The Journey So Far
The chances of obtaining an offer from Oxford or Cambridge (before confirming course and college choice, sat the Admissions Test and been invited up for interview) are roughly 20%. This figure is based on approximately 40,000 applicants chasing 10,000 places at the two universities. In our latest blog, we hear from some of the latest SGGS students to successfully receive offers and each student shares why they chose to apply, what the application process was like and their advice to others who might wish to replicate their success in future.
Over to the successful applicants …
I really enjoy both maths and computing. The two areas I'm most interested in exploring career-wise are quantum computing and artificial intelligence. These strongly crossover the two subjects so studying them in a joint honours course was the obvious option. I chose to apply for Maths and Computer Science at Oxford as I liked the academic environment and the tutorial system as well as the city.
I enjoyed the academic aspects of the application, working towards the MAT and the interviews, however I found the waiting in-between the hardest part. My Maths teacher Miss Bateman was really supportive and in preparation for my interviews, SGGS put me in touch with several mock interviewers. This made me feel more comfortable with the whole process. I still thought one of my interviews had gone terribly, so I was certain I wouldn't get an offer. It still hasn't properly sunk in! Even if you don't get in, you learn so much from the whole experience.
I applied to Cambridge to study Modern and Medieval Languages (MML) - French and German. Languages are really at the heart of culture and communication, and I’ve always felt that they encompass everything that there is to explore in life. Alongside learning the languages themselves, the subject also allows you to delve into other academic disciplines, like literature, philosophy and history. While looking at various Universities, I was struck by just how much freedom and variety was on offer as a part of Cambridge’s MML course. Things like student satisfaction, quality of teaching, league table position and university experience were of course still important to consider, but I found they were ultimately secondary to the course itself.
The application process was hard, as there were lots of hoops to jump through, but parts of it were surprisingly fun. The MFL department were greatly supportive throughout the whole process, and SGGS helped to set up a mock interview with AGS language teachers in December. The Sixth Form team were also always there to offer help when needed, which I really appreciated. Nobody should be put off by the stereotype of the ideal ‘Oxbridge student’ – there really is no such thing. If you are academically curious and passionate about your subject, then you have nothing to worry about. Follow your interests in Sixth Form and take every opportunity that you’re offered – anything you can do to develop your interests before University applications will be really beneficial.
Chemistry is my favourite subject at school, as I enjoy learning the theory and then actually getting to see it in real life during experiments. I wanted to apply to Oxford because during the fourth year of the degree you join a research group, normally within the University, and carry out a year of research – this was appealing to me as I think it will be a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight into a major part of the chemical sector. The small-group teaching that Oxford offer made me want to apply, as you get time with your tutors where you can easily ask questions – meaning you can understand the content better. I had also fallen in love with Oxford when we went with school, the buildings are beautiful and there is so much history that it will be a really interesting place to spend the next four years of my life.
SGGS provided me with lots of support with my application. It started in the summer with socially distanced workshops when we were beginning our statements. I had never had to write anything similar and so appreciated the advice on how to structure my response. The most valuable support SGGS provide is the arrangement of mock interviews, discussing chemistry with people I had never met before – as that is exactly how the interviews are conducted.
I wasn’t sure I had a chance but now I am so glad that I applied. Don’t worry if you think an interview has gone badly, as the tutors want to see how you think - it doesn’t necessarily matter if you get all the correct answers or not. I knew the chances were low, but after the initial shock wore off, I was proud of myself for getting an offer after a lengthy and challenging process.
I applied to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge University. I have liked understanding the world around me through science since GCSE, so I took Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths at A level. The natural sciences course at Cambridge was the most interesting to me in terms of structure and content. The application process was quite lengthy as beyond my UCAS application there was a further supplementary application questionnaire and a Cambridge specific personal statement. I also took the Natural Sciences Admission Assessment (NSAA) and was invited to an interview at my chosen college, which included an admission assessment over zoom. This is made to be difficult and you are not expected to be able to complete everything within the time limit allowed.
I received a lot of support from both my tutor and subject teachers during the application process which helped in improving both my personal statement and interview technique. I had multiple mock interviews within school through the mock interview programme, both for academic questions and general questions, receiving feedback and advice before the actual interview in December.
I would advise other students to start and complete their personal statement with time to spare and make sure that they have completed a variety of super curricular activities related to their subject area of choice. I would also prepare for the admission assessments as there are resources out there and it is useful to practice the style of questions that they ask under real-time pressure.
Art is a form of communication. It presents us with stories, ideas, and feelings: preserving the past and projecting a vision. This is what first sparked my interest in the subject, inspiring me to learn more about societies past and present. An emphasis on academic curiosity inspired me to apply to Oxford and The History of Art course. They work very closely with the nearby museums, so I can access all sorts of artworks and objects first-hand. The course is relatively new and encompasses a wide range of different modules, encouraging the exploration of modern and non-western art alongside the more ‘traditional’ art historical periods.
After taking part in their virtual UNIQ summer school (a week-long online event involving workshops, discussions and lectures alongside current students) I knew that this was the right course for me. The application process was definitely challenging, mostly due to the earlier deadline. If you’re applying to Oxbridge, you have to send off your UCAS application by early October, however, it’s a really rewarding experience. The application process is a great chance for self-reflection and it provides you with the perfect excuse to dedicate some extra time to exploring your chosen subject.
My best advice for anyone thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge is to keep on engaging with your subjects and questioning what you learn. Tutors care a great deal about their subjects, and they want to share that knowledge with someone who is just as enthusiastic about it as they are! I couldn’t believe it at first when I heard I had been offered a place. I remember reading back over the email just to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken the first time. It still feels completely unreal, but I’m very glad to have the opportunity - getting an offer really was a dream come true!