Considerations Before Applying To Oxbridge | UniAdmissions Guide

Is Oxbridge really for me? We explain what Oxbridge applicants are exposed to before making the big decision. Oxford and Cambridge universities have an impressive reputation, and many academically able students feel they should apply. We've put together a short guide to help you decide if Oxbridge is for you.

Last Updated: 13th July 2020

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Is Oxbridge really for me? We explain what Oxbridge applicants are letting themselves in for before making the big decision. 

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have a very impressive reputation, and lots of academically able students feel they should apply. However, an important part of your Oxbridge application preparation is identifying the iconic features of an Oxbridge education and assuring yourself that you are happy to go through with them.

Commitment is very useful, and though it doesn’t have to be unwavering, it is always good to learn about what you are letting yourself in for. We’ve prepared a small guide to help you decide if Oxbridge is for you.

Oxbridge Intense Teaching

The tutorial system means that you will have weekly high-pressured deadlines to meet and understand the topics well enough to demonstrate your understanding to your tutor in a one-to-one setting. It is not to be taken lightly, and if you do not like the sound of this learning style, then Oxbridge probably isn’t the place for you.

If you think you have the skills to do this but are worried, research the different support networks that are available and any welfare issues that you might want to prioritise. If you would like to discuss this with one of our Admissions Consultants, please do reach out and book a consultation.

Can You Work and Study during university?

In case you were wondering, indeed, part-time work is not allowed alongside an Oxbridge degree. It’s pretty difficult to circumvent this rule given time constraints and students really shouldn’t rely on this as an option.

If you are in a position where you would need part-time work, it is worth getting in touch with your college, either the Admissions department or Access and Outreach during and after your Oxbridge application preparation to see what sort of bursary or support options are available. You could also consider looking at help and advice from the student unions (Oxford here and Cambridge here).

Oxbridge Term Structure

The structure of intense teaching is in eight-week terms followed by a five-week vacation. Bear this in mind if you are travelling far to get to university as there are logistical issues with transporting your belongings back and forth each term. Oxbridge students usually have to move all of their belongings out of their rooms each term as their rooms are used for conferences. This does not apply to all halls but it is common so make sure you check when choosing your accommodation. 

This does not mean you should be deterred from applying to Oxbridge, but if you are particularly affected by this issue, think about which colleges might offer better accommodation arrangements to suit you or you can ask about their storage options.

Your Oxbridge Course

You should pay close attention to how your course is structured. One of the first things to do during your Oxbridge application preparation is to get up the page with the details of your chosen course and to think carefully about whether it is what you are hoping to get out of your university experience.

Studying at Cambridge

For example, look at how you will be taught (e.g. lecture-based and tutorial-based) and the exams and assessment style (e.g. end of module exams and coursework). Will you have to do all your exams in your final year? (The answer for a lot of Oxford humanities courses is yes, and it makes things very stressful. It is always better to know early). There will be fewer nasty surprises this way. 


  • Are you hoping to do an independent project or coursework?
  • If you are a scientist, how many hours of labs will you have to do each week?
  • Do you want to write a dissertation, or have the option to?

Don’t worry if you find everything very overwhelming, this is completely understandable, but getting as informed as possible will put you in a better position. If you think you’re ready to apply, first take a read of our extensive guide on how to get into Oxbridge.

Oxbridge Atmosphere

What is life at Oxbridge like? Oxbridge is very difficult to describe and read about and we recommend that you talk to a student about their experiences. Make sure you visit Oxford or Cambridge (either during an open day or just go to see the city) or email and phone about any specific concerns you have. At open days, make sure you ask lots of questions to paint a picture of what studying there might be like. 

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