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The Truth about Oxbridge

With so much media attention, it’s not a surprise that there are numerous rumours and myths surrounding the prestige of Oxbridge.

I interviewed a few Year 12 students, who are currently contemplating their university choices next year, to find the top three myths surrounding Oxbridge, with the hope of shedding some light on them.
I also spoke to Tania, a current first year biochemistry student at Oxford, to get her own personal opinions on the reality behind the myths!

Myth 1

  • I’m unlikely to be accepted if I’m not from a private school, so there’s no point applying.
  • The truth: Oxford actually admit more students from state schools (57.7% in 2011) compared to independent schools (42.3%). While the percentage of independent school students is higher than other top universities, it actually reflects the applications: only 64.3% of students applying to Oxford in 2011 were state educated. There’s no discrimination – as long as you apply and fulfil the entry requirements, you stand a reasonable chance.
  • Tania’s View: Statistically, every department has a quota of private to non-private school students that they have to admit, which helps give all students an equal chance and prevents any discrimination. There are a fair number of students from private schools, but that’s probably more to do with the fact that they have more training for the interview and personal statement, rather than their background alone. In reality, all the university are looking for are good students with a talent in their subject.

Myth 2

  • Everyone there will be really posh... I won’t fit in.
  • The Truth: Oxbridge do not discriminate against race, class or background, so you’ll come across people from a variety of people during the course of your studies. It is true that many of the older colleges have traditions that could be described as being ‘posh:’ for example, if you were to attend Trinity College, Cambridge, you would be expected to say grace in Latin before dinner each evening. However, you can choose to apply to one of the newer colleges, or an older college with a more modern outlook.
  • Tania’s View: The students in Oxford come from all branches of life and one of the great things about the university is how accepting and open-minded everyone is. It’s not hard to find like-minded people, and you certainly won’t be excluded or looked down on because of your background. At my college, there are lots of formal dinners and balls, but they are just something fun as they are usually new to most students!

Myth 3

  • I’m not clever enough to apply to Oxbridge.
  • The Truth: Many people believe that they will have no chance at Oxbridge without perfect grades at both AS-level and GCSE. While Cambridge do put a lot of emphasis on near perfect AS-level scores,  and you do need sufficient A-level predictions, other variables are taken into account, for example, interviews and submitted written work. Pre-admissions tests help Oxbridge assess academic potential outside the classroom, so it is not based entirely on exam performance.
  • Tania’s view: Oxford University are looking for people with a genuine aptitude and enthusiasm for their subject. You do have to show some evidence of academic success – but having said that, they also look at each candidate individually in holistic assessment, judging things such as enthusiasm and attitude. A common misconception is that everyone at Oxford is a genius with 12 A*s at GCSE, but in reality the average is six to seven A*s, and tutors often don’t expect students to get every single question correct in interviews!

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