Why Should I Start My University Application Preparation Early?

The Oxbridge deadlines, Admissions Tests and Interviews are months away, but the time to prepare is now. Here's why you should start early.

Author: Rob Needleman

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It’s difficult to push on with preparation when the UCAS Oxbridge deadline, Admissions Tests and Interviews are months away, but the time to prepare is now.

It’s early in the year and you have months ahead of you until your Oxbridge deadlines. It’s easy to leave the preparation for another few months and start closer to the time. Making this decision will reduce your chances of receiving an offer due to the missed opportunities to prepare effectively for each component of your application. 

To be clear, we are not referring to submitting your UCAS application early. This, of course, has its benefits, such as giving you more time to push on with other things like your A-levels and Admissions Tests. But we are focussing today on why you should start preparing your application early.

Let’s begin with the reasons why.

The Main Reasons To Start Preparing Early

Planning

Organisation is key to effective application preparation, especially when you have multiple months between now and the UCAS application. It will feel like a lot of time, but before you know it, it’s October the 15th. Before you jump in with preparation, create a list of your key dates such as the UCAS deadline, Admissions Test dates and Oxbridge Interview dates. 

It’s quite easy to work backwards from these key dates. For example, there are 5 main sections in the UCAT, so you could dedicate some days to each section over the next few months. You might then allocate a further few days of practice tests before your UCAT exam in July. It doesn’t all have to be in the month before the test. 

Make a detailed list of all the topics you need to cover. This could be the different MMI stations (if you’re applying to some non-Oxbridge medical schools). Next, colour-code the topics according to how much work you need to do.

For example, red would mean you don’t understand the topic or are not confident at all with the component, orange signifies you need to learn some more, and green means you’re confident. We recommended starting with the components you find the hardest first, and then once you’ve conquered them, move on to the easier ones.

Starting your preparation early will also reduce your stress levels when you approach exam and Interview season. If you plan your preparation properly, you will feel more confident during the weeks before the Interviews and Admissions Tests, and you’ll know you gave yourself the best chance of success.

A quick note to mention is to always prioritise the most important components at the time. From April to June, focus only on your A-levels, and put the Admissions Test and Personal Statement preparation to the side. Ensure you achieve the best grades you can.

When planning, it is easy to set yourself up for failure. As an Oxbridge applicant, we know how ambitious you are, but it is important to make your goals realistic. Setting achievable goals that still require hard work will make you feel you are progressing, rather than always playing catch-up. Having a more positive and reasonable approach will make your application preparation easier.

Our Oxbridge application support is designed to cover the whole year and provide you with structured learning to give you the best chances of success. 

Prepare effectively over the next few months with our expert Oxbridge guidance and structured learning. We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive Admissions Test score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxbridge application, from History to Medicine.

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Time To Identify Your Weaker Areas  

Starting early allows to spend more time focussing on the weaker areas of your application. This doesn’t just mean revising the hardest parts of your Admissions Test, but reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses with your whole application, such as your problem-solving skills during Interviews, or demonstrating your passion in your Personal Statement.

When it comes to early preparation for Admissions Tests, starting early can help reveal the topics you have not covered, topics you didn’t fully understand and questions that require you to practice time management on to improve your performance.

Apart from focusing on the topics you don’t fully understand, an easy way to identify your weaker areas is through using practice questions and past papers. You can then adjust the plan you create to reflect the new topics you need to focus on. But don’t remove a topic from your plan just because you did particularly well. You can spend less time revising it but don’t exclude it completely.

Practise

Practising is not just through past papers and practice questions. Getting your Personal Statement marked and practising your Interview answers are a must.

For Admissions Tests, past papers and practice questions will demonstrate how much you have retained from revision, and highlight your weaker areas to focus further revision on, especially under timed conditions without your notes. Make sure you always practise under exam conditions to help you see how you will perform under time pressure.

If you keep overrunning, then this is the opportunity to look at your exam technique and try new ways of approaching and answering tricky questions.

Keep track of your scores from past papers so you can see if you are making progress, and make a note of which questions and topics you are losing marks on. 

For both Admissions Test questions and Interview questions, the more you practise, the more confident you will be on the day, and the higher the chance of seeing questions that are the same or at least similar to those you have already practised. It’s hard to really push on with practising when your Test or Interview is months away, but the reduced stress and great position you will be in will make it worth it. See it as an investment of your time.

Work Experience

Oxbridge Admissions Tutors generally prefer you to have work experience. It gives you the opportunity to:

It is the ideal opportunity for you to back up your Personal Statement and Interview answers with real evidence and demonstrate skills such as:

A simple way to identify what experience might be relevant is to read through the skills and qualities that universities look for in their students:

Cambridge-University-key-criteria-for-medical-admissions
Key qualities of a medical student (source: Cambridge University)

Looking at the example above, the Key Criteria for Cambridge Medical Admissions mentions ‘have excellent communication skills for use in the health care of diverse populations’. You could therefore include work experience from placements on a ward or from volunteering regularly at care homes, interacting with residents and attending to their needs.

We included work experience as a reason to start preparing early because finding opportunities is difficult. However, it is not impossible and the experience you’ll gain is incredibly valuable. Start contacting employers and companies early on in the year to make sure you get the opportunity to gain work experience. If you’re struggling with looking for opportunities, read our guide on how to find work experience.

On a side note, we strongly suggest you plan the wider reading you’d like to go through before you send off your application. You have plenty of time now to work through the Oxbridge reading lists, watch lectures, enter competitions and follow the news regularly. This is another valuable opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the subject you are applying to.

Final Comments

Although it might feel silly to start working on your application at the beginning of the year when you have months to go before the first Oxbridge deadline, planning the time now and starting the process will help you spread out your preparation so you can avoid stressful last-minute revision.  This gives you the opportunity to tackle the topics you find tricky way before you sit the Admissions Tests or attend the Interviews. 

It’s difficult to really push on with preparation when the UCAS deadline, Test or Interview is months away, but the great position you will be in will make it worth it. See it as an investment of your time and when you receive your offer from a world-class Oxbridge College, then it will all be worth it. 

The right time to start preparing is now. Utilise our Oxbridge Tutors to give yourself the best chances of receiving your dream offer. 

We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive Admissions Test score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxbridge application, from History to Medicine.

Discover our Oxbridge Premium Programmes by clicking the button below to enrol and triple your chances of success.

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