The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, representing how William Clarence can support students applying to Oxbridge.

Debunking the Oxbridge Myths

Stephen Spriggs
January 19th 2024

Oxford and Cambridge top the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. 

So, it’s no surprise that they’re dream destinations for many aspiring students, with thousands of students competing for places every year.  

Steeped in history and with an alumni of world leaders, prime ministers, and royals, they’re regarded as the crème de la crème of higher education. However, there is a lot more to these two seats of learning than tradition and elitism.   

If you’re wondering how to get into Oxbridge, or you’ve dismissed the idea of applying because you feel they’re not the kind of universities that would accept someone like you, read on...  

Here are the five most common Oxbridge myths debunked:  

1. Oxbridge is not for poorer students  

One of the most prevalent myths about Oxbridge is that it’s only for students who are financially well-off.  

Thankfully, we’ve moved on since the days of Brideshead Revisited, and both universities have excellent outreach programmes to state schools. They offer generous financial support and several bursaries and scholarships to students from a range of educational backgrounds and experiences.   

For example, Oxford’s Crankstart Scholarships offers bursary support (plus career mentoring and access to funded internships) for students whose household income is £27,500 a year or less.   

While the proportion of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students is still comparatively low, numbers are increasing, and there several programmes and scholarships offered to students. The grime star Stormzy pays for two students a year to go to Cambridge!   

2. You need the best A-Level grades to get in  

Oxbridge does indeed want the brightest students, so standards are high, and grades are important. The requirements are a minimum of AAA for both universities, and most successful students will have achieved these.   

However, they’re also looking for the intellectually curious students who have a passion for their subject and demonstrate a strong willingness to learn.   

In a bid to attract well-rounded characters, applicants to Cambridge are asked to submit a Supplementary Application Questionnaire, and both universities have subject-specific tests. Some courses may also demand coursework, a portfolio, or an audition.   

Then, of course, there is the interview. So, if you falter on your A-Levels but impress elsewhere, you could still be in with a chance. They also accept retakes, so if you fail once, there’s no harm in applying to Oxbridge again in the future.  

3. You need to choose a college  

Both universities operate on a collegiate system. Some are single-sex; others are mixed; some only accept mature students; others are for all ages; some are based in the city centre; others are further out; some accept students of specific subjects; some are in traditional, aesthetically pleasing buildings, and some are not.   

If, after researching websites and prospectuses, you have no idea which college is best for you, don’t worry. You can opt for an ‘open application’ and be allocated a college randomly.  

4. There’s no point reapplying if you fail to win a place  

It can be tough to learn that after all your hard work applying to Oxbridge, having achieved good A Levels, sat admission tests and attended interviews, you’ve not been offered a place.   

With Oxbridge applications increasing by around 10% each year, competition is fierce and unfortunately, not everyone will make it.  

However, you can use this enforced gap year to build relevant experience that will strengthen your position for reapplication next year. It could be getting work experience in the subject of your choice, reading widely around your subject or taking a gap year in the country that speaks the language you hope to study.   

This way, you might find that the door that was once closed to you reopens the following year.   

5. Oxbridge graduates get the best jobs  

Yes and no. According to the Times Higher Education, Cambridge and Oxford are ranked first and second in Britain for graduate employability. However, globally (as of 2021) they’re beaten by Harvard in the US with Cambridge ranking fourth and Oxford eight.   

When it comes to salaries, graduates from London-based Imperial College and King’s College boast a higher salary in the first year after graduation than Oxford or Cambridge. So, whereas a degree from Oxbridge can stand you in good stead for a high-profile position, it certainly doesn’t guarantee one.  

Looking for support with your Oxbridge application?  

Here at William Clarence, we’ve supported hundreds of students applying to Oxbridge over the years, with many successfully acquiring a place on their desired course.  

Our consultants are all Oxbridge graduates themselves and can answer all your questions on how to get into Oxbridge, advising on course and college selection, interview preparation, and entrance exam requirements to help maximise your chances of receiving an offer from your choice of university.  

For more information on our Oxbridge applications service, visit our dedicated page or get in touch to speak with one of our experienced consultants today. 

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