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The Ultimate Guide to Oxbridge Applications: Part 4

Last Updated: 17 Nov, 2017

In the final part of our Oxbridge applications series we look at the various possible responses you could receive in answer to your application.

We now come to the fourth and final part of our blog series on getting into Oxbridge. We’ve gone through the entire process of application, from choosing a college and submitting our UCAS form to taking admissions tests and attending interviews, and have spent the last few months waiting in dreaded anticipation of the day when we’ll find out if we’ve been offered a place or not.

This final post is quite a short one, and concerns the contents of that results letter. You might ask why we need to cover this at all — surely you either get in or you don’t? Well, as it happens things aren’t that simple. In fact, there are a variety of outcomes beyond acceptance or rejection, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

Eventuality 1: You haven’t been offered a place

I begin with the outcome that no-one wants for the simple reason that it’s the outcome that most people get. Of the roughly 40,000 applicants to Oxford and Cambridge each year, around 8,000 receive places. But if you didn’t get in and you’re reading this now, don’t lose heart. If you’re set on going to Oxbridge, you don’t have to take no for an answer. Take a year out and apply again next year. If you’ve already done a gap year, take another. There’s often the temptation to think that you have to go to university immediately after leaving school, but this simply isn’t the case. A gap year (or two) affords you the chance to grow and develop before the rollercoaster of university life. Many graduates will tell you that they wish they’d taken a bit of time out before starting and had a break from academic work, particularly since Oxford and Cambridge demand a lot from their students. A gap year can also offer you the opportunity to explore your chosen subject further and strengthen your application. Doing a pre-university courses, travelling somewhere relevant, doing work experience, writing a blog about your subject, and reading lots of books will all help you the next time around.

It's also important to say at this point too that Oxford and Cambridge aren’t the only universities in the UK, nor are they universally the ‘best’ across the subjects. If you wanted to study engineering, for example, Imperial College London would be a fantastic choice; Durham has a great reputation for English, and Swansea scores very highly for Medicine. Not getting into Oxford or Cambridge doesn’t make you a failure, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be a success, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to end up on a prestigious, competitive course. If you want to apply again you can, but there are likely plenty of other university courses which will be a great fit for you too.

Eventuality 2: You’re pooled to another college

As we discussed in Part 2 of this series, it’s possible for your application to be strong enough to warrant you getting a place, but not at your first choice college. At Cambridge this results in you being placed in the Winter Pool, where your application is opened up to other colleges that didn’t receive enough applications in your subject. If you’ve been pooled, first of all well done! The university have decided you’re good enough for them. Now though you’ll have to wait and see if you get picked up by another college. If you do get a phone call from another college they may make you an offer there and then or ask you to come up to the university for additional interviewing. At Oxford the situation is slightly different, in that you might receive an offer from your first choice college, from another college that you also visited for interview, or from a completely different college that didn’t interview you at all!

If you don’t get into your first choice college — but do get awarded a place — you might feel a little disappointed. The truth, however, is that you have been offered a place at Oxbridge and should feel very proud of yourself. No matter what college you’re at you can take part in university debating, hang out in other college bars, join other colleges’ choirs, play for university-wide sports teams. What’s more, you might love the college you end up at without having known anything about it previously. You might have applied to one of the huge, grand colleges, and only being on pooled find that you actually prefer quieter, more intimate surroundings.

The final point I’ll make though is that you’re going to be a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge ahead of whichever college you’re at, so your college is only as important as you choose it to be.

Eventuality 3: You receive an offer

Whether you’re pooled or not, the ideal situation is to receive an offer. Most offers are conditional, requiring you to meet your grades in your exams in the summer. If you apply after having received your A-Level results you’ll be given an unconditional offer (since you’ve already met the conditions).

If you get an offer- congratulations! Your college will get in touch over the next few days to take you through the steps required to take up your place.

So there you have it, the final part of our Ultimate Guide to Oxbridge Applications. We hope you’ve found the series useful, and if you’d like to speak to one of our dedicated consultants about Oxbridge applications you can contact us via the website or over the telephone at +44 203 397 7744.

If you yourself are applying to Oxbridge, try to relax, learn (and read) as much as you can, and enjoy yourself! Good luck!

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