Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most famous and respected universities in the world. They are often grouped together, especially when it comes to applying to undergraduate courses as they have an earlier application deadline (alongside medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses) and also have an incredibly competitive application process.
This page aims to set out some of the key considerations for applying to these institutions and signpost to support and guidance from the universities themselves.
What you need to know
In applying to study at Oxford or Cambridge, the key considerations are the same as for any university course. The most important thing is whether the course is suitable (think about course content, how it will be taught and assessed etc). Advice on choosing a course can be found in these videos from Cambridge and Oxford.
As these universities receive many strong applications it is important that applicants are on track to or have met the minimum requirements for the course as well as being enthusiastic about their chosen course of study.
Both universities have comprehensive guides and timelines to help students prepare and apply:
Both universities offer the opportunity for students to state a preference for a college (mini-campus) on the UCAS application. Advice on choosing a college at Cambridge can be found here and Oxford here.
As with applying for any university course it is essential to convey enthusiasm for the subject. A good way to show this is through super-curricular engagement. What does this mean? It means going beyond the school and exam syllabus and showing independent engagement with the subject(s) you are interested in. This could be reading books, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries or using reputable online sources. Some useful starting points include Oxplore, Staircase 12 and HE+
The deadline for applications to Oxford or Cambridge is 15th October which is earlier than most other universities or courses.
Applicants who are shortlisted for entry to Oxford or Cambridge are commonly asked to participate in an interview with a member of academic staff.
In collaboration with Neaco, the Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach, we recorded this short conversation of undergraduate students at Oxford and Cambridge, in November 2020, as they talked about their personal experiences of application interviews.
You can find detailed information and advice about what the interviews entail and what tutors are looking for on the universities’ websites.
Where can I find out more?
There’s lots of useful information provided by the universities which should be the first port of call when looking for information. They also have a joint network of support and resources which can be found here: Oxford and Cambridge Collaborative Outreach Network. Each of the universities can also direct you to their respective colleges and departments to explore in more detail.
Each university also has dedicated pages for family members and teachers looking to support young people in the application process; the links are below.
University of Cambridge: teachers, parents and carers
The video below was produced by UCAS in June 2022 and addresses some FAQs…
Who can I contact if I want further help?
Both Oxford and Cambridge have links with geographic areas across the UK.
More information about the key contact for each region can be found via the link below: