A levels coming up). Treat the interview as an experience, meet lots of fellow interviewees (it’s always very sociable given you’re competing...), sit in the JCR and
                sample the night life (but don’t get slaughtered the day before the interview naturally...) Although our interviews were over Monday, we had to wait Tuesday while tutors compared notes to see if any of us would be called for second (or third) interviews at other Colleges. Only one or two (of about 16) were, the rest of us were allowed to leave Wednesday morning. The Offer For Oxford, the decision comes just before Christmas (pretty bad if you’re rejected). Cambridge I think send them later, so you spend the whole holiday worrying either way! Opening the envelope’s pretty daunting, but in our case we could tell – rejections were simple slips of paper saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ as it were, the offers contained more details, so were in bulkier envelopes. If you have an offer, you have to write back to confirm that you’ll accept it, or else it’ll be given to someone else. It's normally AAB, excluding general studies and sometimes with other conditions. One of my flatmates was actually offered As in Maths and AS Further Maths - technically just 15 UCAS points. A Levels By the time you sit your A levels you’ll already know if you have an offer and what grades you need. There’s not much more to say but study hard, don’t crack and keep your fingers crossed. Everyone who gets an offer should be capable of making it (usually AAB), so don’t worry yourself too much. If you are one of the few who miss your place, it’s not the end of the world. Speak to your college, they may let you in if it’s only a ‘narrow miss’, or perhaps you could defer to re-sit one of your A levels or something and apply again. Failing that, you could go elsewhere – it’s not the end of the world and, like I said earlier, there are many other good universities out there – if you applied for Oxbridge you had to be ready for rejection a
                nyway, but can still go on to do well at another university. Summary – To get into Oxbridge you need to: 1. Apply! 2. Fill in the standard UCAS form by an earlier deadline (mid-October) 3. Complete a separate application for Oxford/Cambridge (you can’t apply for both by the way) 4. Have good GCSEs and predictions and be able to demonstrate passion for your subject 5. Attend open days (optional) and pick a college 6. Submit written work (in most cases) 7. Come for interview – try to enjoy it and hope to impress the tutors, don’t think it’s as scary as it sounds 8. Wait for an offer (fingers crossed) – it’s usually AAB 9. Pass those A-levels! Well, that’s it (unless there’re any more questions – leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help). Good luck to anyone who does apply!

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                  21.01.2002 14:18
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                  Cambridge University I recently received an offer from Jesus College, Cambridge to read Classics next year and thought it would be useful and interesting (I'm not doing this to brag) to share with everyone my experiences - both the interview procedure and the preparation. This is more of a story about personal experience than an opinion but I thought I'd write it anyway. It does have some very useful tips and advice in it and hopefully the eyes of prospective applicants will fall upon it. THE INTRODUCTION TO OXBRIDGE I started off the Oxbridge procedure at the Classics open day, which fell in March of last year. These open days alternate between Oxford and Cambridge each year as to their location and last year it happened to be at Oxford. We had a series of lectures on the subject and why we should choose Oxford instead of Cambridge and vice versa. I found this lecture fairly uninteresting and added to this was the fact that we were all crammed into seats with very little legroom, becoming very restless indeed. The thing that struck me, though, was the number of people applying for my subject. I actually applied for Classics partly on the basis that it was relatively easy to get in for but I thought I had problems when I saw how many people there were. I did some simple Maths - there are 31 colleges at Cambridge and about the same at Cambridge. There are an average of 3-4 places for Classics per college so about 200 people could expect to get in. The fact that there were getting on for 800 people there really took my breath away. They all looked as good as me and this might not even have been all of them!! And this was meant to be an 'easy' subject?? Alarm bells were ringing. Anyway, the day dragged on and we found ourselves in the pub rather than in the open day. This seemed like a good idea at the time but I wouldn't advise going all the way to Oxford every time you want a drink! It all see
                  med pretty pointless. The thing was, I'd already made up my mind to read Classics at Cambridge so it was a completely wasted day. I would advise anyone who knows for sure what they want to study before April not to go on the open day as it will just be a wasted journey. CHOOSING BETWEEN THE TWO When I was small I always wanted to go to Oxford. I suppose that's because it has probably the better reputation of the two. Anyway, I later realized that Cambridge has the academic edge over Oxford (it does, I'm not being biased) and so I set my heart on Cambridge. Two other factors helped me - one was the fact that Cambridge would always win the boat race and the other was that for Classics Oxford is a four year course compared to Cambridge's three. I looked around the two towns before I had made a final decision and although Oxford was lovely, I just felt Cambridge was a bit special. I went punting down the river Cam as well - a very pleasant experience. Looking back, I don't think there's an awful lot to choose between the two now and wouldn't advise for or against either. CHOOSING THE COLLEGE AT CAMBRIDGE I had a few criteria for choosing my college at Cambridge (in no particular order): 1) It had to be big with as many girls as possible. This was because the social aspect is important for me and a big college means more people to meet. 2) It had to be fairly central to the town and within walking distance from the Classics faculty. 3) It had to be strong at sport and not too geeky and academic. 4) I'd prefer it if it had its sports pitches on campus and not some distance away. 5) It had to have big old buildings with lots of tradition and charm as well as nice grounds. 6) It had to have nice facilities like good accommodation, college bar and library. 7) It had to have a decent Senior Tutor for Classics and a strong Classics department in general. Th
                  e best selection process I found was to initially narrow it down to 5 or so colleges. My favourites were Jesus, Downing, Trinity, Emmanuel and possibly Clare or St. Catherine's. This narrowing down process was done by listening to what teachers, old graduates, present undergraduates and other people had to say about the colleges and also by reading the Cambridge University prospectus. In addition to this, I read other reviews on the colleges in books and newspapers and gained a good insight as to which one was for me. The next step was going to open days. In the end I selected the Downing College open day and the Jesus College one. For the Downing College open day, my teacher drove a few of us down in his car and we had a look around other colleges before and after the actual open day itself. I cannot stress enough the importance of just taking a wander round on your own and getting a general feel for the colleges. I wandered around my chosen few and then fell in love with Jesus. It had its own sports pitches, which is something of a rarity for a Cambridge College, it met all of the above criteria and it just felt right. So I decided that this was probably the place for me and put myself down for the open day. There, my initial instincts were confirmed - this was the place for me. I got to meet current undergraduates and got their perspectives on the college (which were all very positive) and I also spoke in depth to the Classics tutor. He seemed like a decent chap and so I had made up my mind. Jesus was the place for me! THE APPLICATION/SELECTION PROCESS All Oxbridge applicants must submit their UCAS forms by mid-October. The UCAS form is pretty important and it is important to give a good account of yourself. The personal statement is by far the most influential bit that you have to write. My advice is to really sound interested in the subject and sell yourself. Write down all the subject linked books you?ve read
                  and bombard them with your interest in the subject. This is more important than whether you're a 1st XI footballer or a house captain etc. As for the rest (the school's reference), you can leave that to your tutor/housemaster. If you're a good candidate you will be written to and called for interview in December. The vast majority of people (over 95%) are called for interview - it is only to weed out the weaker candidates. The interview is incredibly important and it is important to act to your full potential on the day. INTERVIEW PREPARATION I would strongly recommend doing the practice interview courses at school. They boost your confidence and help you to figure out what you're going to say in the real thing. As for other preparation, I would say just three things: read as many subject-related books as possible, keep an eye on the current affairs and the papers (contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to read a broadsheet from cover to cover every day - a quick glance at the Mirror now and again worked for me), and read the odd novel. You also have to submit a couple of pieces of work, usually an essay and a shorter piece, by mid-November. Make sure these submitted pieces are your best work, not something you made up on deadline day. THE DREADED INTERVIEW As for the big day itself, I was staying in London so I went up and back on the same day. I left at 730 in the morning, allowing myself a good 3/4 of an hour to spare before my first interview at 9.20. I found my way to the college and the waiting room for interviewees. The mood in there was actually quite friendly and upbeat although it was apparent that everyone, including myself, was bricking it! I walked up those fateful stairs and sat on the solitary waiting chair at the top. The thing that struck me first when I met my first interviewers was how friendly and welcoming they were, like they were gen
                  uinely pleased to see you. This was the case for three out of four of my interviews. They made you feel very relaxed as pleasantries were exchanged and by the time the hardcore interrogation came along I was feeling relaxed enough. Again, with the serious questions the interviewers were not at all hostile and trying to outsmart you. They just asked me what Classics books I was studying and I had to give an opinion on a couple of them. They asked me why I wanted to come and then went through various details of my personal statement and pre-submitted pieces of work. I came out of the interview feeling very happy. The other interviews went much to the same tune. Amongst the questions I was asked was: What novels have you read recently? Do you keep up with current affairs and give an example of something in the news at the moment and discuss it briefly? (not very challenging) What would you be doing except for working if you came here? (sport, music, drama etc.) What do you like about the College? All the questions were very easy and mundane. It really is nothing to worry about. THE DECISION Cambridge send out the offers just after Christmas and Oxford insist on either ruining your Christmas or enlightening it by sending their decisions just before. Most applicants either get an offer to their first or second choice colleges or get rejected and put in the 'pool'. This is where they can be summoned by another college for another round of interviews and is actually a very common method of entry - I have three friends who got in the back door like this. Well I'm certainly happy and looking forward to hopefully going there (if I get the A-Level grades). If you have any further questions, just write me a comment. Hope you enjoyed it.

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                    14.01.2002 21:18
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                    Oxford University is meant to be an establishment where the most intellectually gifted individuals in the country come to study. So why I ended up there one cold, December week is anyone’s guess, but what can I say? They interview something like 90% of the people who apply anyway, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they invited me to come to Oxford to be interviewed. This is an opinion that I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but haven’t had the time to write it. This is my experience of applying for Oxford to read computer science. I can’t speak for everyone else who has applied, as interviewing techniques differ from college to college, and from subject to subject, and the fact that I wasn’t accepted (foregone conclusion that, as my opinion shows) eliminates me from actually talking about the post-interview application process. But anyway, I’m going to stop using posh words and get on to the opinion. THE BEGINNING ----------------------- Do you want to know why I applied at Oxford instead of Cambridge in the end? It wasn’t the quality of teaching, it wasn’t student facilities, it wasn’t even the fact that Oxford’s further away from where I live than Cambridge. No, the actual reason is that the additional form you need to apply for Oxford is shorter than the additional form required to apply for Cambridge. Cambridge also want you to provide you with a picture, presumably so that they can judge whether you look a bit rough, and whether you look like you might cause trouble before they decide whether or not to interview you. Rubbish reasons, I know. But there wasn’t really much to choose between the two universities. Both have that pompous air of superiority, both are situated in the south of the country (a disadvantage for me, as I want to get as far away from where I live as possible), and both want you to have straight As at A-level, something I am unlikely to get.
                    So, not much going for me. Why did I apply at all in the end? Sheer morbid curiosity, basically. I didn’t know if I would accept if they had offered me a place, and I wasn’t sure that I’d fit in there. When applying for Oxford, you have the choice of whether you want to make an open application (i.e. they allocate you three colleges), or whether you want to have a college of preference, and the university allocates you second and third choice colleges. Having not visited any of the colleges beforehand, and failing to see much of a difference between any of the colleges in the prospectus, I would have opted to make an open application, until my teacher advised me that making an open application would hinder my chances of being made an offer. I didn’t know whether that was true or not, but, thinking better safe than sorry, I made my decision based on the percentage of state school students at each university. Hertford College, while one of the oldest colleges, had one of the highest, so that was my decision. On the application form, they ask you if there is anything else you would like to include on the application that hasn’t already been stated on the UCAS form. Time to waffle a bit here. I can’t even remember what I wrote, but rest assured, it was a load of waffly, waffly garbage. So I sent the form off with my UCAS one and waited. And sure enough, about two weeks beforehand, I received a letter from the college inviting me for an interview. They can give you as little as a week’s notice when inviting you, so once you’ve been invited, you have very little time to prepare/organise your life/ make final, emotional farewells to your friends and family. So, on to the visit we go. THE NASTY BIT ----------------------- I turned up at Hertford College at around midday, where I was given a quick tour of the college before being shown my room – if you could call it that, that i
                    s. More like a prison cell than somewhere that you would want to call home for the next three years, my room was cold, dark, dingy, and had this overwhelming air of evilness about it. The student who took me there left me at this point, leaving me wondering exactly what do I do now? So I took a little walk around the local area. Believing that they would leave me to settle in for the first day, I calmed down a little, and took in a few of the sights. The seemed to be an abnormally large number of beer bottles and broken glass lying around, especially on some of the side streets, and I would soon find out why. I went back to my college to find out when my next interview was. I found out. I had a test. In 15 minutes time. So much for settling in. The test was not easy, as you would expect. I could answer quite a few of the questions, but throughout the time I was at Oxford, I had a stinking cold, and during the exam, all I could think about was, “I wish I had brought some tissues with me,” as I felt the snot move tortuously slowly down the inside of my nostrils towards freedom. What made it worse was the fact that instead of the usual exam format (one student per desk) we were all seated around this long table, meaning that sniffing loudly would have resulted in complete embarrassment. So I waited. The end of the exam, and utter relief. I could finally find a toilet so I could properly blow my nose. After doing so, I headed down to the common room. Student facilities vary from college to college, but I’m fairly reliably informed that they’re pretty poor wherever you go in Oxford. Ours consisted of a common room with a pool table, a football table, a few arcade machines and a TV, a second common room with coffee making facilities, and a small bar which only opens for two hours a night (or at least they did while I was there). Basically, unless you had interviews, you were free to do as you chose. The first night was generally s
                    pent getting to know the other would-be students, most of which were decent people. Funny enough, there were very few students applying at Hertford that actually had a private school education, and even those who had seemed pretty down-to-earth. I didn’t go to the bar that night, as I knew I had an interview quite early the next day that I wanted to be fresh for. However, judging by my performance in that interview, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I was pissed out of my head and throwing up that day. I could have brought a bottle of vodka into the interviewing room and it probably wouldn’t have lowered the interviewers’ views of me, my interview went that badly. It consisted of me sitting around the table with three male examiners, none of whom made much of an effort to make me feel at home before asking me gruelling, evilly difficult maths questions. By the end, I was half expecting the leading interviewer to sneer at me and ask, “So why exactly are you applying here?” The next couple of hours after this was the period when I was at my lowest ebb. All I wanted was to get out of this hellhole they called Oxford, and back to that other hellhole they call Southend-on-Sea. I seriously considered leaving that day, but decided to have a couple of hours sleep beforehand, as I was feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. When I woke up again, I was feeling better. Things could only get better, I thought. So I stayed. Needless to say, I went to the bar that night. It was then that I realised jus why there was so much evidence of alcohol use lying around on the streets of Oxford. Studying here, it appeared to me at that point, is quite a difficult experience, and people need alcohol to help them forget about the deadlines and the work overload. It’s no surprise that the suicide rate in Oxford is considerably higher than the national average, and even in the few days I was there, I saw several of the prospective stud
                    ents in tears. The visit was an emotionally draining visit for most people, and to be completely honest, it was only the presence of the other candidates that stopped me from leaving early. I had two other interviews during my stay, both of them in other colleges, and during both of which I believe I fared better (well, I couldn’t really have done much worse). The final interview was probably the one in which I felt most comfortable, perhaps because it took place in what appeared to be someone’s living room by two interviewers who were only a few years older than me. While I was nervous, at least I could work out the problems that they gave me, something that didn’t even look remotely likely in my first one. Strangely enough, though, in none of my three interviews was I asked anything directly related to my chosen subject, computer science. By the end of my stay, I was wondering whether they had actually realised that I was applying for computer science and not a maths degree. Thankfully, I did not have any cruel tricks played on me during the interviews, such as being asked to write something on a whiteboard without a board marker. That would have given me a nervous breakdown. The town itself has some fairly good shopping facilities, and reasonable nightlife, although it certainly doesn’t compare with larger cities. However, in the town, virtually all of the bars were asking for ID that you were 18 or over, something that I couldn’t provide. This was compounded by the fact that on the final night, the student bar never opened. I’d just had two interviews, dammit, I needed a drink. The word was, however, that they weren’t opening because the university didn’t want underage drinkers in their bar. However, one bloke knew where to find an Irish pub that didn’t ask for ID. At first, a crowd of us headed off, but by the time the pub was reached, there were only three of us remaining: me, a girl who
                    was having quite a hard time with the interviews herself, and the bloke we were following. He was drunk from the start, and when we left the pub, he was drunk enough to feel that pissing in a litter bin in the town centre was acceptable. The point to all of this? If the students who were applying were representative of the students who actually make it to Oxford at the start of their degrees, then the vast majority are friendly, down-to-earth people. True, you could tell that many of them came from more upper-class backgrounds, and many of them had the accents to match, but this is no basis to judge a person on. The only thing that made me feel uncomfortable during my stay (apart from the interviews, of course)? The fact that despite the prospectus telling you that formal dress isn’t necessary, a very large number of the applicants still went to interviews in suits. I hadn’t even brought a tie with me, which I now regret. I think a suit’s a bit over the top, but a shirt and tie would come in very handy if you want to impress the interviewers. Also, bear in mind that competition for spaces is fierce, to the extent that there can be as many as twelve people applying for one space on a particular course. The fact that you may not have been offered a place does not mean that you are any less intellectually gifted than many of the people who actually make it, although with me, this is clearly the case. You may just have a bad experience with the interviewers. The interviewers may be a complete bunch of arseholes. True, getting to Oxford is an enormous advantage in terms of career options, but many other universities have better standards of teaching than Oxbridge anyway, believe it or not. For a particular course, you may well be better off going to another university. Incidentally, in the grammar school that I used to go to, a large number of people applied for Oxford, but as far as I am aware, not one was offered a place. Th
                    is is how intense the competition is. Finally, due to the college system that Oxford adheres to, there’s not much of a student union. Facilities are extremely limited whatever college you go to, especially compared to larger universities such as Sheffield. Me, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t offered a place, but only so that I could have the satisfaction of turning down the offer. That would have been sweet.

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                      09.12.2001 01:01
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                      If there was ever any doubt about the British class system is still alive and well, it would have to be the news that Euan (I like a beer) Blair is of to Oxfords most elite college Trinity. Only 288 people are allowed in a year, with half of those being graduates sitting Masters and PHDs. If you ask at the bookies what the chances are of little Leo going at the ripe old age of one to a similar elite seat of learning you will be told evens, yes evens!. Trinity has along history with Prime ministers and noblemen of the age. Five world leaders and three party heads have gone their including William Pitt and Jeremy Thorpe. Other current cabinet Oxbridge alumni in Jack Straw has his boy neatly placed in St Johns where daddy studied the same subject. Not only that, but the younger Straw has also been bestowed with the colleges student union head position that his dad also took up that lead to where he is now. A bookies would give you much longer odds of that coincidence if dad was from a council estate. This yet again points to the top colleges holding positions over for selected names at the expense of brighter kids further down the order. A further bonus for the Blairs is that mum knows and went to college with the rector, QC Michael Belloff with surely a good word already in to secure the coveted spot. Know one really knows how smart the A-Level student is or how much The London Oratory school will help to secure the seat of learning. But what is sure is that if his name was Darren Bloggs with the same grades would join the great and good at Oxford. It gets worse for girls as guys are twice as likely to get a first class degree. Mainly because the chaps take more traditional degrees like Maths, science and engineering that grab a higher proportion off first class passes, and girls may be a little dimmer, only joking on the last bit. We all know that most people that get into Oxbridge are sons and daughters o
                      f affluent parentage. We also know that they are far likely to come from private education that has more access to the red brick colleges. But if young Blair has been pre destined for a place their since his dad made it to number ten, who misses out. And would he have gone their if his dad wasn’t PM. I haven’t been anywhere near a decent uni and studied at The university of life, formally known as Luton poly, and now the university of Asia.Im all for kids going to college under the new dumbed down entrance,it definitely broadens the mind,and toughens the reserve. But if we allow everyone in, the top guys like Oxbridge will begin to charge excessive fees to block social climbers like you and me.

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                        13.09.2001 08:13
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                        Hello. So you want to know how to get into Oxbridge? I got a place to do mathematics in Exeter college, Oxford, 3 years ago, and here's how I managed it... For starters, you need to apply by the deadline, which is before the other Universities expect their UCAS forms... That aside, your UCAS form should really be faultless. I did mine on the pc, which meant that the finished result was flawless, and my application looked lovely. Your academic achievements are, obviously, rather fixed, and you really don't have much flexibility over how you quote them, and your personal statement is, to be honest, your gateway to getting an interview at Oxbridge. You need to appear confident and capable in your studies, and evidence of having done well is always useful. Having applied for mathematics myself, I feel that it's really not that important to sell yourself as an interesting person, although for other degrees, it is important to appear to be a well-rounded individual. If your UCAS form is successful, you'll be called to interview on a very cold winters day (in December). You'll be expected to stay for 3 days whilst they do various stuff. Personally, I was called in December 1997 to interview for a mathematics degree, and my stay consisted of a maths test on my day of arrival, and then one interview at my first choice college (followed by another, 2 days later, across the other side of town). I have to say that the test was most obscure, about 4 questions out of the 6 posed to me were straight forward A level mathematics, but at least 2 others were about aliens and weird stuff like that. I would recommend doing what you can do very well, but not worrying if you can't do the rest. Do what you can really well. Confident that I'd not got into Oxford, I went to interview, in which they asked me to draw a simple graph, given a quadratic equation. It
                        would have been very simple indeed, IF THEY'D HAVE GIVEN ME A PEN. But they wouldn't. I was faced with a white board and no pen. So be warned that Oxford people are very sneaky. I cried. I don't deny the frustration I felt in not being able to write down what I wanted. The rest of the interview was much of a blur, and I left, sure that I hadn't got into Oxford. Upon returning home, I was asked to call the college on the Friday of that week. I had got a place. So, my advice to you people is.... 1. Have a fool-proof UCAS form. 2. Don't be phased by the interview. 3. Don't go there. I'm very very sorry to all those people who have read this opinion religiously, assuming that I have been to Oxford, but I haven't. I didn't accept the place there, as I personally didn't like either the college, the people there, or the atmosphere in general. My opinion gives you informaton about how to get into Oxford (probably Cambridge too) if you so wish. Personally, I wouldn't recommend going to either. Whatever you do, I hope it's the right move.

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                          11.09.2001 03:14
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                          • "1.5 Billion in the bank. "

                          It’s always a little annoying when the elite get to the top of the pile with little effort. An Oxbridge degree can open any door in the world. Our Rugby captains are blues, our cricket captains usually on or about, and captains of industry to. So why is the education from our top universities so difficult to get hold of if you’re in search of that lucrative place. What we sadly find out is that it doesn’t take our countries most intelligent people, but most eligible. Oxbridge have supposedly been told to whack up the numbers of state educated children in their hallowed universities. But to taking on high maintenance working class kids they lose out on funding. To fill the new influx quotas the elitist colleges are going abroad to bring in the more lucrative students with substantial returns. The traditional upper middle class kids will always get in through surreptitious aphartied clearly marked backdoor. Britain’s top public school last year got every single sixthformer into Oxford or Cambridge who wanted to go. Eton sent 60 off to Manchester Grammars 58 this year. That’s 78 percent of their respective 2001 sixth form. Theres a similar staggered welcoming committee based on the other top schools/ social class intake ratio. The remainders were slotted into appropriate redbrick establishments. If these guys and girls are guaranteed places then someone else has to make way. And we all know who that is. But with more kids getting straight As from weakened exams you can expect a bigger scramble every year. The entrance exam is the best way to block undesirables through aggressive interviewers and unprepared students. A comp kid used to be able to get help with crammer coaching that helps prospective students pass the vigorous entrance exam. Over half of Oxbridge’s intake comes from the seven-perecent independent/private school sector. The remaining places are shared betwe
                          en state run and overseas children. No student excepted to the schools is allowed to work during term. A clear bias towards rich kids early on. This is the first “block”aimed at state school kids when applying. The unis also get double funding per head and have personal institutional. Of the remaining intake, most of the so called state pupils come from grant maintained government run selective schools, grammars and the so-called middle class comp that are in posh areas. These schools are supposed to take children in their area but often don’t get a fair spread as richer parent’s whack up mortgages. This results in poorer children being priced out of good schools. The actual run of the mill bright kid from a poor housing area has little chance of jumping the many statistical hurdles. Two thirds of all straight A grades do come from the state school sector so they should be reflected at Oxbridge instead of the %47.About 73 percent of state school kids fail their entrance exam compared to %64 from the seven percent sector. Clearly another hurdle for the poor kids to negotiate. The third is schools that don’t push their bright kids towards the top schools, as they are well aware of the blatant prejudice. So how does when get in. Well if you ain’t in the top two social groups your 5-1 against. If you’re not in a private school your now another ten to one against. If you haven’t had a previous family member there then your odds are doubled. Remember that state school kids do %25 percent better on degree pass than posh kids on average. Yet still the colleges seek affluent overseas kids over genuine domestic poorer but more talented ones. If you’re coming from serious money abroad, then you can even get in with GCSE English. I know their will be a dooyooer out there that beat the odds and got in, even though his dad ate coal and his mum was a toilet bowl licker.
                          But the reality is that you are 33-1 against to make it with exactly the same grades as a richer equivalent. If you go to Eton and you have another family memember they’re now or before you have an incredible 89-perecnt chance of going. Good deal if your are the right “class”of student. Getting into Oxbridge is critical to unprecedented success.Nine out of the last ten Prime Ministers went their as are %$0 of current MPs,including labor ones.Half of Britain’s top jobs are held by Oxbridge graduates.You can see why they are sooooo selective in the scheming err dreaming spires.

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                            06.06.2001 20:49
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                            Right. Well, first a little about me and what I'm doing spouting off here. What do I know about Oxbridge? Well, one, I was a student there. I graduated from Cambridge university in 1997 with a degree in history. Second, I actually got in to Cambridge (Emmanuel University) on my second attempt - something that is commoner than you might think. And third, I have watched my sister go through a very similar pattern at Oxford. And the up shot of all this? Oxbridge is something I feel very strongly about. I'm going to start here by exploding a few myths - the first of which is that these Universities are the best in the country. They aren't. It all depends on one, which subject you take, and two, what you are looking for from a university. If you want to do medicine, for example, you'd be much better off at Edinburgh: the Cambridge course is incredibly academic and focussed on training research doctors rather than practising ones. And the same is true of other subjects. On the other hand, there are some at which Oxbridge excels: Oxford for English, for example, and Cambridge for History. So the first message is: don't get caught up in the idea that they are superior to every other university academically, because it's simply not true. The second is that you have to be posh. Sigh. This annoys me so much. The truth is that your school background is pretty much irrelevant - except now for political reasons, which means colleges are more likely to look favourably on state school pupils because it makes their stats look better. I also encountered often the feeling that because it's so much harder to get the requisite grades in the state school system, those who manage it are actually candidates of higher calibre than the public school applicants. But I have to say, looking back over my friends from Cambridge - and some of these I'm still very very close to - I would honestly be hard put to tell you who went to which kind of sch
                            ool. That's how important it is when you're there. What else? Oh yes, the interview. Popular myth holds that you'll be grilled by a panel of eccentrics hell-bent on making you feel as stupid as possible. We've all heard the one about how if you're thrown a football in the interview, catching it means you get in and throwing it back means you get a scholarship. Rest assured its all nonsense. Quite what interviews are like we'll come to in a moment. So. How to get in. Well, first of all, as I have already said, you need to figure out if you actually want to. Is the course right? Some of them are very ideosycratic. Is Cambridge right? It certainly doesn't suit everyone. It's a very strange, insular, regulated society which has its own customs and language and can be incredibly restrictive in some ways, yet astonishingly full of opportunities in others. You will, for example, live in college accommodation for three years in the vast majority of cases (certainly at Cambridge) which means living by college rules. Parties have to be cleared with authorities in advance, meal times are set and there are all sorts of strange rules. It's only one step up from boarding school, and some people find it incredibly restrictive. I certainly found it claustrophobic, and like many students found it necessary to leave cambridge for a weekend at least every term to stop myself feeling smothered. So. If you've decided it is for you, what next? Well, you have to decide on your college - and this is not a straightforward business, for there are 26 of them and your choice will have a large impact on your time there. The reason for this is that in terms of your day to day life there as a student, Cambridge University really doesn't exist. Girlies have to decide first of all if they want to be at a mixed college or not. Everyone has to decide on the character, scale, subject strength and location they are interested in, a
                            nd these things should not be taken lightly. Apply to Girton, for example, and you'll spend your entire university career on a bike - it's so far out of town it's got a different postcode. Those who want a small college would do well to avoid Trinity, and those interestd in music should take a good look at Clare. Each college is very different and it is vital to pick one where you feel comfortable. In fact, this should be your only criteria, unless you're set on something like maths in which Trinity, which has an international reputation in this field, is the obvious choice. Many candidates spend days agonising over which college is likely to let them in, which has the best odds, which is likely to look most favourably on them - and this is largely a waste of time. Just to take my own case, I eventually got into Emmanuel - it wasn't till afterwards I discovered it was the most popular college to apply to. These things change year to year and are really not worth worrying about. It's much more important to pick somewhere where you think you will be happy. So. You've picked your first choice college. The application requires you to put down a second and third as well. The third is pointless - it really doesn't matter what you put down. The second is rather more significant, as this is the college your application will be forwarded to if your first choice turns you down but thinks you're still a good candidate. The basic rule is to pick a second rate college. There's just no point putting Kings or Trinity down. Try either a girl's college if you're female, or somewhere like Fitz or Robinson. So off goes your application, and your interview looms. This is an incredibly frightening prospect, as the success or failure of your application really depends on it. Everyone who applies to Cambridge or Oxford, basically, is good enough. Whether you get in will depend on the qualities you demonstrate at
                            interview. You'll get two at least at Cambridge, a general and a subject one. At Oxford, it can be three and here you may well face a panel rather than just one person. Here, I think it's important to remember what they're looking for. Most people, including me at the time, assume it's knowledge. It isn't. Think about it: if you knew everything about your subject there'd be no point letting you in. What they are really looking for is a candidate who is genuinely desperate to learn. The fact is that most Oxbridge courses require you to do a lot of studying on your own. If you're not genuinely absorbed by your subject, therefore, this is incredibly difficult. And you're simply not going to get the best out of your course. So my tip is: if you have a particular interest, play it up. I spent much of one interview discussing medieval bestiaries with my interviewer - not what we were supposed to be discussing at all, but it was something we both happened to be interested in. Basically if you can go in and demonstrate a genuine, passionate love of your subject you're halfway there. Otherwise, the things to remember are that with very few exceptions, they aren't out to destroy your ego. This doesn't mean they'll be easy on you - they're there to test the quality of your mind. Expect them to argue back, and be prepared to back up everything you say. Avoid sweeping statements and attempts to be clever. If something they say floors you completely, don't panic. Stop. Breathe. Think out loud. Say something like, that's interesting, I hadn't looked at it that way before. Take a moment before you answer and don't throw out the first thing that comes into your head. THinking out loud is good, though, because it lets them see how your mind works. Whatever you do, don't bluff - they'll spot it immediately, expose you and you'll look really stupid. If they ask you about Tennyson and you haven'
                            t read any, just say so - like I said, it's not knowledge they're looking for, it's aptitude. And if you don't get in, don't despair. I know how horrendous it is to be turned down: it happened to me first time around. I applied to Corpus Christi college Cambridge to read philosophy and was rejected. I only found out much later that the guy who interviewed me was a complete misogynist and hadn't let a woman in in decades (did I mention that you should research your college?). But more to the point, he was right: I wasn't cut out to be a philospher. The rejection actually turned out to be really valuable as it made me completely reconsider what I wanted to do and I realised it wasn't philosophy at all, it was history. And when I reapplied, to another college, the following year, I was accepted. I had friends who studied philosophy and I know now I would have hated it. The same thing happened to my sister: she applied in the sixth form to study PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at Oxford and was turned down on the grounds her maths wasn't strong enough to handle the economics. She was crushed, but they were right. The following year the university introduced a course in politics and modern history: much more up her street. She reapplied, got in and is loving it - and quite readily admits they were right to turn her down. I know it's easy to say that you shoudln't be upset if you don't get in. But you really shouldn't take it personally. Both universities are very ideosyncratic places that do not suit everyone. I know people who went there and hated it, to the point where they actually left after a term. My other sister never even applied because she knew she'd hate it. It really doesn't suit everyone, and although it may be hard to see, they may be doing you a favour. Far too many people get carried away by the mythology and prestiege of the place, by parental and school pressure and b
                            y the need to see if they can cut it. The art is to look at the whole process without any of that crap. You have to decide if the place would suit you, not if you suit them. Right. Here endeth the lesson, I hope it's been useful. If anyone wants to get in touch with me, feel free - I'll happily help anyone who thinks I might have something useful to say.

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                              20.05.2001 22:31
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                              When I began researching Universities for application last year, I heard so many 'facts' about Oxbridge that I nearly didn't apply. Thank goodness I did! I received an offer and should be going there in October (fingers crossed I get the grades!). There are so many myths about the application procedure I think they need to be cleared up once and for all. Myth 1: "if you're from a state school/a girl/an ethnic minority just don't bother applying because it won't be worth it." I almost feel into this trap myself - ok, statistically, all these things make you less likely to get in. But remember the quote: "there are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics". At my interviews, I genuinely felt that I could have been a moose and the interviewers wouldn't have cared - what they were interested in was my mind, not my sex, race or background. I planned my outfit really carefully but I needn't have bothered - like I say, they just didn't care! (Actually that was a bit irritating considering the money I'd spent...) In fact, being from a state school often works in your favour, as does being in an ethnic minority, or having parents who didn't go to University- they'll usually consider your application more carefully and give you a lower offer (if you get one). So it's not all bad. Myth 2: "the system is dominated by old boy contacts - posh candidates can always get Daddy to put in a word for them." Um, once again, that is very unlikely. Although there are discreet contacts between some private schools and certain colleges, just because a candidate is from one of these places certainly does NOT mean he'll have a better chance. Like I say, it's brains they're after. The one thing Oxbridge doesn't compromise on is intelligence - think about it, it'd be counter-productive to their reputation to let in a load of hooray Henrys with
                              no brain cells. Myth 3: "speaking of Hooray Henrys...you do know the place is full of them?" Well, I'm not actually in the University yet so I can't give a fully comprehensive counter to this. True, about 50% of students there are from private schools, but that's not so awful - I have lots of friends from private school myself. They're not all posh and they're not all arrogant either. Certain colleges have higher percentages of state school students if it really bothers you - Kings at Cambridge is 90% state, for example. Myth 4: "A levels aren't enough to apply - you should do at least 4 extracurricular activities (one musical, one sporting, one caring) and lots of work experience of they'll think you're not well-rounded." Yeesh! This one certainly gave me some sleepless nights, I can tell you. As a non-musical, non-sporty type, who is positively allergic to extra-curricular stuff, I felt I had some problems. But these things really aren't everything. Yeah, they might help a bit as they read over your Personal Statement (although, trust me, they spent a maximum of 30 seconds on those things), if you think they'll help you get a place - you're wrong. There are lots of ways to demonstrate you are a well rounded person with bags of personality - not least actually at the interview itself!!! - apart from these things. Myth 5: "your interview will consist of the interviewer barking questions at you, and, unless you're an arrogant twit, you'll probably be in tears by the end." I left this one to the end because I know when I was applying, this was my biggest fear. Relax! This just won't happen. I do know of the very occasional interviewer being rather aggressive, but just try and stick it out and continue to say things that sound rational to you in answer to their questions. This happened to a friend, and she was convinced they h
                              ated her, but she was in fact offered a place. They just wanted to check she wouldn't crumble under pressure and could sustain her argument. All three of my interviews were in fact quite enjoyable! There were no scary, random questions, and the interviewers all attempted to put me at my ease. It's in their interests to find out the best you can do - how would reducing you to a quivering jelly help them? It won't! Obviously you're going to be nervous, but remember that they don't want to catch you out - I know teachers always say that about exams, but in this case, it's true. A few final tips: *definitely* try and make contact with the Director of Studies of your subject at the college ou're applying to before the interview. He/she will be interviewing you, so it makes sense. They *won't* be annoyed by any questions you have, unless of course they're irrelevant/ you could easily gain the information elsewhere/ yu're just trying to figure out what wil be in the interview. They will usually be pleased, and it will help them remember you. Also, *definitely* have a practice interview, and NOT with just your teacher. This is invaluable for giving you a taste of it, so you're not just thrown in at the deep end at the real thing, and also setting your mind at rest. Top tip: if the interviewers LIKE you, they'll be more likely to offer you a place. Try to engage with your interviewer, if possible - cracking a few jokes mightn't be a bad idea either! Good luck!

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                                12.03.2001 02:31
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                                Today Oxbridge is not about education levels or "A" levels but more what you do in society. If you really want to get into the top notch unis then not only must you get all A's in A levels and get nearly all A's at GCSEs but you must also aim to do more than the academic. Sports are good, sometimes unis can accept you just because you are a world class rugby player. Not likely though, you say. So how about short term work in something to do with the course you are taking. Something like working in a chemist is you are looking at a chemistry course. Ok so it sounds wrong, but it works. My brother had the best results possible in all levels of education yet did not get into Oxford. Why??? I feel that a private education must help, the people at Oxbridge must judge on this. In fact I would like a survey of how many accepted aplicants come from private schools. Well, not only is it in your personal record, but you must also perform in the interview. Prepare yourself for all types of questions, usually about "What do you feel you have to offer this university?" If they feel you can offer some ingenuity on different subjects, then you are much more likely to get accepted. Also you need to be really clued up on your course and the current state of politics etc. They may well ask you a question on some political point, to see how you react. It is essential to stay calm, cool, and level headed. Even better if you can ask the interviewer questions, this shows great confidence. However of course do not over do it. They certainly wont accept you if you seem cocky or self obsessed! If all else fails, you could always sneak in to the uni, im sure no one will notice you! Ok maybe not. If you do not get in, do not despair Oxbridge is not that important, many other universities are beginning to offer better lecturing. You may well find that they have better options and courses. So its not all over if you do not get in.

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