Oxford and Cambridge are two of the UK's, oldest Universities and they consistently rank at the top, of the world's University League tables. But they are a little different, to other Universities in the U.K.
The biggest difference is going to be the College system, you apply to a College within the University. This is where you're going to be living, this is where you're going to be socializing, where you're going to be eating, where most of your time is going to be spent. While lectures and labs are going to be University wide, Tutorials, Supervisions and Seminars, are going to be College wide.
This means that not every College can offer, every single course, and there may be only one or two other people, at your college doing the same course as you. You can expect these Tutorials, these Supervisions to be very intense and very small. I've gone through all of the College's, at Oxford and Cambridge, and listed later in this chapter which courses they offer, at which College.
The timings and workload at Oxford and Cambridge, is going to be very different to other Universities. You can expect to be working weekends, you can expect the workload to be very high. However, you're only going to be at University, for three-terms and these three-terms are only, eight or nine weeks long. That's less than 30 weeks at University, across the whole year. So you have a lot of time to relax over those holidays.
While other Universities will have large lectures, Oxford and Cambridge do a lot of their teaching, in Tutorials or Supervisions. Due to the small size of the College's, these can often be one-on-one with some of the world's, leading academics. These happen on a daily or a weekly basis, and these can be quite intense, because if you don't know what you're talking about, you're really quite stuck and exposed.
Due to age of Oxford and Cambridge, some of the Colleges are very traditional, and very formal. Some of the newer ones are much more relaxed, but some of the older ones still insist that you wear gowns, to formal dinners which can happen weekly. These are sit-down, served three-course meals, where you're expected to go, and observe excellent etiquette the entire time. If this isn't your thing, then maybe you should look at a different University, or look at some of the more modern College's.
The last difference you need to know, about Oxford and Cambridge, is that you can only apply to one. You can only apply to Oxford or Cambridge, you cannot apply to both. And the deadline for applications is earlier, than the normal UK deadline, you have to apply by the 15th of October. Picking clothes is almost as hard as picking a University, because you need to find somewhere, that you're going to fit in, and somewhere you're going to be happy, for the next three or four years of your life.
You may have been dreaming about studying at Oxford for years, ever since you were small and knew what going to university actually was, but now time has come to make the decision, so how do you decide between the two? The tricky thing is you can only apply to one. You can only put either Oxford or Cambridge down as one of your choices on your UCAS application form.
There are quite a few things you need to consider when you're picking your college. You may have heard lots about one college, you may have had relatives, older friends that have gone to a different college, but they may not let you in.
You may have dreamt about going to Oxford and Cambridge for years now. But now that application time has actually come around and you have to pick a college, making that decision can be really tricky. If you can't decide on which college to go to, you can make an open application.
For Oxford and Cambridge, you apply directly to the college. But the colleges are very, very small. They may only have one or two spaces for each course, each year. Now, if you're an excellent candidate, but there are more excellent candidates at that particular college, then you may get sent to a different college. If a college thinks you are an excellent student, and you've only just missed out on a place there, because of the large number of excellent students applying this year, but on any other year they would have accepted you, because you are excellent, then at the Cambridge they'll put you into a pool or at Oxford it's called reallocation.
How to write a personal statement for Oxford or Cambridge
There are two things Oxford and Cambridge are looking for. They are looking for excellent grades and passion for a subject and you need to get these across in your, statement but writing a personal statement for Oxford can be hard because you cannot say in there “I've always wanted to go to Oxbridge for the whole of my life” because as soon as other universities see that, they're going to reject you straight away.
Additional entry requirements & courses & (SAQ)
With fewer year 12 students taking AS levels when you apply to university, you apply with only your predicted grades and your GCSE results. This has increased the emphasis on additional exams before interview to help selection of the best candidates.
If you're applying for Natural Science at Cambridge after you've submitted your UCAS application in October, there are a few more hoops you need to jump through. Before interview you’ll need to pass the Cambridge Natural Science Admissions Assessment or the NSAA. The content of this is going to be based on A-Levels and the most common A-Level combinations.
Interviews at Oxford and Cambridge are slightly different interviews at other universities. They're really testing you to see if you're the right person for that college.
When they decide who to interview, they're going to be looking at your predicted grades. They're going to look at your personal statement, your references, and for Cambridge, the supplementary additional questionnaire (SAQ) as well.