Let me start by saying that it is not beyond the realms of possibility for a student from a ‘normal’ background to get in. And by ‘normal’ I mean a working or middle class student that has gone through the regular school system. Every year the team at MST and I provide invaluable help to students from a variety of backgrounds with getting in to Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
However, gaining entrance to these prestigious institutions does not happen by chance. Rather, a great deal of planning and no small amount of academic achievement is essential to secure a place.
Let’s start with grade achievement. There’s no getting away from the fact that in applying to Oxbridge, the competition will be fierce. Many students have dreamt of nothing else as far back as they can remember and have been ‘hot-housed’ in an effort to turn the dream into reality. You are simply going to be up against the best of the best.
For others, there’s a family tradition to uphold, with numerous generations having passed through the hallowed halls.
There has been an increase in the levelling of the playing field to allow for social inclusion. However, most applicants will not fit the criteria and therefore one cannot rely on this as route. This applies not only to Oxford or Cambridge, but to many universities and most certainly to Russell Group establishments.
Assuming top grades are achieved, we then look at your personal statement. This is an area where students go wrong and fail to put their best foot forward surprisingly often. If in doubt, research this topic fully and seek advice from those who have succeeded where you aim to follow. The information is out there!
Having put together a top-drawer personal statement, you then need to thoroughly prepare for the interview process itself. To say it is intense is an understatement! It goes without saying that you will be asked about yourself, who you are and what you’ve done.
You’re also going to be grilled about what you want to do and please do have an original and authentic answer to this question: Why do you wish to attend this university over and above all others?
Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Furthermore, assuming you continue to progress in the process, you will undergo various reasoning questions designed to show how you think. Can you think on your feet whilst remaining in control of your thoughts and responses?
How well can you articulate your view point or position alternate or even opposing views to an original question or supposition? Are you able to think laterally and to consider the bigger picture?
Of course, let us not forget your chosen subject. You will be expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding and to be able to articulate clearly and, in all likelihood, to have a broader knowledge than that which is formally taught to A Level. This will demonstrate whether your subject is something you enjoy, do well at and more importantly, are truly passionate about.
As you can see, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to getting into Oxford and Cambridge. A successful application will require as much focus as the exam results to date that have made it possible to even apply.
As someone who gained his PhD from Cambridge University and who has tutored numerous students to successful Oxbridge entrance, I have a great deal of real-world insight I’d be happy to share with anybody that is embarking on this journey.
If this is you, feel free to contact me here.