The Student Room Group

Dealing with Oxbridge rejection

Preamble: I wrote this 7 years ago after I'd been rejected from Oxford myself. I had really struggled to vocalise my thoughts and feelings. I had quite an intense and stressful interview process where they kept me behind for days and days and it gave me a sense of (false) hope. I went to a Russell Group university for my BA and it was the happiest time of my life. I applied to Cambridge for my MPhil and, due to a number of factors, including COVID, had a really difficult year. I am now studying for my PhD in the US, and I can look back on my application experience with a much calmer and more measured mind (and perhaps a little bit of wisdom). My PMs are always open if you need to chat, and remember, whilst you might think of this as a defining moment in your life at this point, it absolutely will not define you in the long run.

Without further ado....

This feels a bit premature because I see a lot of people on TSR getting interview offers, which, may I congratulate you for, because that is an amazing achievement in itself.

But I do feel as though I for one never thought about rejection until it came, and hit me like a truck. I am extremely happy at my current university, but I'm still not over my Oxbridge rejection, and I'm not sure I ever will be. I was at interview for a long period of time, and they released the candidates one by one, with me being one of the very last, I believe the last for my course, to be sent home. Maybe they considered me until that moment. Who knows.

But the rejection was the first time in my life that one of my dreams, one that I'd had since I was about ten years old, had gone up in smoke. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough, academically, for anything. And as someone who was, and still is, considering academia as a career, this is pretty damming.

I didn't ignore the possibility of rejection due to arrogance, it was just something I never truly considered. I just imagined what it would be like to get in, not to not get in.

I considered reapplying but didn't want to spend a gap year possibly having to deal with rejection again. The course I am studying now is unique in module combination to me, something I could not have done at Oxbridge, or at any other university.

For interviews:

So whilst I really want you to enjoy the feeling of getting an interview, please keep the possibility in the back of your mind that you may end up at another university. And this is sometimes a better thing. I don't think I could have coped with the pressure of Oxbridge.

Enjoy your interview. If you're there for a few days, take some time to explore and relax. And if you've been rejected at this point, don't worry. It's not the end of the world.

For decisions:

Getting that letter or email may be one of the most exciting yet terrifying things in your life. Approach it how you like - open it instantly or leave it for while. Just remember, a piece of paper or an email doesn't define you. If you want to reapply, that's an option, and you will be a much stronger applicant the next time round. Going to a different university isn't going to be the end of the world. Just remember, you've made it this far. That's a massive achievement in itself.

Update:

4 years later, I am now a postgraduate at Cambridge.
5 years later, I have a degree from Cambridge, and let me tell you that I had a much more positive time at my other university. Oxbridge really isn't the be all and end all.
7 years later, I am now happily pursuing a PhD in the United States.
(edited 1 month ago)

Scroll to see replies

Original post by Edminzodo
This feels a bit premature because I see a lot of people on TSR getting interview offers, which, may I congratulate you for, because that is an amazing achievement in itself.

But I do feel as though I for one never thought about rejection until it came, and hit me like a truck. I am extremely happy at my current university, but I'm still not over my Oxbridge rejection, and I'm not sure I ever will be. I was at interview for a long period of time, and they released the candidates one by one, with me being one of the very last, I believe the last for my course, to be sent home. Maybe they considered me until that moment. Who knows.

But the rejection was the first time in my life that one of my dreams, one that I'd had since I was about ten years old, had gone up in smoke. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough, academically, for anything. And as someone who was, and still is, considering academia as a career, this is pretty damming.

I didn't ignore the possibility of rejection due to arrogance, it was just something I never truly considered. I just imagined what it would be like to get in, not to not get in.

I considered reapplying but didn't want to spend a gap year possibly having to deal with rejection again. The course I am studying now is unique in module combination to me, something I could not have done at Oxbridge, or at any other university.

So whilst I really want you to enjoy the feeling of getting an interview, please keep the possibility in the back of your mind that you may end up at another university. And this is sometimes a better thing. I don't think I could have coped with the pressure of Oxbridge.

Enjoy your interview. If you're there for a few days, take some time to explore and relax. And if you've been rejected at this point, don't worry. It's not the end of the world.


Amen to your advice on here :adore: It's important to be prepared for any outcome. Also, to not try and second-guess what's going on when there's no way of knowing. It's hard to do both those things (be prepared for anything, and to not second-guess), but ruminating is not good for the soul in this respect :nope:

Sorry to hear you are still not over your own rejection. That's very sad to hear :frown: Whether a person gets into Oxbridge or not should not define how they see or feel themselves as a person, about their intelligence or in general! :nah: Hope that one day soon, you will be able to be proud of yourself for who you are and where you're studying, and to banish Oxford application ghouls forever :hugs:
Reply 2
Original post by Edminzodo
This feels a bit premature because I see a lot of people on TSR getting interview offers, which, may I congratulate you for, because that is an amazing achievement in itself.

But I do feel as though I for one never thought about rejection until it came, and hit me like a truck. I am extremely happy at my current university, but I'm still not over my Oxbridge rejection, and I'm not sure I ever will be. I was at interview for a long period of time, and they released the candidates one by one, with me being one of the very last, I believe the last for my course, to be sent home. Maybe they considered me until that moment. Who knows.

But the rejection was the first time in my life that one of my dreams, one that I'd had since I was about ten years old, had gone up in smoke. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough, academically, for anything. And as someone who was, and still is, considering academia as a career, this is pretty damming.

I didn't ignore the possibility of rejection due to arrogance, it was just something I never truly considered. I just imagined what it would be like to get in, not to not get in.

I considered reapplying but didn't want to spend a gap year possibly having to deal with rejection again. The course I am studying now is unique in module combination to me, something I could not have done at Oxbridge, or at any other university.

So whilst I really want you to enjoy the feeling of getting an interview, please keep the possibility in the back of your mind that you may end up at another university. And this is sometimes a better thing. I don't think I could have coped with the pressure of Oxbridge.

Enjoy your interview. If you're there for a few days, take some time to explore and relax. And if you've been rejected at this point, don't worry. It's not the end of the world.


F*ck them, it's their loss. They don't deserve you. Work hard and become successful then rub it in their faces
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
Amen to your advice on here :adore: It's important to be prepared for any outcome. Also, to not try and second-guess what's going on when there's no way of knowing. It's hard to do both those things (be prepared for anything, and to not second-guess), but ruminating is not good for the soul in this respect :nope:

Sorry to hear you are still not over your own rejection. That's very sad to hear :frown: Whether a person gets into Oxbridge or not should not define how they see or feel themselves as a person, about their intelligence or in general! :nah: Hope that one day soon, you will be able to be proud of yourself for who you are and where you're studying, and to banish Oxford application ghouls forever :hugs:


Thank you so much! I'm sure I'll get over it, in time. :biggrin:
Original post by Edminzodo
Thank you so much! I'm sure I'll get over it, in time. :biggrin:


Here's hoping! Oxford doesn't have a monopoly on most career paths, after all. Plenty of non-Oxbridge people who are high fliers across various fields! Including in academia :smartass:

So don't fret :nah: You'll be fine :biggrin: Just "reach for the stars! Cimb every mountain higher!" :danceboy:

(You're probs too young to get the reference :frown: :getmecoat: :shakecane: )

:hugs:
Think of it as a blessing. I've heard Oxford really has a pressure cooker atmosphere and has terrible pastoral support! If you have any type of mental health issue, Oxford will drive you to the brink, if not over it. Basing your uni choice solely on prestige is not what the academic elite who deserve uni places do.


Posted from TSR Mobile
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
Here's hoping! Oxford doesn't have a monopoly on most career paths, after all. Plenty of non-Oxbridge people who are high fliers across various fields! Including in academia :smartass:

So don't fret :nah: You'll be fine :biggrin: Just "reach for the stars! Cimb every mountain higher!" :danceboy:

(You're probs too young to get the reference :frown: :getmecoat: :shakecane: )

:hugs:


Thank you so, so much!!!

Spoiler

Original post by Edminzodo
Thank you so, so much!!!

Spoiler




:biggrin: :hat2: :danceboy:
Original post by zezno
F*ck them, it's their loss. They don't deserve you. Work hard and become successful then rub it in their faces


Original post by super_kawaii
Think of it as a blessing. I've heard Oxford really has a pressure cooker atmosphere and has terrible pastoral support! If you have any type of mental health issue, Oxford will drive you to the brink, if not over it. Basing your uni choice solely on prestige is not what the academic elite who deserve uni places do.


Posted from TSR Mobile


Thank you both. :biggrin:
I will try to keep it in mind. What I won't do though is get all bitter and say 'I didn't want to go anyway!'. That would be a lie. I'd just get over it, I think.

Spoiler

Original post by Edminzodo
This feels a bit premature because I see a lot of people on TSR getting interview offers, which, may I congratulate you for, because that is an amazing achievement in itself.

But I do feel as though I for one never thought about rejection until it came, and hit me like a truck. I am extremely happy at my current university, but I'm still not over my Oxbridge rejection, and I'm not sure I ever will be. I was at interview for a long period of time, and they released the candidates one by one, with me being one of the very last, I believe the last for my course, to be sent home. Maybe they considered me until that moment. Who knows.

But the rejection was the first time in my life that one of my dreams, one that I'd had since I was about ten years old, had gone up in smoke. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough, academically, for anything. And as someone who was, and still is, considering academia as a career, this is pretty damming.

I didn't ignore the possibility of rejection due to arrogance, it was just something I never truly considered. I just imagined what it would be like to get in, not to not get in.

I considered reapplying but didn't want to spend a gap year possibly having to deal with rejection again. The course I am studying now is unique in module combination to me, something I could not have done at Oxbridge, or at any other university.

So whilst I really want you to enjoy the feeling of getting an interview, please keep the possibility in the back of your mind that you may end up at another university. And this is sometimes a better thing. I don't think I could have coped with the pressure of Oxbridge.

Enjoy your interview. If you're there for a few days, take some time to explore and relax. And if you've been rejected at this point, don't worry. It's not the end of the world.


Sometimes you don't get what you want in life because you are actually being led in a better, different direction. Doesn't mean you can't still achieve your goals though! It's a blessing in disguise!:biggrin:

Original post by Abstract_Prism
I will try to keep it in mind. What I won't do though is get all bitter and say 'I didn't want to go anyway!'. That would be a lie. I'd just get over it, I think.

Spoiler




Aww I really hope you get in!x:h: What subject are you applying for- and at oxford or cambridge?:smile: I want to hopefully apply to cambridge for economics next year!:smile:
You're one of the good 'uns Ed.
Original post by super_kawaii
Think of it as a blessing. I've heard Oxford really has a pressure cooker atmosphere and has terrible pastoral support! If you have any type of mental health issue, Oxford will drive you to the brink, if not over it. Basing your uni choice solely on prestige is not what the academic elite who deserve uni places do.


Posted from TSR Mobile


These are entirely baseless anecdotal claims about Oxford's pastoral support. It doesn't help people who've been rejected from Oxford, who know full well that it's a brilliant place to be able to study at - that's why they have issues with the rejection!

As to the question posed, dealing with an Oxbridge rejection is, I think, about trying to get perspective on it. No-one wants to accept that there were people better than them who were offered a place, but it is important to remember that relatively speaking Oxford (and Cambridge) are small - they simply cannot offer places to everyone who 'deserves' one. Having made a competitive application/being interviewed is an achievement in itself and puts you in the top percentile of students - that in itself should remind you that you are talented and gifted academically, and although Oxbridge would have been nice, it really isn't the end of the world.
Original post by RayApparently
You're one of the good 'uns Ed.


Aaw, thank you! :biggrin:
Original post by Reality Check
These are entirely baseless anecdotal claims about Oxford's pastoral support.


To call the claims entirely baseless is a bit strong, don't you think? Not everyone who's been to Oxford would give their pastoral support a glowing report or recommend it as a uni with good (let alone excellent) pastoral care provisions in place... :nope:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
To call the claims entirely baseless is a bit strong, don't you think? Not everyone who's been to Oxford would give their pastoral support a glowing report or recommend it as a uni with good (let alone excellent) pastoral care provisions in place... :nope:


No, I belive the claim "Oxford really has a pressure cooker atmosphere and has terrible pastoral support!" is genuinely baseless. If someone's going to make sweeping generalisations like that, then there needs to at least some sort of evidence to back it up. Otherwise, it's akin to all the other old chestnuts about Oxbridge: 'there aren't really any non public school students there'; 'everyone's really posh'; 'everyone did 4 A levels and got A* in them all'.

Of course there will be isolated incidents of poor pastoral support - it would be unrealistic to suggest otherwise. But to have a blanket 'Oxford has terrible pastoral support' is not a valid claim. In fact, due to the college system, it's reasonable to suggest that Oxford would have better pastoral support than a larger, more 'faceless' university.

Sorry to labour the point, but I think it's important to shine a light on these passing, unverified claims about Oxbridge which so often get posted without being challenged or criticised. They have enough of a problem attracting the best students from all backgrounds without these sort of sweeping claims putting yet more students off applying.
Original post by Reality Check
No, I belive the claim "Oxford really has a pressure cooker atmosphere and has terrible pastoral support!" is genuinely baseless. If someone's going to make sweeping generalisations like that, then there needs to at least some sort of evidence to back it up. Otherwise, it's akin to all the other old chestnuts about Oxbridge: 'there aren't really any non public school students there'; 'everyone's really posh'; 'everyone did 4 A levels and got A* in them all'.

Of course there will be isolated incidents of poor pastoral support - it would be unrealistic to suggest otherwise. But to have a blanket 'Oxford has terrible pastoral support' is not a valid claim. In fact, due to the college system, it's reasonable to suggest that Oxford would have better pastoral support than a larger, more 'faceless' university.

Sorry to labour the point, but I think it's important to shine a light on these passing, unverified claims about Oxbridge which so often get posted without being challenged or criticised. They have enough of a problem attracting the best students from all backgrounds without these sort of sweeping claims putting yet more students off applying.


Having more pastoral support than other unis doesn't equate to having better pastoral support :nah: I'm the first one to quibble with largely unfounded claims that may put off applicants who may be less inclined to apply but I actually repped and really liked that post because I think there's quite a bit of truth in it. There are too many cases of pastoral support at Oxford being poor (even in my limited knowledge of that matter) for me to personally be able to label them "isolated incidents" :sadnod: I don't say that lightly either! :nah:

Since pastoral support at Oxford is not the main focus of this thread though, I will state that I disagree with you completely but will agree to disagree on this matter and leave it at that (in this thread at least) :yes:
Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd
Since pastoral support at Oxford is not the main focus of this thread though, I will state that I disagree with you completely but will agree to disagree on this matter and leave it at that (in this thread at least) :yes:


I appreciate the civility - it's in short supply sometimes on TSR :smile:
Original post by Reality Check
I appreciate the civility - it's in short supply sometimes on TSR :smile:


No problem. You remind me of myself many years ago before I got broken and became so jaded :biggrin: So I do understanding your point of view, even if I disagree :smile:
What a lovely thread!
Thanks for this. :smile:

Quick Reply

Latest