The first thing that you are likely to encounter when you mention that you are considering applying to Oxbridge is an onslaught of helpful advice that turns out to be anything but helpful. You will not be short of ‘experts’ and their ‘guidance’, each surely well intended but each equally likely to offer contradictory advice. Where this website fits into that is up to you to decide but resolving that along with the many other questions that arise is an important part of the application process and as with all things in that process, getting it done is up to you.
The Bad News
One thing on which all will presumably agree is that the application process is testing and they’re not wrong. However, it is important that you can appreciate why the application process is so tough. What is on offer is an education at one of the most prestigious universities in the UK – for every place offered Oxford and Cambridge will each turn down between four and five applications – but the prestige is earned: these universities are extremely demanding and admissions tutors need to be certain that candidates will be able to meet the universities’ expectations. So when assessing a candidate’s suitability for the course, they consider not only whether or not there are better equipped candidates for the place but also whether the candidate is equipped to survive and prosper in the rarefied Oxbridge world.
Look again at that statistic: for every place offered, four or five applications are unsuccessful. That perhaps strikes you as a bit low – one in five does not sound that exclusive. The thing is, however, that the numbers (Oxford processed 17, 241 applications in 2011 and made 3,233 offers; in Cambridge, the corresponding stats were 15,389 and 3,274) represent those who made it to the end of the application process and who were presumed likely to return a combination of As and A*s in their final A Level exams.
Oxford and Cambridge will face piles of applications from the very best students from every school in the country; the job of the admissions tutors is to identify from that massive pile the very best of the best, those able to thrive in and benefit from the unique education on offer. As you will imagine, distinguishing the very very best from the very best is not easy and as a result, the application process is a trial by ordeal that will ensure that by the time it gets to interviews, the numbers of applications has been reduced to manageable levels.
The Good News
All of which begs the question: is it worth it? Well, each year collectively over 30,000 applicants seem to think so. However, in the meantime you should take the time to seek out the opinions of any alumni you might know. See what they say and whether or not they thought it was worth it then and whether it is worth it now. You may be surprised by the replies you get. At the same time, ask graduates from other universities about their experience elsewhere and whether they feel that time at Oxbridge would have been any different. Gleaning information from this sort of pool is how you will make a decision that makes sense for you and, as this website will go on to explain, help to establish the utterly critical integrity of application.
Open. Let’s get this straight: Oxbridge admission is open to all and every student capable of meeting the high standards expected. There is neither class nor cash qualification and in 2012 state school admissions made up over half of Oxbridge undergraduates and nearly two thirds at Cambridge.
Elitist. Let’s make this clear: Oxbridge is elitist in that only the application process is designed to identify the very best students. All courses are demanding – intellectually and physically – and neither Oxford nor Cambridge tolerate mediocrity or loafing. Expectations and standards are high and admissions tutors need to ensure that the applicants they select are likely to enjoy the demanding environment and hit the academic heights the universities expect. And the admissions board tend to get it right: note the dropout rates.
Click here for detailed information on the Oxford application process
Click here for detailed information on the Cambridge process
If you would like to hear more about joining the Senior Academic Society and you would like to discuss applying to either Oxford or Cambridge... Contact Dr Adkins (Head of Oxbridge Applications)