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Some questions about Oxbridge

JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
Hey guys, I'm an incoming junior from the US. My goal is to attend Oxford university for bio, but I have a few questions. First off, for American students the requirement is 5s on 3 related aps. I've already gotten a 5 in calc bc and bio, but got a 4 in chem, so other then physics, what other courses count as related (haven't taken physics yet)? Also, for bio, which school would be easier to get into? I know that you can only apply to one, and recently I learned that cambridge had a much higher acceptance rate. I am however also going to apply to Imperial, UCL, and Edinburgh, so if you have any relevant info, please let me know
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Replies to: Some questions about Oxbridge

  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1108 replies25 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The 4 in chemistry will be a problem. And yes, you do have to declare it.

    Neither is easier really. There is a significant difference between Oxford and Cambridge; at Oxford you will be studying just bio, while at Cambridge the course is Natural Sciences, so you would study other sciences as well.

    You could probably get in to Edinburgh, but all the others you list will be a challenge with that 4 in a science AP.
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Would it help that I got a 780 on the chemistry subject test? Next year I am also planning on taking AP physics 1 and 2, ap psych, and AP stats. In senior year I will also take calc 3 and organic chem, neither of these are ap classes but both are college courses. I also have some pretty strong extracurricular related to bio
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1108 replies25 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Oxford does accept SAT subject test(I don't think Imperial does). I would still be concerned about the AP score though. As you are continung chemistry studies, do you have the option to retake the AP test?
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    I do have the option to retake, but it would be a huge hassle and I'm not sure if it would be worth it. According to their website, oxford only requires 5s on 3 related aps, and if i get a 5 on either phys 1, 2, or c, it would fulfill that requirement. That aside, I will be taking 8 ap courses my junior year and redoing the chem exam would require a whole new session of studying. I'm confident in getting 5s on my future aps, as this year my focus was calc bc, which is the hardest class at my school
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    I'm also not super worried about the interview. I know theyre supposed to give thought provoking questions, but through an internship at Salk Institute and years of volunteering at UCSD, ive had to do experimental design on multiple occasions and i have exposure to microbio techniques and applications. I'm also going to take ap environmental science senior year to prep myself for everything
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1463 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    “I'm also not super worried about the interview.”

    Then you should be. They are about finding the smartest people, not about whether you’ve had “exposure to microbio techniques and applications”. The interviewers don’t want to know what you know, they want to know how you think. It is such an intense experience that many candidates can recall their interview years or even decades later.

    The reason a 4 on an AP is a red flag is that these exams are easy compared to the rigor of UK A-levels (although they may be a bit more forgiving for an AP taken as a sophomore). And nowadays most candidates get a lot of interview prep too, which puts US students at a big disadvantage. Will your teacher reference say you were their best student in the last 5-10 years?

    To stand out in sciences, participation in Math/Bio/Chem/Phys Olympiads is highly valued (probably more so than your internships since that’s not really a thing high school kids would do in the UK). Try doing one or more of those next year. Remember that maybe half a dozen kids per year from CA will go to Oxford across all subjects combined.
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Thanks for the feedback, I'm not trying to say the interview is easy, I'm just saying ive had similar experiences with meetings ive had with my PI where I had to create a procedure from a hypothesis. As for my other ECs, I'm an officer in an ecology club at my school, I was in the math team for 2 years (might drop), and I'm in my schools sci oly team. As for the internship, I created a poster (this sounds stupid but its only one step down from publishing a paper), and I might get my name on a published paper in the future (not first name but at least a spot).
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1463 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    “I'm an officer in an ecology club at my school, I was in the math team for 2 years (might drop), and I'm in my schools sci oly team.”

    Being in the team is irrelevant. Winning the state championship, qualifying for the AMO, etc (as an individual) would provide a significant boost.

    The key thing is that what matters in the UK is very different to the US. Read this from the head of Oxford admissions if you haven’t already: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/7965715/Universities-uninterested-in-pupils-extra-curricular-activities.html

    “It really doesn't matter if you haven't got any friends or hobbies or if you don't do any charitable work ...[Acceptance] is a purely academic judgement."

    He said universities were only interested in "enthused, engaged and excellent" candidates, rather than "second-rate historians who happen to play the flute".
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Yes, I know that british universities dont care about ECs, which is why I only pointed out my bio related ones. But again, ive done actual work in biology for a university and can get a reference letter from my PI about all I've done. Back to the main point, I know a 4 in chem isnt stellar, but after checking on the oxford website, the 3 subjects needed can also be comp sci, which I have taken and received a 5 on, along with stats and psych which I am taking next year. In total, by the end of junior year, I will have taken 13 aps, so will one 4 in chem affect me that much? I technically already fulfill all the requirements as i have a 5 in bio, calc bc and ab, and comp sci
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1463 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    “can get a reference letter from my PI about all I've done”.

    I think it would be very unwise to have your (one) UCAS reference be from someone other than a HS teacher. You want the comparisons to be to other HS students, namely that you are better (hopefully significantly so) compared to your classmates in that environment. And you don’t do research as a UK undergrad so how is a reference from a university PI going to be relevant?

    The 4 won’t be disqualifying, but you still seem to be thinking about this process as if it is a US college application. It isn’t. So for example it is worse to do 13 APs and get eight 5s and five 4s, than to do 9-10 APs and get all 5s. Doing research won’t be as helpful as being an AIME or AMO qualifier. And above all you will need to excel on the admissions test and interview.
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  • JL2003JL2003 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    Thanks for the advice, oxford doesnt require admission tests for bio. I know there is no way I can actually be prepared for the interview, as they are designed to make you think, but i do think that ìncreasing my exposure to more biological knowledge can only help me. My bio teacher really like me as well, and I'm even TAing for her. As I said before though, I have experience with situations like the interview, for example I recently had to design the experiment I am doing this summer in one sitting with only the knowledge that a certain bacteria had a correlation with cancer. I know this isnt going to be what the interview is like, but id like to think that i have trained up my critical thinking ability. If you have more advice for the interview, id gladly accept it.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 1792 replies6 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Please don’t make the mistake of assuming that if you meet the minimum requirements for Oxford it’s enough for admission. That’s like expecting ivy admission in the US just because you got a 4.0 GPA. Like the ivies, they are inundated with excellent applicants- possibly a stronger overall pool than the ivies in fact, as British schools generally dissuade students they don’t think have real chances at acceptance from applying to Oxbridge (with a maximum of 5 unis on UCAS, wasting an application option is a bigger issue than in the US).

    When I did my postgrad, I often used to breakfast with the lecturer at my college who did the undergrad interviews for maths and NatSci. I heard a lot of (anonymized of course) anecdotes during interview season.. I would urge you to take twoin18’s advice about not being complacent about the interview seriously. Again: it is not about knowledge, it is about how you think.
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