Many schools will be expecting students to be thinking about university applications after this summer break, and most of those decisions need to be decided now, at least as a first step. This post considers the idea of a student possibly applying to Oxford or Cambridge (jointly referred to as ‘Oxbridge’).

If you are thinking about applying to Oxbridge, you need to consider the following questions:

  1. What are your marks like for (I)GCSE / MYP and what are your average marks like during your first year?

In considering Oxbridge, you are trying to get into what many would consider, the toughest universities to get into. Although this is not correct in many situations, it is true that your results will need to be amazing.

  1. What work or study are you planning to do over the summer break?

You should be the kind of person who is geeky about the subject you are saying you love. Geeky and somewhat fascinated, means this is all you would like to do if you could. So what are you planning to do over the summer? If the answer is … nothing, then you may not be geeky enough.

  1. What books have you read, what books are you going to read over the summer and who do you discuss your reading with?

Books are essential. There are repositories of information and you need to be familiar with how to use them. This is an essential skill for success at Oxbridge. You should be reading material.

In addition, realise that reading a book is simply part 1 of the process. It is like watching a movie. The movie is great, but only a little more enjoyable than actually then talking about it with someone. You should be doing this with books – read them, then find someone to talk to about them. This is how we find out what the book really means to us.

  1. Are you the highest achieving student in each of your classes? You probably need some ‘measure’ to check yourself against. I think we all need this … a leveller … a method of checking ourselves to ensure we can put ourselves back in place if we feel we are getting too ‘cocky’. For me, it is reading the Feynman Lectures in Physics – every time I feel I am getting pretty good at this ‘physics’ thing, I read those and then know I am … not that good!

Students need to realise that applying to Oxbridge means that you are against the best of the best students in other schools. And a good start is to test yourself against your fellow-students. Are you the best in your classes? If not, then push yourself to try to be the best (in a friendly way of course).

And finally, if you feel that above points are all good, then there is still the very important questions of … is it best for you? Being at Oxbridge can be an amazing experience, but there is a lot of academic intensity. If it is not the thing you want, then it may not be good for you. If you have a lot of things going on in your life, outside your academic interests, then a different university may be best … one that allows you to succeed whilst at the same time having another life outside of the academic.

Whatever you do, there will be people to help you. But always remember that the best person to help you … is you!