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Help, applying to Oxford :S

Xhizor92Xhizor92 Posts: 45Registered User Junior Member
edited August 2009 in International Students
I am currently a junior thinking of applying to Oxford, I am not familiar with the UK application process since no one from my school has ever applied through the UCAS system.
I have a few questions, hopefully u guys can help me on this stuff.

Btw I am in an American school, we only have the AP program.

Q1: What is the personal statement? What exactly do I have to tell the admins about myself? Is it like an essay, explaining my ECs or what?

Q2: If someone gets a conditional offer, do they have to decline all of their US acceptances and rely on their AP scores? If they dont meet their AP score requirements, are they basically doomed? :S

Q3: If I want them to see my October/November SAT scores, is that possible? Or do my final scores have to be submitted in with my application? (i.e. 15 October)

Q4: Do I need to get counselor/teacher recommendations?

Q5: If I am taking the SAT, do I have to take the admission tests offered by Oxford as well? Is there any prep needed?

Q6: For the interview, do international students have to go to England? Also, if we have to take the admission test, we have to go to England for that as well?

Q7: If I'm not mistaken, I think there are many colleges we can apply to, so are some of them more competitive than others? Are there any drawbacks of applying as an open applicant?

Q8: Can we apply to more than one 'areas of study', lets say that I am applying to PPE, can we choose as Philosophy as my second choice?

Q9: Some tips/suggestions while applying?

Feedback will be greatly appreciated. I am lost.
Post edited by Xhizor92 on

Replies to: Help, applying to Oxford :S

  • german123german123 Posts: 64Registered User Junior Member
    q1: no, uk schools dont care about ecs.. talk about your academics and the subejct you want to read at oxford and how you love it, how you get involved with it, why that is the subject you're interested in
    q2: if you don't meet your conditional offer, they will reconsider your application and possibly reject you
    q3: dunno, but dont think so
    q4: yes
    q5: yes you have to take them, but you can do fairly well without preparation... did the tsa this year and jus took the online practise test the night ebfore, did pretty well on that thing
    q6: you take the admissions test in a test ncentre nearby, and they will interview you on the phone... i went to england, but i'm german, but overseas ppl get phone itnerviews afaik
    q7: doesnt matter which youre applying to, when your applying to merton (which is the strongest college) and they think you're good enoguh for oxford but they don't have any more free spaces, they will put you in another college... your choice of college doesn't really influence your chances of admission...
    q8: dunno, but don't think so
  • ysberaysbera Posts: 558Registered User Member
    BTW you apply to all UK schools through UCAS. So it would be first helpful for you to check UCAS on how to apply. The process is very simple.

    Q1: What is the personal statement? What exactly do I have to tell the admins about myself? Is it like an essay, explaining my ECs or what?

    Its more about your passion and reason for why you chose your subject. It isn't like a US college essay, there is waaaay less emphasizes on your ECs. Its about your passion and why you are suitable for the course you chose. Of course you can talk about your EC's if you can tie them into your course. Please google UCAS Personal Statement to find more information. This is a huge question.

    Q2: If someone gets a conditional offer, do they have to decline all of their US acceptances and rely on their AP scores? If they dont meet their AP score requirements, are they basically doomed? :S

    Not sure about the fist part. But yea they will give you conditional offers based on your AP scores most likely. If you don't meet your offer conditions then yes you are screwed. Sorry.

    Q3: If I want them to see my October/November SAT scores, is that possible? Or do my final scores have to be submitted in with my application? (i.e. 15 October)

    Normally interviews are handed out in December. Not sure but November SAT scores seem a bit late. October seems fine. Remember to have your counselor email them personally, not you, when you want to update your scores.

    Q4: Do I need to get counselor/teacher recommendations?

    Yes you need one referee letter. Please search in put in google UCAS Reference Form.

    Q5: If I am taking the SAT, do I have to take the admission tests offered by Oxford as well? Is there any prep needed?

    It depends on the course you apply to. If you apply for PPE you need to take the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) which is in November 5th I presume (at least for this year). I need no preperation for that test, its more about a test of critical thinking skills. The test is divided into two parts. Google search TSA PPE

    Q6: For the interview, do international students have to go to England? Also, if we have to take the admission test, we have to go to England for that as well?

    Search on the TSA website for test centers in your areas. You should not need to fly to UK for the exams as it is normally offered in all British Counsels. If you live in a big city, tutors often come and will interview you but you will need to sign up earlier before October 15th. If I remeber correctly at Oct 1st. They might also offer you a telephone interview. PPE is higgly selective, not everyone gets an interview though, unless you signed up for an international interview.

    Q7: If I'm not mistaken, I think there are many colleges we can apply to, so are some of them more competitive than others? Are there any drawbacks of applying as an open applicant?

    They say there is no bias agaisnt open applications I am not sure. Yes you apply to a specific college. Please go on the school's website and see what colleges offer your course. But really the college you select should be the one you like the most.

    Q8: Can we apply to more than one 'areas of study', lets say that I am applying to PPE, can we choose as Philosophy as my second choice?

    No, you study PPE as a whole but you can choose different optional modules.

    Q9: Some tips/suggestions while applying?

    Please read the UCAS website, the universities website, TSA website and do some google search. The answers to your questions can be easily found on the internet.
  • Xhizor92Xhizor92 Posts: 45Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks a lot guys. I will definitely google the stuff to familiarize myself with the UCAS system.
  • spangie.phalangespangie.phalange Posts: 44Registered User Junior Member
    I go to a British school so I'm quite familiar with the UCAS system. I know about 10 people who applied to Oxbridge from my school and 3 got in. 2 the oxford and 1 to Cambridge.

    Q1: Yes the Personal Statement is an essay about yourself. It's not as creative as the American Ones, so no anecdotes. BUT they DO care about ECs. Especially leadership. You have to talk about the major you plan on applying for, what it means to you, why you have chosen that major and how your ECs and work experiences link to why you are suitable to study that course. That all has to fit in 47 lines. Also, if your only applying to Oxford then say why oxford is special. But if not, don't mention any schools because the same essay gets sent to ALL your universities.

    Q2: Yes people get conditional offers. It's a way of making sure that you don't slack off. If you don't make your offers, it doesn't mean your doomed. People usually calls up the University and tell the adcom the grade they achieved. The adcom will make a decision right then and there. BUT since it's oxford, I don't know their track record for letting in student who don't meet offers. Just to be safe, you can pay a deposit to the American Universities you've applied for to hold the spot until your AP results come out. That's what my friend did last year when she got accepted to Wharton and Oxford.

    Q3: To be honest, Brits really look down upon SAT scores, they are a wee bit arrogant and think the SATs are "a dumb American invention" so unless you SAT scores are amazing, they won't bat and eyelash at them.

    Q4: YES. The counselor/teacher recommendation is one of the most important parts of the application.

    Q5: Oxford doesn't give entrance exams anymore. When they did it was nothing related to the SAT. It was usually an essay. BUT if your applying for Law you'll need to take the LNATS and BMATS for Medicine and UKCATS for a few other subjects. You can probably find the preparation books online.

    Q6: They provide local interviewers. If you request for an Oxford interview, your chances of acceptance decreases. Don't ask why. I'm not sure of the logic behind that either.

    Q7: YES! Oxford colleges are both academic and residential. They are in a sense smaller colleges inside a bigger one. So if you go open, you don;t stand out as much to individual colleges. Also some college are FAR better at a certain subject than others. You can find out by going on the colleges website and looking at the professors list. If there are a lot of Economics professors, the college is really strong in economics. Plus, if you get rejected from one college but they think your still Oxford material, you application will be sent to ALL other colleges for them to review. This is called pooling.

    Q8: No you can only choose 1 area of study. It's the whole UK system where you know exactly where your going and what you want to do with your life at the age of 17/18.

    Q9: A British admissions officer will not spend more than 3 mins reviewing your application. 30 seconds is spent on you grades, and about a minute is spent on your personal statement and teacher recommendation. Your decision will be based upon a good first impression so you really have to stand out! Then they will either reject you or offer you an interview. UK interviews a very important unlike the American ones. They will ask a lot of academic questions and not so many personal questions. My friend who go accepted in Oxford PPE got asked what was the Economic formula for Happiness.
    If you are applying for PPE too, keep in mind that it is the MOST competitive course at Oxford. You'll have to have a good understanding of all 3 areas plus a good background in Math. Calc is a pre-requisite.

    Hope this helps and Good Luck! :)
  • portugueseninjaportugueseninja Posts: 1,703Registered User Senior Member
    The posts above are very helpful but I just want to add a bit about ECs.. there isn't really a part on the application to mention them, British schools don't really care that you were leader of the science club and play lacrosse, basketball, polo, on the swim team, volunteer at your local hospital playing chess with terminally ill patients, played the tuba since you were 4, won a national modeling contest and will probably be named valedictorian.

    American college applications want to know who you are as a person and how well rounded you are for the varied curriculum. English colleges you apply to ONE course and study that ONE thing. The only ECs that matter are any that are DIRECTLY RELEVANT to the course you want to do. Your personal statement needs to be concise but factual, well written and needs to show your passion for the subject.

    For example, when I first applied to University I was applying for an acting degree and my personal statement was about the part of my Theatre Studies A Level course where we had to write, direct and perform a play. I wrote about how much I enjoyed that and that it inspired me to want to pursue acting. I also mentioned that some friends and I had joined together outside of school to make a collection of short films just for fun. I didn't do any theatre related ECs within school or anything and it didn't matter.

    Another example, my friend John wanted to study engineering and his personal statement was about how he's always been fascinated with the way things work, and the things in his Science A Levels that he enjoyed and that he wanted to study engineering to further his passion for the subject.

    The English and US systems are so different, do a lot of research to familiarise yourself with it and the application won't be too stressful. Good luck!
  • Xhizor92Xhizor92 Posts: 45Registered User Junior Member
    So lets say I want to study Economics at an English College. That means I wont be allowed to study a foreign language with it :S

    I have researched and all English schools offer a stirct field of study. Does this mean that I am not allowed to take any course outside that specific field?
  • AgneisseAgneisse Posts: 556Registered User Member
    Some universities may have 'Economics and Language X' courses.

    Generally, if you apply to study Subject X you will study Subject X. However there may be a chance to take related papers, for example if you studied English at Cambridge in the first two years you can take one foreign language paper (out of 6 or 7 or so), but it will be with an aim to study literature and a minor part of your course. There are extracurriculars like journalism etc. for your external interests and if you can find the time lectures of other subjects may be open to you. But don't go to the UK for university unless you know you want to study this subject for three years.

    About Question 2, if you have a conditional offer I will *strongly* recommend you also deposit at a US university so if you miss your grades you can still go to uni. This is what a friend did; she had a place, missed her IB grades and will now be going to a US university instead.

    Personal statements are more like "I want to study Biology because I study Bio and Chem at AP and I really love those classes/read books by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould/attended a talk by Jane Goodall/did research at the NIH on invertebrates/shadowed James Watson in his lab for a week", with some stuff about what you learned etc. This takes up the majority of the PS. Then there's ~a paragraph about extracurriculars which may or may not be course-related. Some unis have begun to consider ECs, others care that you have some gas left in you to study more difficult things, others may want to know you have a life outside academics (any life) to de-stress so you won't become a NHS liability during your course :P But the focus is definitely solid academics rather than the dramatic sob stories we like to tell in US essays (:
  • chamchaachamchaa Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    Hi (first post, wohoo!)

    As someone who edits UCAS personal statements on a regular basis I can say that the main initial points to consider are:

    - who you are
    - what makes you suitable for the course, in terms of relevant experience you have gained, achievements etc.
    - why you want to study the SPECIFIC COURSE, rather than why you want to study in England.

    Most English Universities do offer combined courses such as Law with French etc. so it is worth searching the websites of the Universities you are interested in.

    If you still want help with the personal statement I would recommend you visit the website I work for. However due to the forum rules I am not allowed to "advertise" the website, so send me a private message if you want more information.

    Good luck!
  • cajunkingcajunking Posts: 31Registered User Junior Member
    I sent you a private message!
  • LaylahLaylah Posts: 440Registered User Member
    Xhizor, your first step should be to look on the UCAS website, in conjunction with the Oxford website. It will simplify the process greatly for you.

    Everyone else has answered your questions, so I don't have anything to add. But I went to Oxford for my undergraduate degree - did finals in 2008 - so if you have any specific questions about the academic or social life there, feel free to PM me.
  • bruno123bruno123 Posts: 1,390Registered User Senior Member
    Q5: Oxford doesn't give entrance exams anymore.

    Actually Oxford still gives aptitude tests for several courses, including Mathematics , Physics , History , and English .
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