Prestigious universities in Britain (“Russell group” universities) welcome applications from the brightest and the best students worldwide. There is no magic formula for success… you must have an excellent school record and show that you have the stamina to work hard in a very competitive environment.
Almost certainly you will apply to University (and remember the closing date for Oxford and Cambridge and for courses such as Law and Medicine at some other universities is earlier, October not January!) before the results of your final school examinations, or A Levels, or IB. This means that your previous results ((I) GCSE or equivalent) are very important, since it is the only solid evidence that admissions tutors will have of your academic ability. Typically Oxford expects at least 6 A* grades in GCSE.
Of course, your predicted grades in your A Levels or equivalent must be excellent. Typically, the best academic universities will be looking for at least A*AA at A Level or 39 points in the IB. But many students achieve these grades. The top universities therefore need additional criteria by which they can select the best students. This is why there are admissions tests in many subjects. At Oxford and Cambridge and some other universities the admissions tests include BMAT(Medicine), ELAT (English Literature), LAT (Languages), LNAT (Law), and TSA (Thinking Skills Aptitude Test, leading to various degrees). These tests are not intended to assess subject knowledge, but your aptitude for studying a certain subject. For example the LAT sometimes asks candidates to work out the meaning of phrases in an invented language and the TSA often asks candidates to logically interpret data from a written article. All the tests are looking for the ability to reason critically and to express yourself clearly. Sample papers do help, since you are then used to the format of the examination and they are available online.
Alongside these exam results, the UCAS form contains a reference from the school or college of the student, and a Personal Statement in which the candidate must try to impress the admissions tutors from their universities by writing about why they deserve a place, and their passion and enthusiasm for their subject.
The admissions tutors assess these forms, and then offer interviews to the students they feel are the best candidates.
The personal statement is very important. Our partners at Schools & Agents explain that the personal statement should have three ingredients:
– Why you want to study your chosen subject. This is very important. Having been part of an admissions team at a leading University, I used to tire of reading about applicants “enjoying football” or “have travelled extensively”. This does not show anyone why the candidate is suited to studying History or why the tutor would enjoy teaching him or her. If you have done any additional reading about your subject, or if you have used your initiative to gain insight into it (e.g. by attending some lectures in your local university), then this does warm the admission tutors to you.
– As a potential member of an academic community you need to be able to show a breadth of other interests. It does not matter what they are… sports, cinema, debating and lots of others, but these interests must be actively pursued. No one is impressed by a candidate who watches chess on television. You need to show that you will be a worthwhile member of the University and will contribute to its life.
– You also need to show that you are a mature and responsible person. Work experience, holding positions of responsibility or voluntary work all help. You are a member of society and need to show that you can make a contribution.
The interview procedure is almost unique to Oxford and Cambridge and is the best way for the admissions tutors to decide which candidates are the most talented in their subject of choice. Overseas candidates are normally interviewed in their own countries. Candidates are generally interviewed 2 or 3 times in order for the tutors to gain a complete picture of the student and their academic interests and abilities. Tutors will also ask questions about the Personal Statements and about the students’ own particular areas of interest.
After the interview period, which usually takes place in December, the tutors will offer a place at the university for the students they believe to be the best candidates. The offers given are conditional upon the results of school leaving, which the students sit the following Summer.
When you are applying to the universities in the UK, it may be difficult for you to anticipate exactly what the school’s officials are looking for in your application. That is precisely what PRODIREKT admission consulting is there to help you with. Our consultants are highly competent and well-versed in the admissions process of various universities. Contact us and we will advise you on how to shortlist the best universities according to your career aspirations, budget, and other factors.
Source: Schools & Agents, PRODIREKT