Oxbridge applications: five things you should know

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 01 Dec 2015

You've got your work cut out for you, basically


If you’re applying to university next year and your predicted grades are looking pretty impressive, then chances are you’ve at least thought about the holy grail of university: Oxbridge.

Here are a few things you should know if you decide to go for it.

1. The application deadline is early

Applications to Oxford and Cambridge are early, the same as medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences.

The deadline is normally mid-October, so start on that personal statement as soon as school starts!

2. You should pick a specific college

Most people apply to a particular college within Cambridge or Oxford, rather than submitting an open application.

Think about what’s important to you: some colleges have particularly good English departments for example, or are in the centre of town near the action.

Remember: you’ll live in the college so make sure it’s a place you can see yourself being happy, at work and at play!

3. It’s very, very competitive

We know you know this already, but it bears repeating: there are very few places at Oxbridge and a lot of applicants.

Some subjects and colleges will require you to submit written work along with your application.

This should be work produced in the course of your A-levels, and should be your best and most interesting work.

Try your best and work hard on your application but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get an interview or a place at the college you’ve chosen: just going through the process is something you should be very proud of doing!

4. You might have to sit a test

Oxford and Cambridge do things differentlty to one another. Oxford requires candidates to take a test before offering interviews, while Cambridge holds tests at the same time as interviews by those who have made it that far.

Cambridge tests are also less centralised – not all colleges set tests, and those that do (which depends entirely on the staff’s preference) often set their own.

5. You will have lots of interviews

If you get through the first stage of an Oxbridge application you’ll be facing around two or three interviews.

These differ massively college to college, but around 75% of candidates will be given unseen material, such as a poem to analyse for English students.

At Oxford you may be “pooled” during your interview visit and meet tutors from various colleges, whereas Cambridge will only enter you into the pool after your initial interviews.


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