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

HSStudent5HSStudent5 5 replies2 threads New Member
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 Calc BC- TBD
AP Chem- TBD
AP Bio- 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.
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Replies to: What are my chances for Oxford? Would I have better luck applying to Cambridge?

  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1292 replies31 threads Senior Member
    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.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8289 replies87 threads Senior Member
    = 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
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  • HSStudent5HSStudent5 5 replies2 threads New Member
    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 :)
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2285 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited September 21
    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.
    edited September 21
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2285 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited September 21
    HSStudent5 wrote: »
    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 :)

    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.
    edited September 21
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  • HazeGreyHazeGrey 282 replies4 threads Junior Member
    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.
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  • HSStudent5HSStudent5 5 replies2 threads New Member
    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.
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 109 replies3 threads Junior Member
    edited September 22
    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.
    edited September 22
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