Making an application to the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge 2015

UCAS International Advisor’s Conference

June 11-12, 2015

DAY 1

Session 1:

Making an application to the Universities of Oxford & Cambridge

  • These uni’s are separate from the others because the application process is different/earlier
  • Both uni’s are rated top 2 in UK, top 3 in Europe, top 5 in the World
  • Both uni’s have a LONG history of admitting intl students
  • NO broad base (i.e. lib arts) on any course; students MUST be absolutely committed to the programme
  • DON’T apply/come for the:
    • Brand name
    • Location
    • beauty
    • history
    • tv shows & movies
    • employability
  • DO apply/come for the:
    • ACADEMICS (tiny classes)
    • world-class teaching tutorials
    • facilities
    • college structure
  • challenging yet supportive; SUPER individualized
  • intl populations: Oxford – 17%; Cambridge – 19% NO quotas, only academics
  • Medicine: Oxford has 14 places for non-UK/EU students; Cambridge has space for 15
  • At OxBridge, 5 applicants per place, i.e. 20% success rate would be assumed, BUT because more than 50% of intl applicants apply to only 5 courses, admission ratio is actually 12-13%
  • Most popular courses for intl applicants: medicine, law, engineering, economics, PPE
    • Competition for these is keen and can be as much as 16 applicants per seat!
  • Oxford’s Econ & Mgmt course is a pure maths course with a bit more practical application
  • Being an open applicant (for colleges) will NEVER disadvantage your application chances
  • Oxford admissions: more exams-focused, most taken at test center in November
  • Cambridge:
    • extra paperwork (online)
      • UK students: SAQ
      • Intl students: COPA
    • Marked written work from school curricula helps to provide content for interview
  • Interviews:
    • Oxford – December
    • Cambridge – Sept to Dec.
  • Decisions out by end of January to allow for moderation and intercollegiate assignments
  • Admission criteria (with varying importance at each uni):
    • Pre-16 academic achievements
    • Post-16 academic predictions
    • Personal statement (PS)
    • References
    • Interview
    • Written work and/or adm tests
  • PS is used as the starting point for the interview…
    • Use 80% on ACADEMIC interests! “we love geeks”
      • Interest, excitement, engagement
      • Inspiration from current curriculum
      • Evidence of going over & above super-curricular
    • Remaining 20% is for everything else
  • Cambridge: about 16,500 applicants for 3,400 offers for 3,300 final seats
  • Oxford: about 18,000 applicants for 3,500 offers for 3,200 seats
    • Stats by country are available online!
  • Counsellor’s reference:
    • 10% about school, include link to profile
    • 80% on academic achievement including subject-specific commentary
    • final 10% could be final persuasive comments or (as necessary) any mitigating circumstances
  • Oxford tests: benchmark across the board to help as applicant pool is so diverse in terms of qualifications
    • Past papers and mark schemes on the Oxford site
    • Encourage students to do exams under timed conditions
  • Oxford interview: 60% will be interviewed… limited to about 3 per place
  • Cambridge interview: 80% interviewed
  • Generally for both universities: aptitude and suitability is the rationale for the conversation
    • Asking questions the kids don’t know answers to
    • Practice for what you would be doing at the university
    • Not about the “right” answer… it IS about the problem-solving style
      • “Can you do the basics before you do the complicated bits?”
        • i.e. examine the test, consider the evidence, etc
    • Don’t use the prep agencies the universities offer help, better & cheaper!
  • How do advisors guide students to choose between the two universities?
    • COURSE choices: names, specifics, modules
    • In the humanities: similar names, poss different approaches
    • In the social sciences: very different options/names
    • In the Sciences
      • at Cambridge, students study sciences together, specialize as you go along, but starting with generalization (both in sciences as well as in engineering)
      • at Oxford, students study within a specific area from day 1
  • COPA may be changing to limit the redundancies
  • COPA may also have an earlier deadline (compared to Oct. 15) in the future