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Applying to Oxford/Cambridge from the US?

ElanorciElanorci Registered User Posts: 841 Member
edited January 2014 in Study Abroad
I've heard from a few people that the application process for Oxford/Cambridge when coming from the US is very difficult-- and, moreover, that admissions are extremely competitive. I've also heard that schools in England have a very different set of criteria for university admission.
Where should I look for information about applying, criteria, my chances, etc? How do US applicants compensate for things like O-levels? What advice would any of you CCers who've gotten in give me? Anything is appreciated.
One other thing: my mother is an alum of Cambridge (although unfortunately she doesn't seem to know much about how I would go about applying). Does this help me at all?
Thanks very much!
Post edited by Elanorci on

Replies to: Applying to Oxford/Cambridge from the US?

  • cupcakecupcake Registered User Posts: 1,703 Senior Member
    I've made loads of posts on this if you search for me.

    You have to apply to UK schools through UCAS
    UCAS Home Page
    Deadline for Oxbridge applications is 15th October 2008, if you want to start October 2009. If you want to be interviewed in the US it is even earlier (around 20th Sept). You can only apply to Oxford or Cambridge in any one year, not both (unless you are applying for an organ scholarship I think).

    The qualifications UK students takes aged 16-18 are called A-levels. You don't need to take them as a foreign student. O-levels don't actually exists in the UK any more, though there are qualifications of that name in Asia. They get lots of overseas applications and will understand your school results. If in doubt, e-mail the colleges you are interested in and ask. Basically APs in the subject you are applying for , or related subjects, are usually what they are interested in. GPA and class rank are meaningless because they don't want to know how you compare to your class. The question is how do you compare to everyone else who applies to read your subject? For example, if you apply for Physics, AP calculus will be of interest but AP Chinese will most likely be ignored.

    It is basically illegal to accept students due to legacy in the UK. People actually find the US concept of legacy shockingly unfair. I'm not saying it doesn't happen on occassion that someone's father knows the admissions tutor, but it isn;t allowed. I'd recommend not mentioning any legacy status. Don't give them reson to reject you to prove they're being fair.

    If your mother went to school in England she WILL know all the basics. i.e. ECs are ignored, you have to choose a subject when you apply and cannot switch, you apply to a specific Oxbridge college etc etc. None of this has changed in about 800 years as far as I know.

    Both Oxford and Cambridge have web-sites. Using them is helpful.
  • oldspcoldspc Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    Just to back up what cupcake said about legacy. There was a case a couple of years ago where Trinity College, Oxford rejected someone whose father was not only an alumnus but chairman of the college's fund-raising committee. The father kicked up a fuss and resigned as chairman, but the decision stood. Admissions decisions are basically made by the subject tutors in each college and of course they want students who are passionate about their subject and will be worth teaching, not those with the right parents.
  • ajadedidealistajadedidealist Registered User Posts: 203 Junior Member
    Hey. I've also made a bunch of posts on the subject, having just gone through the process for Oxford, but here's a short summary.

    a) Be sure to have a lot of APs, preferably before you apply, all (or most) of which are related to your chosen field. For example, for Theology, I had four APs: English Language, English Literature, Latin - Vergil, and European History. Ditto SATIIs (I did English Literature, Math IIC, and French). These, along with your written work (for some subjects), recommendation, Oxford-administered-tests (also for some), and all-important interview, as well as your personal statement, make up your application - NOT ECs, legacy, status, or even your course grades.
    b) Be ready to specialize entirely in one subject - be informed enough about that subject to discuss it in an interview.
    c) Personal statements are not what they are in the US. Your personal statement should be more about why you want to study your subject and why you are qualified than anything really personal/creative.
    d) Go to Oxford/Cambridge for the interview, rather than doing it in the US. While you can get in with an overseas interview, if you are interviewing at Oxford or Cambridge, you are interviewing WITH the tutors that will likely be teaching you for the next three or four years, as well as the people who generally make the decisions as to your admissions.
    e) (optional) Pick a college, rather than making an Open Application. Each college has its own specific culture and look. Though some of this is stereotype, and you may not get your first-choice-college, it's nonetheless good to do some college-research beforehand to get a sense of what kind of environment you'd like to live in.

    Hope that helped!
  • ElanorciElanorci Registered User Posts: 841 Member
    Wow. I didn't realize that the US legacy standard is so different. Thanks for the heads-up.
    All of your posts have been very helpful. I'm glad to hear that ECs don't count-- my strengths are definitely in academia!
    Thanks for all the info. :)
  • circumlocution2circumlocution2 Registered User Posts: 489 Member
    my school doesn't offer Ap's in the area i want to study-- am i doomed?
  • bearpoohbearpooh Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    "my mother is an alum of Cambridge (although unfortunately she doesn't seem to know much about how I would go about applying). Does this help me at all?"

    Neither does it help to have a brother or a sister at the university.
    I have one son at Oxford. His younger brother will be applying to Oxford this year for a different subject. However, the younger son's application will not mention any family connection.
    It would be counterproductive.
  • Mr BoboMr Bobo Registered User Posts: 113 Junior Member
    If your school doesn't offer APs in the area you want you'll most likely have to study them independently.
  • SarahsusiepakSarahsusiepak Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    based on a previous post, am I correct in understanding that if I wanted to go to oxford, I would have to choose a major to specialize in as a freshman? and also, is it possible to double-major at oxford and/or cambridge? Thanks!
  • oldspcoldspc Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    Yes, you apply to study a particular subject, and that is what you are admitted to do; it is the way English universities work. We don't call them majors because there are no minors. There are joint subjects, which will be listed in the university prospectus. If you want to study a joint subject again that is what you would apply for. Examples at Oxford include the very well known PPE (Philosophy, Politics & Economics), History & Modern Languages, History & Politics, Economics & Management, and Physics & Philosophy. There are others if you look at the Oxford website.
  • LaylahLaylah Registered User Posts: 450 Member
    ^^ I would just add to that, that while it is possible to study joint honours at Oxford it is NOT possible at Cambridge.

    The Cambridge system (the Tripos) allows you to take a different subject for Part I and Part II of your degree; however, your actually degree will be awarded for whatever subject you took for Part II. E.g. you could apply to study History, study it for Part I of your degree and then switch to Classics for Part II. You would then have a degree in Classics awarded at the end. When you apply though, you apply for one subject. Most people don't anticipate changing subjects for Part II.
  • blanche neigeblanche neige Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    Another question in regards to this topic - sorry if this sounds stupid/obvious, but I just registered for UCAS and I'm unsure whether I am applying 'through my school/college' or 'as an individual.' I am currently attending HS in the US and I will be asking one of my HS teachers to write my reference, but all this stuff about 'buzzword' is making me a bit unsure.
  • Zoek816Zoek816 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Recently, I have become interested in applying to Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. I have taken sciences AP's and SAT II's, but I have no idea what I need to know for taking the BMAT (the required test for applying to Medical Colleges in England). Can someone please help me?
  • raquel921raquel921 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Hey, I'm a US applicant for biomedical sciences in the UK. I've currently got conditional offers from Imperial College, King's College London and Univ of Edinburgh. Imperial required the BMAT for biomed, and I think many other unis (including Cambridge, like you said) require it for Medicine.

    In all honesty, I think the BMAT was the hardest exam I've ever taken. It helps to go to the Cambridge Assessment website and see the format for the test. Basically, there's three sections: (1) Skills and Aptitude, which is a lot of IQ-test and logic-type questions, (2) Scientific Knowledge, which includes Math, Chem, Bio and Physics problems, and (3) an essay on one of the several provided topics involving medical ethics, or something related.

    To study, I'd suggest just brushing up on your science skills...tbh I only took Conceptual Physics freshman year, and that seemed to suffice for the exam. The first part is kinda impossible to study for, but I'd DEFINITELY suggest familiarizing yourself with the essay format. I made the mistake of having no experience writing an essay in that style (it's very unlike anything you'd be given in the US) and as a result, my essay score was a bit interesting...

    Bottom line: the BMAT is tough, but definitely doable! Good luck, and feel free to ask anything else! :)
  • diplomonad1diplomonad1 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Would the IB exams suffice in lieu of APs? And do the APs have to be done by the end of junior year?
  • 082349082349 Registered User Posts: 2,228 Senior Member
    Would the IB exams suffice in lieu of APs? And do the APs have to be done by the end of junior year?
    The Cambridge website actually lists the IB entry requirements for each course.

    You must have at least done a few AP exams by the end of junior year. If they ask for 5 AP exams and you've only done 3 but plan to take 4 in senior year, they may give you a conditional offer for those AP exams in senior year should you be accepted.
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