Don’t Set Your Heart On It
I know it’s a bit of a downer, and I’m sure you would look
fly in a sub fusc, but the fact is that 80% of people who apply to Oxbridge don’t get in. If you don’t end up making the cut, remember it’s not because you’re not smart or won’t be successful in life!
Oxbridge has acquired such a mythical status in the minds of students that it can seem like the be all and end all. Take a step back to see the big picture, and you’ll realise it’s not.
Pick A Degree Subject You Genuinely Love
all about the academics. They’re the only universities who ask you to miss off your extra-curricular activities in your UCAS form, and in your interview they’re sure to quick-fire questions about all aspects of your subject, including its relevance in current affairs.
Not only will swotting up on a subject you hate be incredibly boring, it’s also always pretty obvious if someone doesn’t actually have any enthusiasm for the thing they’re talking about!
Applying for English Literature and love Shakespeare? Yawn. Want to study History and think WW2 was a really big deal? Well, obviously.
If you want your application or interview to stand out, you need to be different from the other candidates. Mention obscure authors or practitioners in your field. Bonus points for looking up the speciality of the academic who interviews you and bringing up a unique fact about their field!
Go Beyond the Classroom
Oxbridge is looking for students who have something extra – extra knowledge, extra passion, extra thoughts. The staff will have a pretty good idea of which texts/topics are on the A-Level and GSCE syllabuses and they won’t be impressed by a candidate who limits themselves to what they learnt in the classroom.
Look for opportunities to show your interest in your subject goes the extra mile. And don’t just focus on extra reading. If there’s a nearby exhibition related to you subject, go! If there’s a place of particular significance which you have the chance to visit, do!
Realise There Are Things You Can’t Prepare For
The weird and wonderful interview questions that Oxbridge interviewer throw at their candidates (sometimes literally, if rumour is to be believed) are notorious. But the idea isn’t to trick you or make you look foolish – it’s to force candidates to think on their feet, and to get a gauge of their actual intelligence rather than their ability to prepare!
While preparation is always important, don’t panic if you’re asked something you didn’t expect. Relax, take you time, and let your personality shine through.
Don’t Think You Have to Be Perfect
Everyone has an idea of the ideal Oxbridge candidate, who is something of a cross between Prince Harry and Sheldon from
The Big Bang Theory. Remember that while Oxbridge are looking for the best of the best, they don’t expect sixth form students to be perfect, and they certainly don’t expect you to conform to a certain ‘type’ or look!
Don’t worry if you make a mistake at the interview or feel after you’ve sent your UCAS form that with one more redraft it could have been even better. No one is flawless, and Oxbridge staff will be looking for great potential rather than the most polished candidate they’ve ever seen.
Plan for Other Eventualities
Don’t wait to hear back from Oxbridge to plan what you’ll do if you don’t get in. There are loads of other options available, from taking a gap year and applying again, to attending a different university altogether.
Remember than no matter how prestigious Oxbridge sounds, there are loads of other great universities out there, which will be equally valued by employees and which might even be more suitable for you personally. Having a back-up plan in place means that you get start getting excited about your future, with or without Oxbridge.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To hire an intern or find graduate jobs London , head to their website.