Applying to Oxford/Cambridge with no extra curricular activities

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Anonymous #1
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I am currently in my first year of studying my a levels, and I do realise it is quite early to be concerned about the issue of what universities I should apply to, but I need some unbiased advice.
I come from a school where (to my knowledge) nobody has ever gone to Oxford or Cambridge. This is causing some difficulties for me, as I aspire to study medicine at Oxbridge, and nobody knows how to apply there, least of all get accepted.
My academic profile is as follows: 10 A* at GCSE and my teachers are all confident in my ability to achieve 3 - 4 A* at a-level (I do chemistry, biology, maths and SSD). The only issue is that I do no extra curricular activities, and I have heard horror stories of students applying to Oxbridge with 6 A* at a-level and being rejected.
I feel confident in my ability to get in if I was given an offer, as I’m quite single-minded and have too much free time. However, I’m unsure whether I’ll get one.
Do I stand a chance and should I apply?
Also should I apply to Oxford or Cambridge?
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laussss
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I applied to Oxford for Biology at st Catz. I have no extra curricular, and im only predicted A*A*A. I doubt people do 6 a levels, its something people throw around to make other people feel bad and so they wont apply. I suggest applying, you might as well. Your GCSEs are amazing. APPLY!!

I go to LAE, and pretty much most of us apply to oxbridge or for medicine etc. I suggest doing things like SMF and loads of programmes to help the application. If you're from London, apply to target medicine UCL.

GET THE WORK EXPERIENCE SOON - trust me.
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Ðeggs
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What is SSD? The big question is what do you mean by extra curricular activities? Do you mean things like playing a musical instrument, being in a sports team, volunteering etc? Or do you mean academic extra curricular and medicine related work experience? Such as attending lectures, reading books, being part of a medical society, reading magazines etc?

If it’s the former, then it’s not too big of a deal. However other universities outside of Oxbridge are more interested in your extra cirriculars so you need to have somethings on there. But is it’s the latter than there are some concerns. Usually medicine requires 3-4 weeks of work experience, some clinical. You also need to have lots of academic extra curriculars.

Hopefully you’ve done enough research about successful Oxbridge applications, it’s not just about achieving those A*, but demonstrating that passion and enthusiasm. Otherwise you have the rest of year 12 to join at least one extra curricular activity as you need to put something on your personal statement, and seeking medicine work experience.
Last edited by Ðeggs; 1 year ago
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tuxedo-
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Not sure where you heard a story about someone with 6 A* at A level not getting in, and if its true, then its clearly an issue in the interview probably, not whether they did some extra curricular activities.

My sixth form sends like 10-15 people each year to Oxbridge, and i know people who got in personally. Most of them don't even mention extra curricular activities on their personal statement as its mostly academically focused. I went to Eton college summer school and Oxbridge tutors came in and even talked about how most of the time they don't really care about the statement or even bother reading it sometimes, as they are so similar and barely a true picture of what you are actually like, especially with the amount of editing they undergo and help from other people.

If you have 10 A* at GCSE, and are predicted 3-4 A* at A level, it would be stupid not to apply. You stand a great chance of getting an interview at the least and getting in to be honest.

The admissions tests are more important than extra curricular activities tbh. Extra curricular activities are the kind of thing you might get asked at medicine interviews (and even then not at Oxbridge, since the interviews are mostly about science unlike other medical schools).

Apply to whichever university you like more, or prefer the course at. Go on the open days and see them. Both are equally challenging to get into.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by laussss)
I applied to Oxford for Biology at st Catz. I have no extra curricular, and im only predicted A*A*A. I doubt people do 6 a levels, its something people throw around to make other people feel bad and so they wont apply. I suggest applying, you might as well. Your GCSEs are amazing. APPLY!!

I go to LAE, and pretty much most of us apply to oxbridge or for medicine etc. I suggest doing things like SMF and loads of programmes to help the application. If you're from London, apply to target medicine UCL.

GET THE WORK EXPERIENCE SOON - trust me.
Thanks for replying! I live in Northern Ireland so there aren’t many programmes that run that would help with medicine - it is notoriously difficult to get work experience in any surgeries or hospitals - the waiting list at my school is three pages long. I have been doing work experience in pharmacies and such, but I’m afraid that isn’t good enough. In my local area, opportunities to do things to make your university application look better are quite limited, so I have been relying mostly on my grades. However I will take your advice on board and try to do as much work experience as possible! Thanks again for responding!
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artful_lounger
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Oxbridge don't care about generic extracurricular activities - they have both specifically stated on multiple occasions that extracurricular activities not related to the specific subject you are applying to are not of relevance or interest to their admissions tutors. You will however need to do some appropriate work experience to apply for medicine, although Oxbridge are less picky about this than most other medical schools as I understand. They also look favourably on "supercurricular" activites - i.e. extracurricular activities directly relevant to the course you're applying to (such as, for maths applicants, participating in the senior maths challenge and/or mathematical olympiads).

You say you got 10 A*s at GCSE - how many GCSEs did you take? Oxford uses GCSEs along with BMAT score to determine who to invite to interview, and specifically look at number and proportion of A*s (i.e. 8/9 grades) at GCSE. If you were taking 10 GCSEs, so got all A*s, then that would be favourable for them. Cambridge on the other hand don't really care about GCSEs, although they require 3 STEM subjects to be taken to A-level (which since you have maths/chemistry/biology, you meet that criteria). Cambridge also requires the BMAT, which I imagine will be viewed as more important than GCSEs as well for them.

I think you would probably be a reasonable applicant for either (assuming you took 10 GCSEs in total for the purposes of Oxford), so I would suggest you focus on non-admissions differences between the courses. The structure of the intercalated year (Part II) at Cambridge is potentially more flexible than at Oxford, for example. Cambridge also has full body cadaveric dissection as a core part of their course, which I believe Oxford no longer does (which may incline you towards one or the other, depending on your perspective on the matter). They're somewhat different as cities too, which is worth thinking about since you would be living there for 6 years doing medicine. Oxford however maintains an option to transfer to a London medical school for the clinical years (Cambridge does not any more). I would recommend you try and visit them on an open day if possible to get a feel for both the respective universities and cities.

ecolier or nexttime might be able to offer some more advice.
Last edited by artful_lounger; 1 year ago
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laussss
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(Original post by Anonymous)
Thanks for replying! I live in Northern Ireland so there aren’t many programmes that run that would help with medicine - it is notoriously difficult to get work experience in any surgeries or hospitals - the waiting list at my school is three pages long. I have been doing work experience in pharmacies and such, but I’m afraid that isn’t good enough. In my local area, opportunities to do things to make your university application look better are quite limited, so I have been relying mostly on my grades. However I will take your advice on board and try to do as much work experience as possible! Thanks again for responding!
Just keep up some form of work experience, even if it is in a care home Good luck
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
What is SSD? The big question is what do you mean by extra curricular activities? Do you mean things like playing a musical instrument, being in a sports team, volunteering etc? Or do you mean academic extra curricular and medicine related work experience? Such as attending lectures, reading books, being part of a medical society, reading magazines etc?

If it’s the former, then it’s not too big of a deal. However other universities outside of Oxbridge are more interested in your extra cirriculars so you need to have somethings on there. But is it’s the latter than there are some concerns. Usually medicine requires 3-4 weeks of work experience, some clinical. You also need to have lots of academic extra curriculars.

Hopefully you’ve done enough research about successful Oxbridge applications, it’s not just about achieving those A*, but demonstrating that passion and enthusiasm. Otherwise you have the rest of year 12 to join at least one extra curricular activity as you need to put something on your personal statement, and seeking medicine work experience.
Thanks for replying!
First of all; SSD is software systems development (basically computer science - coding and such).
Second of all, I meant sports and playing musical instruments etc in regards to extra curricular activities. I do read many books and am subscribed to the discovery science magazines.
I don’t think there is any chance of me completing 3 - 4 weeks of work experience, due to the area I’m living in and the sheer number of people looking to do it, will this have a very negative impact on my application?
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GreenCub
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Academic "extra-curricular" activities are very important for Oxford and Cambridge. It's important to have work experience for medicine (and you'll need to be able to talk about what you learned from it, not just what you did). You'll also need to do other activities relevant to medicine, which includes but is not limited to reading books, attending masterclasses or lectures.

Non-academic extra-curriculars such as sport and music are not important for Oxford or Cambridge, but other universities might care about them (but not particularly much) so you should put something down. Remember that non-academic extra curriculars don't need to be "organised" or something expensive that you attend regularly - anything worthwhile that you do in your free time is fine. Just be sure to focus much more on academic super-curricular activities than non-academic ones.
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nexttime
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I am currently in my first year of studying my a levels, and I do realise it is quite early to be concerned about the issue of what universities I should apply to, but I need some unbiased advice.
I come from a school where (to my knowledge) nobody has ever gone to Oxford or Cambridge. This is causing some difficulties for me, as I aspire to study medicine at Oxbridge, and nobody knows how to apply there, least of all get accepted.
My academic profile is as follows: 10 A* at GCSE and my teachers are all confident in my ability to achieve 3 - 4 A* at a-level (I do chemistry, biology, maths and SSD). The only issue is that I do no extra curricular activities, and I have heard horror stories of students applying to Oxbridge with 6 A* at a-level and being rejected.
I feel confident in my ability to get in if I was given an offer, as I’m quite single-minded and have too much free time. However, I’m unsure whether I’ll get one.
Do I stand a chance and should I apply?
Also should I apply to Oxford or Cambridge?
A top answer from artful_lounger as always.

All I would add is my copied and pasted response regarding some differences between Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford is more competitive overall.

Spoiler:
Show
There are some differences between the unis:

- Cities - I'd suggest visiting both. Oxford's a more active city.
- Accommodation - more available at Cambridge - though most students at both can get accommodation for the first 3 years at least.
- Size - Oxford med school is half the size. There is only 4-8 medics per year at each college (whereas at cambridge it can be up to 25 or so)
- Transfers - at Oxford some students can go to London after 3 years (essentially any university you choose). At Cambridge you're there for all 6.
- 3rd year options are more limited at Oxford, although doing something completely tangential at Cambridge (law, economics etc) to is no longer allowed under normal circumstances.
- Cambridge has more focus on anatomy, including dissection rather than prosection. Oxford focuses on other aspects of medicine instead.
- Oxford gets much higher student satisfaction
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