Oxbridge Candidates 2020

Before the New Year, five of our students took the plunge and headed to Oxford and Cambridge for their application interviews. We caught up with them to find out how it went.

Why Oxbridge?

Mahema set her sights on Oxford’s Biochemistry course after her experience at the UNIQ Summer School. She praised the programme, saying that “I recommend anyone from a state secondary school to look it up as it was an invaluable experience that encouraged me to apply”.

Abubakar applied to read Human, Social and Political Science at Cambridge, with the aim of building a career in development agencies, international organisations and charities. On first impression he said “I really loved the city, especially the architecture of the buildings”.

Zuhaira summed up Oxford as having a “somewhat surreal feeling” which was “an integral part of the experience”. Zuhaira traveled to Oxford to interview for History and Politics. When we asked where she sees herself in the future, she replied:

“There are a lot of potential options. I think I’d like to be involved in research and perhaps be a lecturer. That being said, I have always wanted to go into archaeology- perhaps I could do both, Indiana Jones style.”


What was the interview like?

One of our Cambridge applicants described the experience as “surprisingly very pleasant” as “the interviewers were nice and supported me throughout the interview, so it felt more like a relaxed discussion”.

Mahema, meanwhile, said that preparation was key as “the interviews were purely academic, with discussions ranging from simple biochemistry questions to information based upon articles given prior to the interview”.

The process can last for two days so some of our hopefuls were given accommodation in the uni halls and were looked after by current university students, giving them a chance to ask questions and take in the atmosphere.


What advice do you have for the interview?

Our science and maths candidates suggest that you “revise notes and A-level content as many of the questions are solely based on prior knowledge”.

A helpful tip is to “practice talking about your subject with friends because you are expected to discuss your thoughts as you work through questions so the interviewer can see how you think”.

A key to demonstrating your interest is to make sure your passion comes through, so make sure to read around the subject and bring some enthusiasm with you to break through the nerves.

Our humanities students say you need to know your personal statement inside out as they want to know about you and what you’re interested in. On top of that, Zuhaira recommends that you try to be “confident in what you say and be prepared to give opinions”.

Primarily, though, “it’s really important to stay calm and not over-stress when something goes wrong”.


What would you say to anyone considering applying to Oxbridge?

Abubakar says:

“Initially, I was slightly hesitant in applying to Cambridge. I would definitely say the process is not as daunting as it seems. I was always under the impression that Cambridge was not meant for people like me and I had no chance of getting in. This is definitely not true as everyone has an equal chance of getting in and Oxbridge is actively trying to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Another candidate recommends giving it a try:

“Just go for it even if you don’t think you have a chance, it is just one out of five choices on your application so there is nothing really to lose and the experience is really good.”

Mahema’s encouragement to all applicants:

“Being invited to interview is a huge achievement in itself, so even if you do not obtain a place (hopefully this is not the case) it doesn’t mean you’re not worthy enough for Oxford, it means Oxford is unable to recognise your potential and not worthy enough for you. Don’t let Oxford define you, as you are a capable intelligent individual, and always have been and always will be. Also, good luck with your applications!”

Rosie Shale, Head of Extended Curriculum and leader of the college’s Oxbridge preparation programme said:

“We are delighted that five of our students have made it through to the final interview stage of their applications to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It’s a great achievement to get this far, to get through the entrance exams and to be in the position of being able to go to their chosen university for interview. The interviews are a great opportunity for students to show the universities what bright, intelligent and interesting young people we have here at JCC. We are hugely proud of these high achieving students.  We wish them all the best of luck for next week, when the offers of places are issued by the two universities.” 

Congratulations from the JCC staff to our Oxbridge candidates and good luck to all university applicants. We’ll catch up soon when the results are in, fingers crossed!