Why You Should Consider Applying to Oxbridge

Updated: 29 September, 2020 15:38 IST | A correspondent | Mumbai

The University of Oxford was ranked the best by the Times Higher Education and fifth in the QS World University Rankings, while the University of Cambridge was ranked sixth and seventh respectively.

When it comes to prestigious universities, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (jointly referred to as Oxbridge) are high on student's lists. Both are among the oldest institutes in the English speaking world–founded approximately 800 years ago–and boast a unique teaching style and traditions. In terms of rankings, they both feature in the top 10 of any ranking list. This year, the University of Oxford was ranked the best by the Times Higher Educationand fifth in the QS World University Rankings, while the University of Cambridge was ranked sixth and seventh respectively. What's more, some renowned politicians, writers, industrialists and eminent personalities have called Oxbridge home including Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Vir Sanghvi, Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sir Dorabji Tata, Girish Karnad, Karan Thapar and Amartya Sen, to name a few. And when it comes to employment, being an Oxbridge graduate can open up doors in the job market, even giving you an edge when it comes to salaries. If you still aren't convinced, here are some more reasons why you should consider applying to Oxbridge:

1) Academics
When you study at Oxbridge, you have to select a major in advance and that is what you focus on during your time there. The philosophy at Oxbridge is to delve deep into aparticular subject and understand it fully. For instance, if you want to major in history, you will only study history during your three years at Oxbridge. You will not be exploring any subjects in the sciences or languages.

2) Tutorials or Supervisions
At Oxbridge, you will have one or two hour-long weekly tutorials/supervisions with an academic expert (usually a professor) in your field, either in a small group or individually. You will discuss academic topics and may even be required to submit a problem set or an essay before the tutorial. This system pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.

3) The College System
As a part of the Oxbridge system, you will not only be a member of the academic department of the university, but also part of a college. Your college becomes your base during your time as a student. It is where you will live, dine and socialise. At the University of Oxford, you can apply to one of the 45 colleges, while at the University of Cambridge you can apply to 31 colleges.

4) Traditions
From wearing a uniform for examinations (at Oxford) to wearing a full academic dress to formal dinners (at Cambridge) and dressing up for May balls, Oxbridge is steeped with traditions that are quirky and unique.

Applying to Oxbridge:

Getting an acceptance from Oxbridge is extremely competitive. Each year, approximately 20,000 students apply and approximately only 15 percent receive offers. The application process is specifically designed to identify students who are academically inclined. At the undergraduate level, you can apply to either Oxford or Cambridge, not both. Your application is made through a centralised platform called UCAS by October 15 of your grade 12 academic year. About 85 percent of courses require you to sit for a specific entrance exam in early November. For example, if you want to study economics and management at Oxford, you have to sit The Thinking Skills Assessment test. If you fare well in the exam, you are invited to campus for an academic interview, which takes place in the first two weeks of December. Usually, about 50-75 percent of candidates receive interview invites which are conducted in-person. However this year, both the universities have announced that interviews will be conducted online. Successful interviewers are given a conditional offer by January 12. Your admission is only confirmed after you receive your grade 12 exam results and you achieve the grades specified by Oxbridge.

With the UK government reinstating the two-year work visa for international students, studying there has never been more attractive. While you may be tempted to apply to Oxbridge, you need to carefully consider your profile and if they meet the high standards of the universities.

Students may be tempted to hedge their bets and apply to competitive universities such as the Ivy League universities in the US. Students that are competitive candidates for Oxbridge may not necessarily be successful at highly ranked US universities and vice versa. For Oxbridge, you really need to know your subject well and academic ability is the main criteria for admission. For US universities a well-rounded student, who is strong academically, but also contributes to the community, has an intellectual curiosity and is able to articulate this in the application is more likely to be successful.

Written by Namita Mehta, who has been in the college counselling space for more than eleven years. She establshed the University Guidance Counselling Department at B.D. Somani International School in Mumbai before joining The Red Pen where she currently serves as President.

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First Published: 29 September, 2020 13:24 IST

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