The UCAS deadline for Oxbridge applications is looming but if your mind still isn't made up, we've got some tips and advice on hand to help you on your way.
Students applying to either Oxford or Cambridge have to submit their choices by Monday, including which college to apply for.
Laura Pickering, of Oxbridge Applications, offers some advice on picking your college, course and perfecting your personal statement.
1. Choosing a college: your new home
It may be too late to pay a visit to the different colleges you are considering, so here the internet is your friend.
Before you start a google-ing frenzy, decide what qualities you are looking for in a college: location, age and architecture, size, accommodation provision, food quality, admissions statistics, outdoor space, and extracurricular activities are all factors which you can take into consideration. Then search the web to pinpoint which colleges you want to look at.
Most colleges will have an official website, which is useful for the facts and figures of the college, but for many you will also be able to access their JCR (Junior Common Room, which is like a student union within your college) website, which can give you a good insight into the culture and community of a college.
Ultimately, though, don’t worry about your college choice. No matter which college you ultimately end up at, one thing you can guarantee is that you will love your college and have a fierce loyalty to it.
2. Loving your subject: making sure you have the right course for you
Make sure you’ve thoroughly read the course outline for your chosen subject: whilst you won’t necessarily be asked about it in your application, you need to have read it to see if you will enjoy the course.
If you’re choosing a subject you’ve already studied, then you will have a good idea about it, and what makes you interested in studying it at a higher level at university. You should be thinking around your subject, including big questions or difficult issues. There should also be some evidence of you going above and beyond your syllabus to read more on the areas of your subject that you find interesting.
If you’ve chosen a new subject which you haven’t studied before, then reading the course outline is even more important. Here it is vital to show how your academic study so far has led you to your chosen course, and how your transferable learning skills will apply to university study. Again, extra reading and interests outside the school curriculum is important.
3. Personal statement: some final tips
Hopefully by now you have already written your personal statement, and chances are you will be checking over it and adding a few final touches before you send it off next week. Here are a few hints and tips to make sure you get it looking polished.
Structure is important here. Make sure your statement flows well.
Each paragraph should signpost its content and each should flow on nicely from one to the next. Paragraphs should be in a logical order and make sense in the wider scheme of what you are trying to say. You should also be providing evidence for everything you say: avoid making vague statements about enthusiasm or analytical skills without backing them up with an example which shows off your strengths.
Checking the language is also important; the language you’re using should relay your passion for your subject. Tutors want to teach someone who they can engage with, and showing your passion for their subject in your personal statement is a great way to do this. The language you use should be appropriate for the personal statement – formal and focused on academics, but with your personality shining through.
Finally, check the little details: spelling, grammar and missed words look messy. Presentation is everything, and if tutors see simple errors like these, they will have little time for the content of the personal statement. Even if what you’ve said is amazing, if you’ve said it poorly they will lose interest.
For more advice, visit the Oxbridge Applications site.