Why does everyone make out that getting into Oxbridge is near-impossible?

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weepinbell
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Just as a disclaimer, I'm not saying getting in is necessarily easy, and no, I didn't go there...

I just don't think people should make out that it's impossible to get in... especially if you've proved yourself capable of getting into a RG uni...

This myth seems to be propagated, this widespread limiting-belief, amongst those of us who were unlucky enough to go to comprehensive schools ("comprehensive" needs to be stressed - yes the 'state school' intake is higher than it used to be, but these will mostly be very good grammar/faith schools and very good comprehensives). This attitude of, "sure, you may be 'bright', but you are not the 'brightest' or 'the best of the best'... so don't bother applying here."

It's rubbish. Loads of really clever people don't go, not because they were not that bit more clever, but because they didn't bother applying in the first place or they were just ill-prepared for the whole process.

Many smart kids don't apply because they didn't go to the right school, they were given awful advice by their parents/teachers, they were told to be "realistic", they got bullied for being clever which affected their mental health and thus their grades, etc. That's all it really boils down to.

If you're from a rich background and you went to a private school, I suspect it's very likely you never had to deal with difficult stuff like that (and that's probably a big part of why you're at Oxbridge, more than anything else).

It's as though there's an algorithm which has gridlocked society so that your background determines your life chances... whether you are in the richest 5% or poorest 95% determines whether you receive good advice or poor advice, encouragement or discouragement, information or disinformation, etc.

It creates this illusion that getting into Oxbridge is extremely difficult, when in reality it's probably marginally more difficult than going most RG unis (which aren't straightforwardly easy to get into themselves - but if you got into one, you may also have stood a chance with Oxbridge).

Before people start saying 'oh, but the entry tariff at Oxbridge is so much higher'... well, if you've receive an offer then of course you're going to work so much harder and make sure you get those grades than you would otherwise...

tl;dr, I think the illusion of Oxbridge being extremely difficult to get into is in itself partly to blame for what makes it a closed door for many otherwise capable people. And that's really sad.
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Study6076
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(Original post by weepinbell)
Just as a disclaimer, I'm not saying getting in is necessarily easy, and no, I didn't go there...

I just don't think people should make out that it's impossible to get in... especially if you've proved yourself capable of getting into a RG uni...

This myth seems to be propagated, this widespread limiting-belief, amongst those of us who were unlucky enough to go to comprehensive schools ("comprehensive" needs to be stressed). This attitude of, "sure, you may be 'bright', but you are not the 'brightest' or 'the best of the best'... so don't bother applying here."

It's rubbish. Loads of really clever people don't go, not because they were not that bit more clever, but because they didn't bother applying in the first place or they were just ill-prepared for the whole process.

Many smart kids don't apply because they didn't go to the right school, they were given awful advice by their parents/teachers, they were told to be "realistic", they got bullied for being clever which affected their mental health and thus their grades, etc. That's all it really boils down to.

If you're from a rich background and you went to a private school, I suspect it's very likely you never had to deal with difficult stuff like that (and that's probably a big part of why you're at Oxbridge, more than anything else).

It's as though there's an algorithm which has gridlocked society so that your background determines your life chances... whether you are in the richest 5% or poorest 95% determines whether you receive good advice or poor advice, encouragement or discouragement, information or disinformation, etc.

It creates this illusion that getting into Oxbridge is extremely difficult, when in reality it's probably marginally more difficult than going most RG unis (which aren't straightforwardly easy to get into themselves - but if you got into one, you may also have stood a chance Oxbridge).

Before people start saying 'oh, but the entry tariff at Oxbridge is so much higher'... well, if you've receive an offer then of course you're going to work so much harder and make sure you get those grades than you would otherwise...

tl;dr, I think the illusion of Oxbridge being extremely difficult to get into is in itself part of what makes it seem like a closed door.
agreed
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berett
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(Original post by Study6076)
agreed
I third this!
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hw8
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(Original post by weepinbell)
It creates this illusion that getting into Oxbridge is extremely difficult, when in reality it's probably marginally more difficult than going most RG unis
I disagree with this statement here. I am applying for econ this cycle, so I will provide my opinion (rebuttal) in terms of economics.

Leeds is a good RG uni for econ. Admissions stats

Number of Applicants / Offers made - 2017: 1363 /1026

Oxford is, well Oxford. Admissions stats (Econ + management)

Number of Applicants / Offers made - 2019: 1530 / 102

It is far more competitive in terms of raw data, as well as having higher entry requirements and a more rigorous application process. I would argue that for the majority of RG applicants, Oxford and Cambridge are far more difficult unis to get in to.
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hw8
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But I will stress that I totally agree with the unnecessary disparity in terms of applications between private and state school students. IMO greater transparency from the unis in terms of competitiveness and the application process would go a long way!
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JGoosey2002
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(Original post by weepinbell)
in reality it's probably marginally more difficult than going most RG unis (which aren't straightforwardly easy to get into themselves
Lol, okay bud
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weepinbell
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(Original post by hw8)
I disagree with this statement here. I am applying for econ this cycle, so I will provide my opinion (rebuttal) in terms of economics.

Leeds is a good RG uni for econ. Admissions stats

Number of Applicants / Offers made - 2017: 1363 /1026

Oxford is, well Oxford. Admissions stats (Econ + management)

Number of Applicants / Offers made - 2019: 1530 / 102

It is far more competitive in terms of raw data, as well as having higher entry requirements and a more rigorous application process. I would argue that for the majority of RG applicants, Oxford and Cambridge are far more difficult unis to get in to.
Well that's just for one course.

And 102 out of 1530 is not impossible (1/15 is not 1/100 which is the level of difficulty most people perceive it to be).

If that course is what your heart is set on then you make sure you're one of those 102 people. If you can get into an RG uni, chances are you're probably already a stronger candidate than half those 1530 people... but most people just look at those numbers and think whoa... why should I bother?

Although that brings up another issue, which is that private school applicants are more likely to apply for less competitive courses at Oxbridge than state school applicants.
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JGoosey2002
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I don’t think anyone is saying it’s impossible but it is definitely much more difficult than most RG. Other than the top few unis, most RG will make an offer to anyone with sufficient predicted grades
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jebjeb27
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Because it's extremely difficult. Not only is the acceptance rate 1/8, but the level of the average applicant is much higher than other unis; they have 5 A*s at GCSE on AVERAGE. And 1/8 get in. It's not remotely comparable to the average Russell Group.
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weepinbell
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(Original post by jebjeb27)
Because it's extremely difficult. Not only is the acceptance rate 1/8, but the level of the average applicant is much higher than other unis; they have 5 A*s at GCSE on AVERAGE. And 1/8 get in. It's not remotely comparable to the average Russell Group.
But if you keep telling people it's 'extremely difficult' then they believe it.

1/8 is not 'extremely difficult', that's an exaggeration. It's just 'difficult'. If you already have high grades.
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jebjeb27
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(Original post by weepinbell)
But if you keep telling people it's 'extremely difficult' that then they believe it.

1/8 is not 'extremely difficult', that's an exaggeration. It's just 'difficult'. If you already have high grades.
It's extremely difficult. 5 A* GCSEs describes a person with high grades; it's a complete understatement. And going through an admissions test and 2 interviews makes the process stressful and time consuming. Not only do 1 in 8 exceptional applicants get in, but the process itself requires a large amount of work.
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gjd800
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Lots of truth to this, but Oxon colleges are working hard to do away with this sort of thinking and are doing much re outreach and non-traditional entry. It is a mindset thing, I think
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weepinbell
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(Original post by jebjeb27)
It's extremely difficult. 5 A* GCSEs describes a person with high grades; it's a complete understatement. And going through an admissions test and 2 interviews makes the process stressful and time consuming. Not only do 1 in 8 exceptional applicants get in, but the process itself requires a large amount of work.
5 A*s at GCSE? That's pretty tough but not extremely difficult to get (I thought that was relatively common these days with grade inflation).

Anyway, it's not just about GCSEs grades - that's just a part of the process... and this is the point I'm trying to make - you don't need to be 'exceptional' in that way that you seem to be suggesting.

I have no idea how the admissions process works but I think the interview is there to test how you respond to unfamiliar information - that's largely how they judge whether they think you'll benefit from an Oxbridge education or not. The process gives you a chance to show who you are outside the realm of stats and grades.

That's why I think it's a bit misleading to call it 'extremely difficult' and that everyone who gets in is 'exceptional'... you don't need exceptional grades all round, you just need to be high achieving and somewhat clever - and that's probably a more accurate description of the majority of people who get in (with some exceptional people).
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weepinbell
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The problem is that many people who probably are clever enough don't believe they are clever, so they don't apply. It's largely down to a toxic mix of misleading themes of 'exclusivity', 'impossibility' and 'exceptionalism' surrounding those universities, along with feelings of low self-worth forged by the poor encouragement they get from their lousy state school environment. And/or they've been given this impression that you need to be some super-duper Einstein genius to get in, which is also not exactly true. Private school kids never really have to deal with that sort of thing, the culture is different and they are treated differently, that's why so many of them go there instead.
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*****deadness
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(Original post by weepinbell)
The problem is that many people who probably are clever enough don't believe they are clever, so they don't apply. It's largely down to a toxic mix of misleading themes of 'exclusivity', 'impossibility' and 'exceptionalism' surrounding those universities, along with low self-worth forged by the poor encouragement they get from their lousy state school environment. And/or they've been given this impression that you need to be some super-duper Einstein genius to get in, which is also not exactly true. Private school kids never really have to deal with that sort of thing, the culture is different and they're treated differently, that's why so many of them go there instead.
That's just saying there's an atrocious disparity between people from state and independent schools, but what the state school kids have to go through and how many don't apply doesn't mean it's not hard to get in. Also the admissions tests on top of the interviews which other RG unis don't do make the process difficult, so much so that for some courses the offer rate is like 6% for like 12 places per year, and that's 6% of those who applied, not the entire population. If anything what you said suggests it's supposed to be harder had the clever state school people applied too.
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weepinbell
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(Original post by *****deadness)
That's just saying there's an atrocious disparity between people from state and independent schools, but what the state school kids have to go through and how many don't apply doesn't mean it's not hard to get in. Also the admissions tests on top of the interviews which other RG unis don't do make the process difficult, so much so that for some courses the offer rate is like 6% for like 12 places per year, and that's 6% of those who applied, not the entire population. If anything what you said suggests it's supposed to be harder had the clever state school people applied too.
6% is very low but not every course is as low as that. But highlighting exceptions such as this is partly what gives it a misleading impression which puts many people off. Yes, some courses are very hard to get into and some people there are extremely clever, but not every course is quite as hard to get into and not everyone there is extremely clever.
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*****deadness
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(Original post by weepinbell)
6% is very low but not every course is as low as that. But highlighting exceptions such as this is partly what gives it a misleading impression which puts many people off. Yes, some courses are very hard to get into and some people there are extremely clever, but not every course is quite as hard to get into and not everyone there is extremely clever.
I'm quoting 6% because that's for the course I'm applying for. Obviously people do get in, but if you barely manage a RG then your chances are slim
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jebjeb27
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(Original post by weepinbell)
5 A*s at GCSE? That's pretty tough but not extremely difficult to get (I thought that was relatively common these days with grade inflation).

Anyway, it's not just about GCSEs grades - that's just a part of the process... and this is the point I'm trying to make - you don't need to be 'exceptional' in that way that you seem to be suggesting.

I have no idea how the admissions process works but I think the interview is there to test how you respond to unfamiliar information - that's largely how they judge whether they think you'll benefit from an Oxbridge education or not. The process gives you a chance to show who you are outside the realm of stats and grades.

That's why I think it's a bit misleading to call it 'extremely difficult' and that everyone who gets in is 'exceptional'... you don't need exceptional grades all round, you just need to be high achieving and somewhat clever - and that's probably a more accurate description of the majority of people who get in (with some exceptional people).
I used the GCSE example to show just how advanced the average candidate is. And getting half A*s at GCSE shows this. The interviews consist of, as you say, problems that you're unfamiliar with. The interviews are really hard; there are very few that come out of them confident. And saying that 'you just need to be high achieving and somewhat clever' is a completely unfair description of the people that get in. You don't need exceptional grades... But if you don't have them, you WILL need to be exceptional in the interview, if you even get that far. It's a very hard process. Also, applicants from state schools get an advantage now in most courses, to somewhat make up for the advantage they get from the level of education
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the bear
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it is like people make a big deal of getting in to the SAS. all of the myths about supermen who can climb Everest with just a mars bar™ and a can of irn bru™ in a pair of flip flops are somewhat exagerrated.
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Oxford Mum
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p

(Original post by gjd800)
Lots of truth to this, but Oxon colleges are working hard to do away with this sort of thinking and are doing much re outreach and non-traditional entry. It is a mindset thing, I think
As you yourself know, a lot of the myths surrounding Oxford are rubbish. The reality is completely different and welcoming to all students, irrespective of background. Oxford, Target Oxbridge and Zero Gravity are starting to make free mentoring available for state students to show them what it is really like and guide them through the process.

Once there, there are many opportunities to get on and pursue your intellectual passions.

These fears are mostly misconceptions made of those who know nothing about it and make things up, or Daily Mail journalists, script writers of Lewis and whoever wrote the Riot Club.
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