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Why should I consider applying?
Oxford and Cambridge, collectively referred to as Oxbridge, are internationally famous for their research, the level of their teaching and the quality of their undergraduates. As well as having extraordinary resources, both materially and in the expertise of their staff, they practise something called the tutorial (at Oxford) or supervision (at Cambridge) system. This means that in addition to the normal lecture course, students will spend about two hours a week individually or in very small groups, discussing their work with a world-class academic in their field. This not only allows them to develop their written work, but also encourages the development of confidence and verbal fluency.
Furthermore, both universities are made up of a number of smaller colleges, which mean that settling in is much easier than in other places - there will only be between about 50 and 200 people in your year - and that each college is able to offer a very high level of academic and pastoral support to each student.
Finally, Oxbridge graduates enjoy excellent career prospects: many of the top employers visit finalists at both universities to try to recruit them, as they recognise the value of the skills which undergraduates develop during their studies at these universities, particularly through the unique teaching system. Oh, and the terms are much shorter than other universities (eight weeks compared to ten or twelve elsewhere), so you’ll get longer holidays!
Is Oxbridge right for you?
Don’t be distracted by the myths surrounding Oxbridge. Oxford and Cambridge are teaching institutions like anywhere else, and all they’re looking for are the sharpest young minds available to study their subjects. Nearly everybody goes to Oxbridge worrying that they will not be as clever as their counterparts, and each new student discovers that the image of a university filled with geniuses is entirely a media illusion. Here are a few indicators that it might be the right place for you:
- If you find yourself consistently at or near the top of the class in your chosen subject, and are on course for strong A grades at A-Level.
- If you enjoy reading about your subject in your own time, or the stuff you encounter in class inspires you to do a little bit of extra research, you are exactly the sort of person Oxbridge wants. The courses are structured to require a high degree of autonomy, and won’t work for someone who needs to be spoon-fed.
- If you find that your schoolwork throws up lots of questions, and you would like to devote more time and attention to getting your questions answered, you might be perfect.
- If you enjoy having the chance to discuss your views with your peers (or with anyone else for that matter), you would relish the tutorial/supervision system.
Will I fit in?
The first thing to say is that the days when Oxford and Cambridge were reputedly filled with posh people punting on the river are over. The majority of students (56%) come from the state sector and both Universities are taking active measures to encourage applications from non-traditional backgrounds (for example, the Oxford Access scheme, and the Cambridge Target Scheme, http://www.cusu.cam.ac.uk/prospective/target/). No intelligent student should be put off Oxbridge by worrying that the university will not accept them on account of their background, or that they will have trouble fitting in and making friends.
Finally, remember that Oxford and Cambridge are actively trying to attract more applications from the state sector, so there has never been a better time for you to apply!
If you want to check the places out for yourself, Oxford and Cambridge run a number of open days, as well as nationwide conferences.
For more information log on to http://www.ox.ac.uk/aboutoxford/faq/#vis or http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/opendays/ and get a copy of the Universities’ prospectuses.
Many students who apply to Oxford or Cambridge are invited to the university to conduct an interview. We understand that interviews can often be a highly stressful so why not read our interview guide for advice on how to prepare for and perform in your interview. You can also find a selection of sample questions which will help with preparing for that all important interview.