This summer’s trivial, yet headline-grabbing fact; that more people applied to go on this year’s Love Island than applied to the 2018 intake of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; masks the reality that entry to the UK’s two super-elite institutions is still a challenge beyond most mere mortals.
Three A* grades at A Level will see you saunter effortlessly into almost any other UK institution, including the rest of the prestigious Russell Group of selective, research-intensive universities. But the Big Two demand more. A lot more. Unfortunately, they’re not always completely forthcoming as to how a prospective student can clear the barriers to entry. Indeed, it’s not always entirely clear what these barriers are at all.
You may be asking yourself: what should I include on my personal statement to improve my chances? How else can I demonstrate my ability to excel? So here are five things you can do to boost your chances of being offered a place at Oxford or Cambridge:
- Enhance your credentials via sport
If you’re a sporting hobbyist, whether you play a team sport to a high level or an individual pursuit such as skiing, make the most of this in your application. The Oxbridge admissions tutors like to see a well-rounded person in the making, and combining academic studies with sporting endeavours is a great way of demonstrating this.
- Play your way in
Play a musical instrument? This is another great way to show the admissions tutors that you’re a well-rounded candidate. By showing that you’ve been able to complement your hard work academically with the equally challenging pursuit of mastering a musical instrument, you’re able to add significant kudos to your personal statement and impress the decision makers.
- Attend a summer school
Another way you can embolden your personal statement is to attend a pre-university summer school. There are plenty available, such as this one, which is based on the Oxford University campus. These summer schools entail intensive learning and development over the course of a few weeks and demonstrate to university admissions tutors that you’ve sought to go the extra mile to achieve your academic goals.
- Learn a new language
Learning a new language, or building on your existing linguistic skills, is another sure fire way to impress. In the UK, we’re notoriously poor at developing our linguistic skills in comparison to our continental neighbours. Therefore, by taking the time and effort to master a skill that most of the population either can’t or won’t, you are once again on the right track to standing out.
- Get some relevant experience
Ultimately, there’s no substitute for gaining real experience of the workplace you seek to one day form a part of. Not only will this be an experiential eye-opener for you, it will also show to the outside world that you’ve gone the extra mile in your determination to seek an insight into one of your chosen potential career paths. If you have any friend or family connections to a relevant workplace, see if you can take advantage. If you don’t, don’t let this stop you. Even making the effort and speaking to the right people can help you on your way to getting some of the right connections for the future.