The deadline for applications to the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford is yet on 15 October. It is still three months away and yet you are here trying to know more about how to prepare for it. If you want to apply to these Oxbridge universities, you are on the right track. Yes, it is never too early to start to do so. In fact, you need to start as early as you can. In fact, it is an early deadline; so use the summer to prepare.
As a student interested in applying to Oxbridge, you would like to prepare for it. You research about it and have been doing so for even earlier than now. And as such, you should have already encountered stories about trick questions. There are also legends about stunts admission tutors make applicants do. These include, among others, catching a rugby ball being thrown at the applicant as he entered the room, arriving at an interview room without chairs and meeting an interviewer who is reading a newspaper who later burns it. So you might think that you should include preparing for things like these.
However, do not worry about these things. You do not need to prepare for them. These are myths which are just added to the true legend of Oxbridge. Admissions tutors say that you should not worry about them because the truth is that the interview and the whole application process is very different.
Here are some tips given by admissions tutors themselves on how to prepare for applying to Oxbridge. While they are insights from Oxbridge tutors, they are applicable to the whole of higher education in general.
Use summer as Preparation
As soon as exams are through, you should start actively preparing yourself for applying to Oxbridge. Starring to prepare as early as this time helps you make better your chances of being given a place especially taking into consideration how competitive it is.
Choose the Right Subject for You
Being happy with your subject and your stay at university is very important. Choose your subject carefully. Selecting a course is a long process that your mind may change along the way.
How to Choose the Right Subject
- Start Choosing Early
You need all the time that you can get. Give yourself as much time as possible to think about it. Start your selection process as early as you can. As mentioned, use the time available this summer and as early as it starts.
- Observe How Interested and Happy Are You
If you are not happy with what you are studying and doing, it will be a bad long stretch for you. On the other hand, if you are interested and happy with it, you will not mind going the extra mile for it. And such passion and effort are the factors towards success. Oxford admissions tutor Dr Helen Swift has an advise on how to discern your happiness with a subject and, thus, whether it is right for you. It is looking at how happy you are to pursue relevant areas outside school.
Dr Swift says that if working on developing your knowledge of the subject is a “chore” to you, it shows that you are not engaged enough to be able to say that such subject is right for you. She advises that you should re-assess your choice if this happens. That is why you need to start as early as you can. On the other hand, if you are willing to do some more studying and working relating to the subject beyond what you are doing in school, that subject is for you.
- Do Not Let Your AS and A-levels Limit You
Yes, you may be limited by the AS and A-levels you have taken. But this does not mean that you do away with choosing the subject that really makes you happy. So again, see to it that you choose from among the choices available to you the one that you enjoy doing. It will be the one you will enjoy doing but, again, you have to put it through the above mentioned observe-your-happiness test. Remember that you will be doing it in your three or four years at university.
Find the Right College for You
The two Oxbridge universities each have a more than 20 undergraduate colleges. Each of them provide distinct atmosphere and student experience. There are very prestigious old ones and there are those which are modern, among other characteristics to choose from which best suits you.
Find the right college for you especially considering the atmosphere and student experience they provide. Do so by giving them some time this summer to look into them. Identify the colleges that offer the subject you have chosen then visit them in person or their websites. Inquire with admissions tutors to arrange a scheduled visit.
An Oxford college director, James Gold, says that you should look at – in relation to the atmosphere and student experience – the size of the college, the location of its accommodation, its overall stance, character, study approach and what they support like sports, music or drama. Further, you should get some perspective from students themselves by interviewing current students in person or viewing individual JCR websites of the colleges.
Expand Your Subject Knowledge
Learn more about your chosen subject by reading more about it. Remember, you will be spending at least three years of your life studying it; so, you should be knowledgeable about it as early as now and as much as possible. Doing so will help you make a better decision whether you really love it and will pursue it or you actually do not like it and will need to consider other subjects. Start this by getting information on what is the required reading for your course options and try access them.
Develop a Specialism
Have a specific area in which you will aim to excel more. It is like having a particular strength to feature. To arrive at it, identify an area you are most interested in and then focus in on that. Doing so, you will be able to deepen your knowledge and have a specific area you can talk about with depth come the interview. Having such is what Newnham College admissions tutor Dr Sam Lucy calls “specialism” which she says college tutors regard as a concrete demonstration of enthusiasm.
Be Ready to Demonstrate
Those who have chosen science-based subjects should review all the content they have covered so far and revise those areas they are particularly weak, Dr Lucy advises. She adds that you should be prepared to demonstrate your subject knowledge at interview and that you should be well versed with formulas.
One best way to be prepared for the interview is to practice with family or friends. Expect that you will be asked to talk a lot about your subject at interviews. Articulating in length your passion about your subject is very important, so you should practice as early and frequently as you can.
Start Assembling Your Personal Statement
Most universities look for interests outside the education sphere. However, the Oxbridge universities look for very academic personal statements. You should dedicate 70 per cent of your 4,000-character personal statement to explaining why you want to study the course you have chosen and why you are suitable to it.
- Avoid Worrying
After the summer, you will have only around six weeks to finalise your statement. It can be a somewhat little time but do not pressure yourself to complete it right away. Calm down and get things started by writing down what you have done so far which shows your interest in the subject. Just work on it and avoid worrying about it. Remember that worrying will consume some of your thoughts, time and energy which will be of better use if you do something instead. Dr Swift says, “Applicants shouldn’t spend too long getting worried about the personal statement; otherwise it can become a focus for anxiety, which isn’t productive.”
- Focus on the “Personal”
Instead of thinking about what advantages others might have over you, you should focus on what you have. Dr Swift says that you should explain what you have derived from extra reading you have done or from trips you have joined instead of focusing on simply describing the involved book or excursion. Demonstrate how these points relate to other aspects of your knowledge of the subject. Describe how such learnings of yours have developed further with the help of such things you have done outside school.
Do not worry about whether what you have experienced is significant relative to those of others. Rather, you should demonstrate your own unique experience. To this, Dr Lucy adds that you should see to it that you do not exaggerate your experiences and knowledge.
So Keep in Mind
To be prepared for applying to Oxbridge involves many dimensions and all lead towards your personal statement and interview. It starts by carefully choosing the right subject for you and selecting the college that you want to study in. It continues by working towards making yourself truly suitable for the subject you have chosen which you do by reading and going on trips or work experiences related to it. And lastly, you demonstrate them by writing your personal statement well and practising for your interview to do well and be admitted to Oxbridge.