The Blog

Do Not Fear the Oxbridge Admissions System

If I can do it, almost anyone else can...

If I can do it, almost anyone else can.

Remember the guy who was famous for about five minutes back in August - the Welsh homeless-but-not-street-homeless guy who got 4 A*s and a place at Cambridge? Well, that would be me. Blogging for the Huffington Post is just one of many perks that go with such an accomplishment. And if my story didn't already, I want to use this space to try and dispel the myth that Oxbridge is a closed, elitist society. Well, not entirely closed and elitist anyway.

Probably the biggest virtue of the admissions process of Cambridge and That Other Place is that they genuinely do not give a monkey's about you. Their admissions system is about as egalitarian as it gets. How can this be when you need the brain the size of a planet to be so much as considered, I hear you ask? When it is only open to the rich who can afford to pay the tuition needed to at least give the impression that your skull has the Tardis-like ability to condense the equivalent mass of a planet into the size of your average-sized head? The answer, folks, is that Oxbridge is a place of merit and merit only and it gives the same chance of admission to the occupier of a council maisonette as a Mayfair mansion. It is egalitarian in the sense that who you are, where you're from and whether or not you've played croquet before counts for absolutely nothing. The only thing that matters is the matter found between your ears.

Of course such an approach, based entirely on 'intelligence' (I use that word loosely, you should see some of the things you see and hear on student nights!) will naturally advantage those who are better educated. The adverse link between economic deprivation and educational achievement is always something I've felt strongly about - strong in the sense of how a Pontiff might 'feel strongly' towards homosexuality. But although this is society's problem, it is not the problem of Oxbridge. They are in the privileged position of being the best and consequently are able to choose from hundreds of thousands of applicants; can you in the slightest bit blame them for choosing only who they deem to also be the academically best?

Sure, only picking the crème-de-la-crème is elitist in the sense that only a tiny minority of people will get in. But if an itinerant, state-educated, borderline alcoholic like me can convince the admissions tutors that I am on a comparable intellectual level as Lord Toff IV then I think anyone can. Ok, perhaps 'anyone' is not the right word, there is a minimum brain-cell requirement, but I do think that we need to come round to the idea that while social mobility remains a distant dream for many, elite education isn't the closed shop that it used to be - certainly not in the field of Higher Education.

The deadline for Oxbridge undergraduates is almost upon us. Some people are happy to make do with second-best, riddled with self-doubt about how good they really are and never even apply (Wales, I'm looking at you, our lack of representation here is nothing less than scandalous!). Remember that Oxbridge will judge you not on who you are but how good you are. They will not judge you on where you're from but where you might go. The only weaknesses you have are those which you acknowledge. And you know what, cliché or not, whether you think you can get in or you think you can't get in, you're probably right. I think you can.

If the eye-watering fees don't put you off (and they shouldn't) then apply and apply without fear. The prestige, academic stimuli and employment prospects that come with being able to say 'I attended Cambridge or That Other Place' are worth their weight in gold - which is just as well as you'll need quite a bit of it just to pay off your student debt but that's for another blog. Apply with the belief that you're just as good a candidate as any other and in an admissions system based on merit you're just as likely - no - more likely to succeed than anyone else.

Of course, once you're actually here and unpacked... well, that's another story.