Applying for Oxford and Cambridge (often abbreviated to Oxbridge) is slightly different than applying to other UK universities – the first difference is the deadline for applications. This is three months earlier than for most other universities (the 15th October in your Year 13), so it’s important to have an early start in researching your courses, attending open days and starting your application. You MUST tell Mrs Hollinshead as soon as you start to consider applying because there are lots of things the school will do to support your application.
Where do I search for courses?
All courses at Oxford and Cambridge are listed on the same UCAS search engine as you would use for other universities, so this is the place to start. Each course will have a link to the university’s website and you should look closely at the entry requirements (including GCSEs) as well as the content of the course to make sure you are applying for a course that you wish to study (as you would at any university). You should also go to open events to speak directly to the staff who would deliver the courses and to ask them questions. You can do this at any age – even before you choose your GCSEs.
How do I choose a college and how does that affect my application?
Oxford and Cambridge are divided into colleges, and these colleges will be where you are based for all pastoral care, accommodation, social and community events, sports teams and more. Most importantly, the Director of Study for your subject will visit you there for your weekly study sessions (these are called ‘supervisions’ at Cambridge).
Some colleges are for specific courses, genders, or age groups, so you should read your course information pages – this will tell you which colleges do not accept applicants for your course. When you are studying a specific course, you will study alongside students from other colleges as well, so that shouldn’t affect your choice – instead go to visit as many as you can (most colleges are very accommodating if you wish to email or telephone them to arrange a visit on the same day as your subject open day).
If you are still undecided when you send your UCAS application, you can make an ‘open’ application, which means that you do not mind which college you will go to – then they will allocate you a place on your behalf.
What happens after I send my application through UCAS?
As with other applications, Mrs Hollinshead will check this through and add your reference and predicted grades before forwarding it to UCAS. Cambridge and Oxford then immediately send a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (the SAQ), which will ask you for more specific details than the UCAS application. You may need some help with finding this information, so ask Mrs Hollinshead for support or if you would like her to check it for you. Oxford and Cambridge will check through your application and, if you meet the entry requirements, they will invite you to interview. Generally, Oxford will invite 60% of candidates to interview and Cambridge invite 80%.
Depending on your course, you may have some additional assessments to undertake either before your interview or on the same day – your course pages will tell you specifically what you need to do. If you need to undertake an admissions essay or test prior to interview, this will usually need to be taken in school like an external examination and we will need to register you (which is another reason why Mrs Hollinshead needs to know you are applying). If you are required to sit the BMAT (mainly for Bio-Medical Sciences), then it will also be taken in school. The important thing to do is to make sure you have read your course pages carefully to find out what you personally need to do.
For more information about interviews, please visit:
Oxford University‘s website has tips and guide videos that you should view.
Cambridge University‘s website has tips and guide videos that you should view.
This is a really helpful video put together by a recent Cambridge graduate. The interview is for Computer Science, but it is the method and style of interview that should be of interest to all candidates.
How will the school support my application?
Mrs Hollinshead will be your main mentor through this process. She will arrange for you to go to open days, and will arrange a visitor from our link college to help and give advice (e.g. for Cambridge University, our link is with Queen’s College). That doesn’t mean you need to attend that college – this is the college that supports you (and the school) through the process. We will support you with your personal statement, interview preparation and arrange any admissions tests you need to do prior to your interview. This will involve a lot of your time, but we will help you at every stage.