The Road to Oxbridge

Tuesday 15th February 2022

Securing a place to study at Oxford or Cambridge remains one of the pinnacles of academic achievement and we are delighted that this year we are celebrating 11 of our pupils, including two OMs, reaching this height. The selection and application process are challenging and require a high level of commitment, and the College provides a dedicated programme of support for those pupils who apply. The preparation programme is overseen by Andrew Oxburgh and we asked him to explain a little about what happens

What does your role as Head of Oxbridge entail?

My role is to coordinate the programme of preparation that our pupils who aspire to apply to Oxford and Cambridge undertake in the lead up to their applications. My own participation in this programme includes meeting with pupils to offer guidance on subject and college choice, overseeing support offered by subject specialists within departments, and recruiting experts external to the College to complement the programme. Ultimately, the role of the Head of Oxbridge is to construct a programme that best inspires pupils in their pursuit of academia, nurtures the pupils’ own academic investigations, and enhances the specific skills that will be put to the test in an application to Oxford or Cambridge.

What are the main aspects of the College’s Oxbridge preparation programme?

The central aspects of the College’s Oxbridge preparation programme mirror the fundamental aspects of an application to Oxford or Cambridge. First and foremost, our Oxbridge hopefuls are expected to spend significant time reading and researching beyond the A level syllabus of their chosen subject; this will be essential in writing an academically rigorous personal statement, and appearing well-read at interview. Beyond this, beaks in College and external experts run Admissions Test preparation sessions to best prepare pupils for this increasingly important aspect of Oxbridge applications. Finally, mock interviews are conducted both in College and by external tutors to ensure our pupils are confident and polished before interview season.

How does it work alongside the normal teaching timetable?

The Oxbridge programme is designed to run outside of the timetable, so it is absolutely vital that pupils working towards an Oxbridge application are motivated, independent and manage their time well. The most effective approach is for pupils to lead in their own preparation and make the most of all the dedicated support on offer.

How are pupils supported pastorally?

Alongside the pastoral support of tutors and HMs, Oxbridge hopefuls are assigned an Oxbridge Mentor with whom they will meet twice a term. Not only is this an opportunity to receive expert guidance from a beak with significant Oxbridge experience, but also a time to discuss any concerns or difficulties. Moreover, I am always available to meet with any pupil to discuss their Oxbridge application, or any difficulties they may be having in the process.

What advice would you give pupils considering Oxbridge?

In the Lower School, those considering Oxbridge should, above all, ensure they are thriving within the classroom; an excellent set of GCSE results is an essential foundation for a successful application. Further, ambitious pupils should spend some of their free time pursuing academic matters. This may involve reading around subjects beyond the GCSE syllabuses, attending societies and talks, or listening to podcasts. In the Sixth Form, make sure I am aware of your interest in an Oxbridge application, and commit fully to the programme. Furthermore, applying or re-applying post A levels can be a good route of entry. No application process is a precise science and sometimes superb candidates are unlucky first time around.

What advice would you give to parents of pupils considering Oxbridge?

Continue to nurture the academic growth of your children. A simple thing to do might be to ask them what they’ve been reading in their spare time and discuss their thoughts on what they’ve read. When in the Sixth Form, you may want to ensure they are using time at home during the holidays to supplement the preparation done at the College by reading and practising Admissions Test questions. Reinforce academic ambition in your children, hold them to high standards, support them, and they will thrive.

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