What are my chances for Oxford? Would I have better luck applying to Cambridge?

Hi all. I plan to apply to Oxford, but I do not want to waste my time if I have no chance of getting in. I would apply for a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. There are no required AP courses, but math is recommended and a history background is listed as useful. Outside of subject requirements, I would have to score well on the TSA and do well on the interview (if I’m selected). Outside of the TSA and interview, are my AP scores and ACT score high enough to even be considered?

AP Calc AB- 5
AP US Gov- 5
AP US History- 5
AP Seminar- 5
AP Chem- TBD
AP Spanish- TBD
AP Spanish Lit- TBD
AP Enviro- 4 (not sure if I should submit)
AP Physics 1- 3 (won’t submit)

ACT: 32 (minimum requirement)

I am most likely an above average writer, so my personal statement should be okay. My extracurriculars are pretty good, so I will try to incorporate related activities into my personal statement (eg. Girls State, leadership roles). My GPA is a 3.97 UW and 4.83 W from last semester. I know they don’t care as much about GPA and extracurriculars, so that is why I think I may not be as strong of an applicant as I would be for American schools, but I would love to be wrong about that.

If I were to apply to Cambridge instead, I would apply for Human, Social, and Political Sciences. There are no specific subjects required for that degree and there are not any pre-interview tests. I believe the Oxford program is probably better for me, but if I would have a significantly better chance at Cambridge, I will apply there instead. If one degree is much more or less competitive than the other let me know.

Also, if anyone has any information on how acceptances may work for Americans and how likely it is I would know before May 1st please let me know as I will not be taking a gap year.

Thanks so much!! In sum, I just want to know if I realistically have any chance and/or if I would be better of applying to Cambridge. Have a nice day everyone.

Yu can’t leave out AP scores you don’t like - you must submit all your standardised tests, for both Oxford and Cambridge.

You should know if you got an offer in December/January, but it might well be conditional on upcoming AP scores, so you would only know for sure after those come in.

Apply for the course you are most interested in.

= As a US student you are more likely to get an offer from Oxford than Cambridge, per @Twoin18 (CC’s expert on Cambridge; also recent info on PPE admissions).

= You have to report all your scores, even the ones you don’t like.

= Timeline is app in by Oct 15, TSA in November, Interview invitations around Thanksgiving, Interviews early Dec, Offers in January.

= IF you got an offer it would most likely be conditional on your Calc BC score, and could include 2 more from this year’s group. You can either deposit to a US college or ‘insure’ a different UK uni to be sure that you have a place if you get bad news in July.

= Last year 2179 students apply from the US (including UK citizens who are not UK domiciled); 181 were accepted.

PPE is a very popular choice with US applicants, so the tutors from all threes subjects

Thank you for that info! My only question is that for my first ACT I took it as a practice and I think I got a 29 (obviously not great), will I have to submit that too or do you mean just all my APs? Thanks :slight_smile:

This was what I wrote about Cambridge admissions a couple of years ago: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/united-kingdom/2091170-oxbridge-admissions-for-americans.html

Just because there’s no pre-admission test doesn’t make Cambridge an easier admit. If anything it makes it harder because you have to stand out even more in the interview, against UK students with much more practice in that interview format. Your leadership skills won’t matter much, though their application in a political setting might be more relevant.

The downfall for many American applicants is likely to be the lack of preparation for the academic interview (my S was ill prepared for the Economics interview and it showed - since you aren’t doing AP Micro or Macro you would also be at a disadvantage). I would strongly recommend reading at least some of the first year reading list for each of the subjects. Strong applicants will often have read a lot of it just out of general interest (I recall Godel, Escher, Bach being a cult read even for mathematicians when I was in college): https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate-admissions/philosophy-politics-and-economics-reading-list

If the above list seems intimidating then it is worth contemplating that there is a vast amount of work required for the course itself, crammed into short 8 week terms.

If you did get an offer then Cambridge ask for five 5s so any offer would likely include more conditions (they might not attach much weight to AP Seminar). But Oxford would probably ask for a 5 in Calc BC at least.

Yes, any official test result must be submitted. I hope you’ve been practicing hard for the TSA, the more marginal your other scores (and 32 is weak even though it is set as the “minimum” required, especially as the ACT is seen as less rigorous than the SAT) the better you will have to do on the TSA to get an invite. However, any individual test score isn’t disqualifying, assuming you are predicted all 5s this year.

A little data from the 2020 Oxford admissions cycle for you - there were 1,185 applications from non-UK domiciled students for PPE. 54 received offers. Are you applying this year or next?. If this year and assuming you won’t have another ACT/SAT score prior to UCAS submission, a very strong score on the TSA is your best chance of getting shortlisted for interview. I would focus on that. You’re also going to have to hustle to make arrangements for taking the TSA as many test sites here in the US aren’t available due to COVID.

I’m taking the SAT this weekend for the last time, so if I get like above a 1500 (I have gotten a 1440 before so it’s possible) then I think I’ll apply, but otherwise I’m starting to think I may be in over my head. I didn’t even know about the TSA until a few days ago because its not common for people in my area to apply to Oxford and I would have to make my school a testing center because the nearest centers are 7 hours away. I of course still want to apply, but I already have a lot of stress with extracurriculars, classes, and other applications, so I may not since there are so many additional steps applying to Oxford. Thank you for all this information, so I won’t go into this blindly. I’ll let you guys know if I do end up applying.

You have excellent stats. There are many other universities in the UK besides just Oxford and Cambridge. If you want to study in the UK maybe research some of the others that have the course you want. St Andrews is quite prestigious too and might be worth a look. I don’t know what scores you need there.

I’m a mom and my daughter is a junior and has become really dedicated to the idea of going to university in the UK or Ireland. She does not want to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but there are tons of other very highly regarded universities. I have found The Complete University Guide ( https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk ) useful for comparing universities. When we find one that seems to be a potential fit then we do a deep dive into the university’s website.

It does seem that pretty much the most important things for most UK universities are the test scores. GPA is not a big deal. I don’t think extracurriculars carry much weight at all from what I can tell.

So this is a very delayed follow up response, but I ended up applying to Oxford (and Edinburgh) for PPE! I got a 1490 on the last SAT and a 780 on EBRW, so I think that will help my chances for PPE and I should be okay with a lower math score since I got a 5 on Calc AB. I am signed up for the TSA and taking it in a few days. I’ve mainly been dedicating my time to applying to US universities though, so I’ll have other options if this doesn’t work out. I doubt I’ll get in, but I would never know if I didn’t try! I’ll probably only be able to go if its an unconditional acceptance unless there’s a way to put down a deposit for an American University while I wait for AP Scores. Anyways, thanks for your advice earlier because I ended up applying and (hopefully) filling out the UCAS correctly because of it. :slight_smile:

Thank you! I never responded to this, but just since you took the time to comment, I thought I’d let you know that I applied to Oxford, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews, so I did take your advice on that. Thanks!

Thank you for your comment. I definitely agree that I would be best off if I started reading PPE materials for the interview, but I don’t have the time for that as I am applying to 11 other colleges and all their honors programs and scholarships etc. If I do well on the TSA and get requested for an interview, I’ll try to do some last minute research, but unfortunately I just don’t have the time to dedicate to that with all my extracurriculars, other college apps, and 5 AP classes. Your comment helped me be more realistic about my chances though (I’d be very surprised if I got an unconditional offer after reading it), so thank you. I already got a 5 on Calc AB, so my hope was that that would be sufficient, but you’re probably correct that they would make it conditional upon a 5 on Calc BC if I even get an offer. Also, you’re definitely correct in assuming I am not very qualified for the economic part as I’ve never taken an econ class and have only done a little econ research in my free time. Sorry this reply is so delayed, but I thought I should follow up after you commented all that.

Good luck! Let us know how you get on.

If you do get an interview, please do try to find some time for background reading, even if means neglecting some of your ECs for a while.4

hey OP! how did interview decisions go? did you get one :slight_smile: