Low Income Backgrounds and Oxbridge Will I Fit In?Part 2
Oxford has a very generous bursary scheme based on household income. That is, they’ll give you money which you never have to pay back, and the lower your family income is, the more they’ll give you. If, like me, you’re in the very lowest household income bracket, they currently (2019) give students £3,700 a year and not only that, but these students automatically get a scholarship with a whole host of additional benefits. Scholars receive the standard £3,700 bursary, but they also get a £3000 reduction in tuition fees each year, meaning the amount of tuition fees you’ll have to pay back after you graduate will be far less than many other students. They also provide opportunities for internships exclusively to scholars, and can provide funding for these too of up to £2,500. Each college also has funds available to students for various things such as buying books or laptops, although this varies a lot from college to college, but there should always be a pot of money allocated for supporting students if they face financial hardship at any point.
Altogether, this makes university a much more comfortable experience, and means you not only don’t have to worry about being able to afford necessities, but also means you can afford to have more expensive experiences too, like going out with friends or attending events hosted by your college. From my experience, there are a lot of events at Oxford which can cost a crazy amount of money, from balls to trips abroad to memberships of various societies, but these are all optional, and you won’t have to miss out on all of them. Even the richest students won’t have the time to attend every event or join every society, so you won’t find yourself having to pass up many opportunities, and you’ll often find your friends are in the same/similar position to you. Many students rely on money from parents, which is a privilege in many ways but also means they don’t have the same autonomy as students receiving bursary payments who can choose how they spend their money without having to ask their parents for support.
Another thing about Oxford is that students are advised not to have jobs during term-time. For many students from a lower-income background this is a daunting prospect as that extra source of income would be really useful, but actually this means you’re not going to be falling behind on work compared to other students who don’t need to work and have more time to study, and you won’t be any worse off because of the bursary/financial hardship payments college provide. And if you are struggling, you can get a job during vacations, which are longer at Oxford than other universities (and longer holidays = more time to earn money!).
So yes, it is daunting going to somewhere like Oxford, and yes, you may at times feel a bit alienated from the students who went to private schools or come from a much wealthier background, but you definitely won’t be the only one in your situation. There’s still a long way to go before the demographics are even at Oxford, but things are improving, and there are several provisions in place to ensure every student has a comfortable, enjoyable experience, including dedicated staff/students who you can talk to if you ever feel isolated or daunted at any point. Don’t let your background hold you back from applying to Oxford, or any university for that matter, because you are as deserving as anybody else to come here.
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