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Top tips for applying to Oxbridge

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, often known collectively as Oxbridge, are the UK’s oldest universities. They're also among the most reputed and esteemed institutions in the world. To many students, they embody the true academic dream and the possibility of joining the ranks of many notable, famous people in different areas of life - from politics to science.

Understandably, applying to one of these institutions can be very stressful, so we decided to write about top tips that might help with the dreaded admission process.

Choose your subject/course carefully

Despite an aura of exclusivity and prestige, the truth is that Oxbridge is really and truly for everyone. However, it's important to have a clear understanding of what you would like to study, not where. Other UK universities offering world-class education shouldn't be overlooked if they have more suitable courses. The same should be taken into account when deciding between Oxford and Cambridge. If unsure, you can choose a more broad course instead of a concrete subject - for example, Natural Sciences, if you are passionate about science in general, instead of Chemistry or Physics.

To get a better idea about the courses taught at Oxbridge, you can also attend Cambridge's Subject Masterclasses and Oxford's outreach events.

Extracurricular activities will help you shine

Any extracurricular activities related to your subject will be a huge plus. It includes volunteering, work experience in the summer, participation in competitions and olympiads (you don't have to win anything!), and research outside the classroom. You can also attend lectures and use additional resources for learning (books, documentaries, podcasts). For example, Oxford has a great free educational website called Oxplore for 11-18-year-olds that includes articles, quizzes, podcasts, and videos based on the latest research conducted at the university.

Describing in your personal statement what you learnt or found interesting about the material will also show your interest in the subject and help you stand out.

Study Oxbridge's suggested reading lists

Both Oxford and Cambridge have on their websites suggested reading lists sorted by subject - going beyond and above will make wonders for your personal statement and will help you shine during an interview.

Attend a Subject Open Day

Both universities are open for prospective applicants - visiting the grounds during Subject Open Days will give you a lot of valuable information and food for thought, which is very important for both personal statements and interviews.

Attend a summer school

Another great way to have a taste of university life and get plenty of helpful information and advice is to attend summer school/university taster courses. They're not necessarily expensive: for example, EDT Insight into University course has fully funded places, and Oxford University's UNIQ is a free programme that selects students based on their academic potential.

Write an impressive Personal Statement

There's no way around it. A personal statement is a great opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the subject: it should be academic, straightforward, honest and detailed, and include descriptions of any extracurricular activities you did and what you learnt from them.

Prepare for your Admissions Test

Depending on the course, you may need to take an admissions test as part of your application. Yes, it will be challenging, but there are plenty of options to prepare for it, including working through past papers and consulting a subject specialist.

Interview Practice

Interview with tutors/fellows from a particular college about your subject plays a significant role in the admission process. Sample questions can be found online, and the rest is preparation and practice.

Want to know more about what it's like to study in the UK and how to get into the best universities in the country? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for university entry in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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