Oxbridge Superstars Show the Way

In case you haven’t heard, four of Year 13 have been successful in getting conditional places at Oxford and Cambridge. This means they have to achieve certain grades in their A Levels later this year. Typically, that means getting 3 or 4 A’s.

Lucy Musselwhite has a place at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge to study Archaeology and Anthropology; Uma Divekar has a place at Oriel College, Oxford to study Mathematics; Chris Leung has a place at Trinity College, Cambridge to study Engineering and Chris Pang has a place at Queen’s, Cambridge for Engineering. A number of others tried for places but were unsuccessful. Often this means that in this particular year at the college they applied to the competition was very stiff, despite highly creditable applications.

Applying to Oxford or Cambridge is always a bit of a lottery as you never know who the competition will be but it is still well worth a go. Equally, there are plenty of excellent courses at other universities and colleges in the UK and across the world; do consider university in the States and Europe as you might well enjoy a completely different experience.

Being successful is very uplifting but being unsuccessful means no more than there were not enough places for all the excellent candidates who applied. So why is one candidate prefered over another? Only the Admissions Tutor can answer that precisely but it is often the small things that tip the balance, whether you are applying for a university place, a job or volunteering. For example:

  • are you well-qualified and do you have a good track record?
  • how well do you present yourself in person and on paper?
  • what would you be like to teach or work with?
  • what other strings do you have to your bow i.e. music, sport, drama, work experience, leadership?
  • how well do you respond to new situations?
  • can you think on your feet and work things out from first principles?
  • do you have a sense of humour?
  • can you work in a team?
  • can you use your initiative?
  • do you give up easily or are you presistent?
  • can you take knocks?

Of these, the key starting point when applying to university is your track record in exams. Most universities will start by looking at your GCSEs and then your A level predictions and/or results in AS exams. They will also look carefully at what you say about yourself in your applciation and take into consideration what the School says about you in the confidental reference.

If you want to maximise your chances of getting onto the best course at university or college or a job you should start by doing the best you can at GCSE and A level and get involved in lots of activities at school and home. This was you can demonstrate what sort of person you are.

It’s never too early or too late to start. Good luck.

Mike Buchanan