21 October 2017Last updated

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Ask the expert: the Oxbridge conundrum

A key difference at Oxbridge is the methodology and style of imparting education

Sanjeev Verma
20 Sep 2016 | 02:52 pm

My son has just received his A-level results and has got 3 A-stars. We are pushing him to rethink his college choices and reapply to Oxbridge. What do you suggest?

Congratulations on your son’s excellent performance. I’m sure you and your son are, rightfully so, extremely happy.

I presume based on his predicted grades your son would have selected his university. Before you make a decision to defer his admission, identify the subject he wants to pursue. It is possible that nether Oxford nor Cambridge offer them, or that another university has a reputation equally good – if not better – than Oxbridge for that programme.

Why not have him revisit his selection and speak to the faculties of the shortlisted universities? This may give him confidence in his decision. Your son should also check with the universities (ones he’s firmly chosen) if he is eligible for a scholarship. Some universities give scholarships to students who get exceptional grades that may be beyond the conditions on his offer letter.

Do also talk to his school counsellor or a college consultant who will help you understand the process of and competitiveness of applying to Oxbridge. Keep in mind that he can apply to either Cambridge or Oxford, not both. It is possible that along with the 3 A-stars the admission officer will also ask to see his GCSE results – looking for a minimum of seven A-stars. In addition to his academic scores, admission officers will review his personal statements, reference letters and examples of coursework.

Oxbridge application deadlines have closed for this year’s intake and he’d need to take a gap year. It is important that the gap year is well planned and he benefit from it. Use the time to attend seminars, do an internship, visit exhibitions and read a lot on the programme he intends to pursue. At every stage in his application and interview he will need to show dedication and enthusiasm for the chosen subject.

Timelines should be kept in mind as the application dates are earlier than other UK universities. Oxbridge applications normally open up from September 1 to October 15. He’ll also need to sit for fairly demanding entrance tests. Successful candidates will be interviewed in December – use the preparation days to understand and practise for the interview. The interviews have a formidable reputation and in addition to knowledge of the subject, they test the student’s capacity of embracing ideas to work through problems.

A key difference at Oxbridge is the methodology and style of imparting education. In addition to lectures and classes, students attend small study workshops with a tutor, and it is these tutorials where he’ll get individual personalised attention that really differentiate Oxbridge from other universities.

At the end of the day, before deferring your decision remember the old adage ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor