Year after year, many Oxford University hopefuls find out whether they have, first been offered the infamous Oxford interview, and then they have performed well enough to be given an invaluable offer.
So here I have come up with a few tips and hints that you could think about incorporating into our Oxford application, to try and improve your chances. Note - this is just my opinion and shouldn't be taken as law.
The A Levels and Oxford Admission Tests
- Many state educated students aren't aware of the value that are placed on different A Levels, truth is that A Levels amongst many universities aren't seen as equal. So find out - what are considered 'respected A Levels', to be on the safe side.
- Once you have selected a subject you wish to study, be sure to select the right mix of 'respected A levels' for your course, obviously if you want to study French, it would be a good idea to choose French at A level, but what about your other options? - do some research into strong subject combinations for your chosen field.
- Make sure that you have the expected A Levels - sometimes Oxford pin points certain A Levels that are required for a certain degree. Then obviously be sure to be on track for their minimum entry requirement by hitting high A's in your AS levels. (If they are above 90% UMS - it is recommended that you have these mentioned in your reference). - I know Oxford University doesn't offer Economics on its own - however this, could be helpful.
- There are also Oxford additional admission tests, such as the LNAT for Law, be sure to put in some practice, by reading about them - doing past papers and so on.
The Oxford Interview
- You need to prepare for this interview, without coming across too rehearsed. So the best way to do this is, read around your subject - a lot. This will obviously show that you are keen on studying the subject, but it will also give you an in-depth knowledge that goes outside of the A level curriculum. - you can also carry out online courses for even more preparation (some even offered by Oxford University themselves).
- Don't prepare things that you are going to say, what they are looking for is how well you think, and how fast you think. There are certain books that out there such as 'Do you think you're clever?' where you can test yourself and practice.
- Have a swagger of confidence - remember you are trying to stand out, be prepared to argue and justify particular statements that you have made. If this doesn't come naturally, you need to find someone who will be prepared to challenge your statements and you have to argue back (in a suitable manner of course) - try and find someone who has an adept knowledge of your subject, greater than your own. Then you can almost learn certain arguments and techniques.
The Personal Statement
- The first point of call is that the personal statement at Oxford has to be in early - the deadline is around the 15th October, do be sure to start on your statement early - it is going to take a lot of time and effort to get this statement just right.
- There are several things you before writing your personal statement, and one of them is finding quality advice - my first point of call would be to head over to the online forum to 'the student room' who offer specific advice for your course, and check out good personal statement resources such as How to Write a UCAS personal statement.
- They then also offer a free review service - be sure to get your personal statement reviewed, but also ask teachers - not if it is good, but how can it be improved. Be sure to learn your personal statement also - you are bound to be asked questions around it, in your interview.
- Try and get in touch with Oxford University students who are studying your subject and see if they will take a look for you - and ask them to be critical.
The Extra- Curricular Activities
- Oxford University have expressed on may occasions they aren't too concerned about your EC's they just want to know your smart - e.g. running a marathon isn't helping you know about the Phillips Curve
- However, if the EC's can do this then (improve your academic ability in the field you wish to study), this is where you can differentiate yourself. Try and get EC's mentioned that actually do improve your academic knowledge of the subject - writing your own Law Blog for example - shows that you have had to conduct in further reading or shadowing a Judge etc.
The Right People
- Going to a school with a special relationship with Oxford University helps, but isn't essential - but if you know a teacher who has a connection with Oxford University (i.e they have studied there) ask them to write up your reference instead.
- Surrounding yourself with the 'know-how' and the 'right attitude' will help you to be motivated and subconsciously pick up the attitude - and tips and tricks.
Be Prepared to Work
- You obviously have to work for your A levels (showing you can do more than the minimum three, shows you can handle a greater work load - but that is a different debate entirely) - they want to see that you know your A levels well - so the higher the marks the better.
- You have to work around the degree you wish to study, this can be summer schools, extra reading is a must, try actually delving into material at undergraduate level to really impress them also.
Hopefully from the above you can take at least one thing away.
I wish you luck in applying, but remember Oxford isn't the be all and end all.