Is the Oxbridge environment right for you? Don’t go just for the brand
Does the Tutorial learning style excite you? Sometimes there are only 2 students to 1 teacher or 1 student to 1 teacher in a tutorial. There is no lecture system. Students are expected to learn on their own. Lots of independence is expected of you. Readings are sometimes not assigned by the teacher. You have to identify your own reading/studying material. Do you want to sit in a room with a world leader in the subject of your choice with maybe 2 other students who are among some of the most motivated in the world and talk about your subject for the next 3 or 4 years? Then Oxbridge is right for you.
Are you ready for the workload?
You will be expected to read many books every week if you are a humanities student and do many hours of Lab every week if Science is your subject. The programs are very intense and you must be very academically driven. Compare the workload of a student of history at Cambridge – 44 hours a week - to a history student at Edinburgh University who studies 23 Hours a week.
Sample Assignment in History - You could be given an essay to write eg – ‘Could the Arab conquests have occurred before Islam?’ Then you will be given a list of books to find in the library and work out the answer by reading through them.
Who is the ideal Oxbridge candidate?
They don’t care if you are nice – just smart. You need to be engaged academically in ONE particular subject. So focus on ONE subject beyond your school curriculum. Can you hold a conversation with a stranger on that subject for 20 minutes? Try that to know if you are right for Oxbridge. That’s what your interview will be like. The books you read, what you watch on TV everything should be focused on that ONE subject.
Submit the UCAS by October 15th
Tips for the Statement of Purpose –
1. Show that you interested in a subject beyond the classroom. Did you read your subject all summer? You should give the impression you are already studying what you want to study in college except not to that high standard as yet. The SOP should be targeted towards independent research – it’s more like a personal convincement rather than a personal statement. You are trying to convince them you are ready for the Oxbridge experience – so give evidence of this – argue why you are ready to study that ONE subject at Oxbridge. Don’t just state things. They will not be impressed with your A in class but what you a reading at night on you own.
2. Be aware of clichéd openings. Avoid “I want to study XYZ because my dad is an XYZ. “
3. Extracurricular Activities –all should be tied back to the subject. Only mention relevant activities that are in some way connected to your subject.
4. Be Precise, Be Intellectual – don’t be quirky
5. Don’t be school specific – this application is going out to all 5 colleges on your UCAS application
6. Don’t give quotations. Don’t just drop names of authors and books you’ve read – What did you think of the book? That’s what they want to know.
After the UCAS application you need to fill out the
COPA – Cambridge Online prelim application – this gives you the opportunity to talk about why you chose Cambridge – it’s an optional question.
Following that you will fill out the SAQ- Supplementary Application Questionnaire
Entrance Exams & Specimen Papers
Some courses require these. Date is first Wednesday of November for the Tests. You should practice for these. Some tests are hard and you can’t really prepare for it – such as the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) exam for the PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) course, which is a very popular course, and in high demand. The Specimen papers are supposed to be from your class work so let your teacher’s know they should give you a suitable assignment to match the requirement.
Tips for the Interview
Interview will be in December if selected. It’s 20 minutes long. Statistically it does not matter whether your interview is personal or over skype. But the live interview is also a good learning experience. Check out the interview guidelines on both Oxford and Cambridge websites. You must show “informed enthusiasm” in your interview. They want to know how you think. It’s not important to know the answer to all the questions. Think of it as a conversation with a world expert in your subject. Practice the interview with different people who are knowledgeable in your subject. They are not checking out your character – only your intellectual ability. Be informed on your subject as much as you can.
How do you choose your college within Oxford and Cambridge universities?
Don’t spend too much time on this. Check for colleges that offer the course you want to study. Then look at environment – is it traditional, religious, relaxed? What experience do you want? Look at location. If it’s in the city the rooms will have less space. If it’s a distance away you might need to take the bus to class. The college you choose within the university doesn’t affect your chance for admission. Pick “open application” - don’t choose your college – if you are not sure about which one to pick.