Support for University Applications
Though targeted at Oxbridge applications, students will find much of this information is generally useful for competitive Russell Group and other applications.
The application process for Oxford and Cambridge is similar to most universities in general: you apply via UCAS and must write a 4000-character personal statement. Oxford and Cambridge have two additional components that sets them apart as two of the toughest application processes in the world. For most courses you must sit an additional admissions test after applying and give interviews. It is these two components that admissions tutors use to differentiate between good candidates and the very top.
Most applicants to Oxbridge have strong references, personal statements and top predicted grades. The admissions test is used as a way to discriminate between these strong candidates and decide which students will be shortlisted for interview.
Each subject has their own individual test, all following the same concept – the tests evaluate a candidate’s natural aptitude irrespective of their background knowledge or the quality of their education.
Applicant Webinar Series: The Applicant Webinars are designed to assist applicants and those supporting applicants through the process of applying to Cambridge.
The topics range from the early stages of an application, such as filling in your UCAS application and additional application forms, all the way through to interview advice.
Each session is hosted virtually and consists of a presentation followed by an opportunity for questions at the end. They are run by Cambridge admissions staff and Admissions Tutors.
The Oxbridge Launchpad is a non-profit organisation founded and run by two current Oxford and Cambridge university students. Their mission is to propel the brightest minds to two of the most prestigious institutions in the world. They offer one-to-one mentoring, reviewing personal statements, assistance with admissions tests and mock interviews.
They also have a section called ‘Oxbridge Intelligence’. It’s a series of academic-style articles to enable A-level students to critically engage with their subject beyond the A-level curriculum in an accessible and non-intimidating manner.
A free, 8-day, residential programme to allow bright and curious sixth formers to explore ideas, methodologies, and opportunities for helping others and building a better world.
Strong applicants to Oxbridge and other competitive universities tend to have explored their chosen subject through wider reading outside the classroom. We call this sort of exploration ‘super-curricular’, as it builds on and enhances what you are studying in school. Oxbridge is looking for students who have an ability to think critically and independently, to argue logically while keeping an open mind to new ideas, and who have genuine passion and enthusiasm for their subject. Before submitting your application, you should think carefully about which courses and subjects inspire your curiosity and spark your passion.
Super-curricular activities are a great way to explore your subject in-depth and discover topics you are really interested in, and they can also help you to confirm that you’ve chosen the right subject to study at university. Super-curricular is different to extra-curricular. Extra-curricular activities are those outside of your chosen topic, and unrelated to your studies, whereas super-curricular activities take the subjects you study further, beyond what you have learnt at school or college.
They can help you make a competitive application, and prepare you for a challenging academic environment, so Oxbridge strongly recommend them. Super-curricular participation can enhance your personal statement, give you greater confidence in your subject choice, show that you are serious about your area of study, and give you a wealth of ideas to draw upon in discussions if you’re invited to interview.
It’s likely that you’ll develop new ideas and opinions, critical thinking and analytical skills, and an ability to understand new information from different sources – this is all great preparation for succeeding at university.
You can delve deeper into your subject in many ways, such as:
- Reading books, specialist magazines and journals
- Visiting museums and galleries
- Watching films and documentaries
- Listening to podcasts
- Attending online seminars and lectures
- Entering academic competitions
Cambridge has created a suggested reading list and resources gathered from the Cambridge departmental and College websites, other universities and other sources on the internet. These lists are NOT ‘required reading’ for Cambridge applicants. They simply provide some suggestions for places to start exploring your own interests in your chosen subject independently – you do not need to engage with any of the specific websites, books, podcasts etc mentioned and can easily find your own alternatives. The following lists are suggestions only.