Planning to apply to Oxford? You can’t really start preparing too early – starting the ball rolling as soon as you decide you want to apply, and taking a ‘little and often’ approach to your application, will make the whole process infinitely more manageable!
As soon as you decide you might fancy studying at Oxford: visit it!
A degree at any university is about much more than just the course as, chances are, you’ll be living in a new city for a minimum of three years. So make sure you like it! Spend a day in Oxford – whether on an official open day, or just with family or friends – and see what your gut reaction is. Don’t get a great feeling? No need to write it off totally yet: check out the uni-wide open days as well as the subject-specific ones to get more of a feel for Oxford.
Know the application process inside-out: having a list of what steps your application involves will make it seem far less daunting. Know when the deadline is (October – earlier than most other universities); what documents besides your personal statement you might need to submit (sometimes an example of written work you’ve done at school); and whether you’ll need to take an aptitude test as part of your application. Just familiarising yourself with the Oxford website will be a tremendous help – you’ll spend a lot of time there in the run-up to your application!
Make use of your time throughout Lower Sixth / Year 12 to gather material for your personal statement – again, there’s no such thing as ‘too soon’ for this one! Don’t worry about scrabbling to do Duke of Edinburgh gold or finding a charitable cause to volunteer for.
Instead: read around your subject. Find something interesting on your course and run with it; it could be an interesting argument in Philosophy, a controversial figure in History, a different book by an author you’ve studied in English. If you’re studying Sciences, even just reading the news for the latest progress in your area of interest will be really valuable – chances are, the most recent developments won’t be on your curriculum yet. There are ‘Very Short Introduction’ books for virtually every subject – stock up, flick through, and find something you’re keen on to branch out into. The extra knowledge won’t hurt when it comes to your a-levels, either!
Use this time to find people who can help you: online resources like That Oxford Girl are a wealth of info, and ask around at school. Some teachers will be familiar with the Oxford application process – some might even have been themselves! – or they might be able to put you in touch with people who are. Some schools even host sessions with ex-pupils who’ve been to Oxford.
More tips coming later this week!