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Should I take a gap year to apply to Oxbridge?

So I'm currently meant to be going to Durham to study English, which I feel fine about. I am, however, slightly peeved about the fact I never applied to Oxford as I feel I might have had a chance.

I think my GCSEs were likely to have brought down my application slightly (five grade 9s, three grade 8s, three grade 7s in three sciences - taking 11 GCSEs brought down my average grade), and I was having a little bit of an academic identity crisis which is why I never applied.

Regardless, if I were to achieve A*A*A*A or above in August (alongside my A* in my EPQ), I think I'd feel very tempted to take a gap year and reapply to either Oxford or Cambridge for English.

Issue is, I'm a private school student - which might lower my chances (or at least certainly raise the standards expected of me). I'm in complete agreement with positive discrimination; I'm not implying I'm a huge victim of oppression or anything, simply stating the fact that although I still benefit from being privately educated, admissions are slightly less likely to welcome me with open arms.

For context, I take English Lit, History, Politics, and Spanish.
Why not plan a gap year either way?
Come up with some plans to save some cash and do something different for a year and ask Durham to defer your place.
That way if you get the results you’re hoping for in august then you aren’t stressing to cancel accommodation and arrange things at the last minute - you can just withdraw your deferred application and talk to your college about applying to Oxford (and reapplying to Durham and some other choices).

I would always recommend taking a gap year and reapplying if you’re getting the “what-ifs” - it’s a very low risk and high reward option (even if you don’t get an offer from Oxford you have the peace of mind of knowing you gave it a go and all the extra life experience from your gap year).
Original post by Anonymous
So I'm currently meant to be going to Durham to study English, which I feel fine about. I am, however, slightly peeved about the fact I never applied to Oxford as I feel I might have had a chance.

I think my GCSEs were likely to have brought down my application slightly (five grade 9s, three grade 8s, three grade 7s in three sciences - taking 11 GCSEs brought down my average grade), and I was having a little bit of an academic identity crisis which is why I never applied.

Regardless, if I were to achieve A*A*A*A or above in August (alongside my A* in my EPQ), I think I'd feel very tempted to take a gap year and reapply to either Oxford or Cambridge for English.

Issue is, I'm a private school student - which might lower my chances (or at least certainly raise the standards expected of me). I'm in complete agreement with positive discrimination; I'm not implying I'm a huge victim of oppression or anything, simply stating the fact that although I still benefit from being privately educated, admissions are slightly less likely to welcome me with open arms.

For context, I take English Lit, History, Politics, and Spanish.


Your GCSE grades are perfectly fine. I got into Oxford (albeit for chemistry) with 10 comparatively worse final GCSE grades and pretty much the bare minimum A levels accepted (though I did have a distinction in the mathematics AEA alongside these, which may have helped).

Provided that you have a strong UCAS application and do well in your entrance exams, interviews and A levels, you should stand a solid chance of getting in.

Also, make sure you do things starting from now, if possible, to bolster your application. Find writing competitions, mentor classmates so as to get practice with thinking out loud etc.
Reply 3
Original post by TypicalNerd
Your GCSE grades are perfectly fine. I got into Oxford (albeit for chemistry) with 10 comparatively worse final GCSE grades and pretty much the bare minimum A levels accepted (though I did have a distinction in the mathematics AEA alongside these, which may have helped).

Provided that you have a strong UCAS application and do well in your entrance exams, interviews and A levels, you should stand a solid chance of getting in.

Also, make sure you do things starting from now, if possible, to bolster your application. Find writing competitions, mentor classmates so as to get practice with thinking out loud etc.


Absolutely don't mean this to lessen how hugely impressive it is that you got in for chemistry, but were you state educated? There's a guy at my school who applied for English at Oxford last year (got like 10 grade 9s) and got rejected.

I'm quite annoyed I chose not to apply this year (I was in the Oxbridge applicant program at my school, but got really insecure about it and dropped out), but to be honest I don't think I would've gotten in then. Me dropping out of the program in the first place I think says a lot. Now, I feel like a much more well-rounded candidate and genuinely feel like I've grown a lot academically and personally - so I'm very eager to finally try.

Thinking out loud is definitely one of my struggles. I've been doing some lecture-style revision livestreams with friends and I've noticed I certainly "urm" and "uh" a lot when being put on the spot - which obviously would not look good in an interview! I'll definitely be doing things to bolster my application this summer if I decide to go for Oxford.

What college do you go to if you don't mind me asking? I have a friend at St Hugh's and it seems really nice! Exeter College also appeals to me.
Original post by Anonymous
Absolutely don't mean this to lessen how hugely impressive it is that you got in for chemistry, but were you state educated? There's a guy at my school who applied for English at Oxford last year (got like 10 grade 9s) and got rejected.

I'm quite annoyed I chose not to apply this year (I was in the Oxbridge applicant program at my school, but got really insecure about it and dropped out), but to be honest I don't think I would've gotten in then. Me dropping out of the program in the first place I think says a lot. Now, I feel like a much more well-rounded candidate and genuinely feel like I've grown a lot academically and personally - so I'm very eager to finally try.

Thinking out loud is definitely one of my struggles. I've been doing some lecture-style revision livestreams with friends and I've noticed I certainly "urm" and "uh" a lot when being put on the spot - which obviously would not look good in an interview! I'll definitely be doing things to bolster my application this summer if I decide to go for Oxford.

What college do you go to if you don't mind me asking? I have a friend at St Hugh's and it seems really nice! Exeter College also appeals to me.

If you got an offer from a lower ranked university, it would make sense to reapply. But reapplying for the sole sake of getting into oxbridge seems slightly foolish in my eyes - the opportunity cost of a very likely rejection is one year wasted. I'm sure no doors are shut to you if you go to Durham instead of Oxbridge. It's obviously still your decision to make, but I personally wouldn't since Oxbridge is so hard to get into despite perfect grades.
Original post by Anonymous
So I'm currently meant to be going to Durham to study English, which I feel fine about. I am, however, slightly peeved about the fact I never applied to Oxford as I feel I might have had a chance.

I think my GCSEs were likely to have brought down my application slightly (five grade 9s, three grade 8s, three grade 7s in three sciences - taking 11 GCSEs brought down my average grade), and I was having a little bit of an academic identity crisis which is why I never applied.

Regardless, if I were to achieve A*A*A*A or above in August (alongside my A* in my EPQ), I think I'd feel very tempted to take a gap year and reapply to either Oxford or Cambridge for English.

Issue is, I'm a private school student - which might lower my chances (or at least certainly raise the standards expected of me). I'm in complete agreement with positive discrimination; I'm not implying I'm a huge victim of oppression or anything, simply stating the fact that although I still benefit from being privately educated, admissions are slightly less likely to welcome me with open arms.

For context, I take English Lit, History, Politics, and Spanish.

I think you're overestimating how important affirmative action is in the Oxford admissions process. They do take contextualisation into account, but this is to determine how well you achieved compared to others at your school, not necessarily just how disadvantaged you are. It's also worth noting that in contextualising GCSEs, Oxford are just calculating the number of 8/9s you got compared to the average, so the difference between 8/9 is minimal.

It's ultimately up to you if you want to take a gap year and apply, but I think you have a good chance of getting in with those grades. My advice would be to try and spend as much time as possible working on the entrance test and written work during your gap year. Most candidates won't have as much time, so you might as well press the advantage you have.
Reply 6
Original post by toxicgamage56
If you got an offer from a lower ranked university, it would make sense to reapply. But reapplying for the sole sake of getting into oxbridge seems slightly foolish in my eyes - the opportunity cost of a very likely rejection is one year wasted. I'm sure no doors are shut to you if you go to Durham instead of Oxbridge. It's obviously still your decision to make, but I personally wouldn't since Oxbridge is so hard to get into despite perfect grades.


Get what you're saying. Thing is - I plan on going into law, specifically an insanely competitive area of law where I'll most likely have to go through several admissions cycles. Going to Oxford would give me an edge. Going to Durham wouldn't impede me from getting a placement at all, it's a perfectly fine university, but I know that Oxford would certainly help my chances.

Oxford being a likely rejection is also true. However, I think it's worth the try. English is something I genuinely feel very passionate about and the acceptance rates linger around 20%. Taking a gap year would really help me in making sure I had a strong application, as I'd have the time to really work on strengthening my knowledge, expression, essay skill. I'd have a lot of time to prepare for the ELAT too.

I'm not dead-set on either option quite yet. I'll see how my A levels go and react accordingly, I think. Thanks for your advice though!
Reply 7
Original post by emilyalexandria
I think you're overestimating how important affirmative action is in the Oxford admissions process. They do take contextualisation into account, but this is to determine how well you achieved compared to others at your school, not necessarily just how disadvantaged you are. It's also worth noting that in contextualising GCSEs, Oxford are just calculating the number of 8/9s you got compared to the average, so the difference between 8/9 is minimal.

It's ultimately up to you if you want to take a gap year and apply, but I think you have a good chance of getting in with those grades. My advice would be to try and spend as much time as possible working on the entrance test and written work during your gap year. Most candidates won't have as much time, so you might as well press the advantage you have.

I probably am! It's just a fact that private schools have been seeing a steep decline in Oxbridge admissions and I'm worried I'd get caught up in that. I just would love to give Oxford a go, and although it would certainly be a hugely intensive atmosphere, I feel a lot more academically prepared now than I did in September when I chose not to apply.
Original post by Anonymous
Absolutely don't mean this to lessen how hugely impressive it is that you got in for chemistry, but were you state educated? There's a guy at my school who applied for English at Oxford last year (got like 10 grade 9s) and got rejected.

I'm quite annoyed I chose not to apply this year (I was in the Oxbridge applicant program at my school, but got really insecure about it and dropped out), but to be honest I don't think I would've gotten in then. Me dropping out of the program in the first place I think says a lot. Now, I feel like a much more well-rounded candidate and genuinely feel like I've grown a lot academically and personally - so I'm very eager to finally try.

Thinking out loud is definitely one of my struggles. I've been doing some lecture-style revision livestreams with friends and I've noticed I certainly "urm" and "uh" a lot when being put on the spot - which obviously would not look good in an interview! I'll definitely be doing things to bolster my application this summer if I decide to go for Oxford.

What college do you go to if you don't mind me asking? I have a friend at St Hugh's and it seems really nice! Exeter College also appeals to me.

My college is to be decided (I got an open offer underwritten by the Queen’s college in the most recent admissions cycle, but I applied directly to Magdalen).

Having been round Oxford on their last open day, all the colleges I visited (Magdalen, Wadham and Keble) seemed really friendly environments. If you can’t pick a college, there is always the option to have an open application.

Edit: I forgot to mention I am state educated, but as others have pointed out below, it’s more to do with whether the interviewers think you’ll handle the teaching style. They won’t care much that you went to a private school.
(edited 9 months ago)
Original post by Anonymous
Get what you're saying. Thing is - I plan on going into law, specifically an insanely competitive area of law where I'll most likely have to go through several admissions cycles. Going to Oxford would give me an edge. Going to Durham wouldn't impede me from getting a placement at all, it's a perfectly fine university, but I know that Oxford would certainly help my chances.

Oxford being a likely rejection is also true. However, I think it's worth the try. English is something I genuinely feel very passionate about and the acceptance rates linger around 20%. Taking a gap year would really help me in making sure I had a strong application, as I'd have the time to really work on strengthening my knowledge, expression, essay skill. I'd have a lot of time to prepare for the ELAT too.

I'm not dead-set on either option quite yet. I'll see how my A levels go and react accordingly, I think. Thanks for your advice though!

Oh ok, I've applied for law at university so I get what you mean by insane competition - and I assume you mean commercial law? I still don't know if Durham would disadvantage you, because I don't know about English, but for law it's like 5th place in the country so you wouldn't be at any disadvantage there. Most of the magic circle is Oxbridge though which is where I'm aiming for too, so I do see your point. Many people in my class got into Oxbridge for English so maybe it's not as bad competition for English, in which case I'd say go for it since you have stellar grades and seem to know exactly what you're going to be doing in the gap year. Good luck.
Reply 10
Original post by Anonymous
Absolutely don't mean this to lessen how hugely impressive it is that you got in for chemistry, but were you state educated? There's a guy at my school who applied for English at Oxford last year (got like 10 grade 9s) and got rejected.

I'm quite annoyed I chose not to apply this year (I was in the Oxbridge applicant program at my school, but got really insecure about it and dropped out), but to be honest I don't think I would've gotten in then. Me dropping out of the program in the first place I think says a lot. Now, I feel like a much more well-rounded candidate and genuinely feel like I've grown a lot academically and personally - so I'm very eager to finally try.

Thinking out loud is definitely one of my struggles. I've been doing some lecture-style revision livestreams with friends and I've noticed I certainly "urm" and "uh" a lot when being put on the spot - which obviously would not look good in an interview! I'll definitely be doing things to bolster my application this summer if I decide to go for Oxford.

What college do you go to if you don't mind me asking? I have a friend at St Hugh's and it seems really nice! Exeter College also appeals to me.

Hey! I think others have mentioned this above but you're definitely really overestimating how much thought is given to your schooling. the boy you knew who got rejected with 10 grade 9s did not get rejected because he was perfect for oxford but they had to prioritise giving spaces to state school students - he got rejected because its not about grades, its about the learning style and the interviewers determined that he wouldnt be right for oxford's learning style.

If you got an interview and the interviewers thought that you would thrive at oxbridge, you would get a place. its that simple. they only really look at your schooling if, for example, they have two completely identical candidates (like completely identical in terms of grades, personal statement, written work, admissions tests, interviews etc - which is very rare anyway) and one of the candidates is state educated and the other is private: the admissions tutors might - MIGHT - favour the state school student because they've gotten the same academic results as the private school student but have presumbably had to work harder.

the only reason private school applications seem to have gone down is mainly because more and more state school students are encouraged to apply every year becasue oxbridge is getting more and more diverse. please dont think that your private school is going to hinder your application, this is such a silly misconception. if you're right for oxbridge, you'll get a place, regardless of your schooling.
(edited 9 months ago)
Original post by Anonymous
Absolutely don't mean this to lessen how hugely impressive it is that you got in for chemistry, but were you state educated? There's a guy at my school who applied for English at Oxford last year (got like 10 grade 9s) and got rejected.

I'm quite annoyed I chose not to apply this year (I was in the Oxbridge applicant program at my school, but got really insecure about it and dropped out), but to be honest I don't think I would've gotten in then. Me dropping out of the program in the first place I think says a lot. Now, I feel like a much more well-rounded candidate and genuinely feel like I've grown a lot academically and personally - so I'm very eager to finally try.

Thinking out loud is definitely one of my struggles. I've been doing some lecture-style revision livestreams with friends and I've noticed I certainly "urm" and "uh" a lot when being put on the spot - which obviously would not look good in an interview! I'll definitely be doing things to bolster my application this summer if I decide to go for Oxford.

What college do you go to if you don't mind me asking? I have a friend at St Hugh's and it seems really nice! Exeter College also appeals to me.

Just wanted to say, I um and uh alot, especially when nervous, but still got an offer from Cambridge.. I think so long as what you say in an interview is decent, it doesnt matter how you say it
Reply 12
Original post by toxicgamage56
Oh ok, I've applied for law at university so I get what you mean by insane competition - and I assume you mean commercial law? I still don't know if Durham would disadvantage you, because I don't know about English, but for law it's like 5th place in the country so you wouldn't be at any disadvantage there. Most of the magic circle is Oxbridge though which is where I'm aiming for too, so I do see your point. Many people in my class got into Oxbridge for English so maybe it's not as bad competition for English, in which case I'd say go for it since you have stellar grades and seem to know exactly what you're going to be doing in the gap year. Good luck.


Yup hahahah - that's exactly my goal. English at Durham is third in the country currently, and tends to sit firmly in that spot most of the time. So again - not a disadvantage, but Oxford would certainly give me an edge I think. Best of luck to you too! Hopefully we'll see each other at a magic circle firm in about six years :smile:
Reply 13
Original post by pkchan
Hey! I think others have mentioned this above but you're definitely really overestimating how much thought is given to your schooling. the boy you knew who got rejected with 10 grade 9s did not get rejected because he was perfect for oxford but they had to prioritise giving spaces to state school students - he got rejected because its not about grades, its about the learning style and the interviewers determined that he wouldnt be right for oxford's learning style.

If you got an interview and the interviewers thought that you would thrive at oxbridge, you would get a place. its that simple. they only really look at your schooling if, for example, they have two completely identical candidates (like completely identical in terms of grades, personal statement, written work, admissions tests, interviews etc - which is very rare anyway) and one of the candidates is state educated and the other is private: the admissions tutors might - MIGHT - favour the state school student because they've gotten the same academic results as the private school student but have presumbably had to work harder.

the only reason private school applications seem to have gone down is mainly because more and more state school students are encouraged to apply every year becasue oxbridge is getting more and more diverse. please dont think that your private school is going to hinder your application, this is such a silly misconception. if you're right for oxbridge, you'll get a place, regardless of your schooling.


Thanks for your response! I'll definitely keep that in mind. Still not sure whether or not I'll go ahead with this plan as I'm sure Durham would be fine, but it's quite tempting.
Original post by Anonymous
Get what you're saying. Thing is - I plan on going into law, specifically an insanely competitive area of law where I'll most likely have to go through several admissions cycles. Going to Oxford would give me an edge. Going to Durham wouldn't impede me from getting a placement at all, it's a perfectly fine university, but I know that Oxford would certainly help my chances.

Oxford being a likely rejection is also true. However, I think it's worth the try. English is something I genuinely feel very passionate about and the acceptance rates linger around 20%. Taking a gap year would really help me in making sure I had a strong application, as I'd have the time to really work on strengthening my knowledge, expression, essay skill. I'd have a lot of time to prepare for the ELAT too.

I'm not dead-set on either option quite yet. I'll see how my A levels go and react accordingly, I think. Thanks for your advice though!


In that case I would definitely recommend a gap year either way to get some work experience (not necessarily law related but in a range of areas/industries) and to save up so that you have more flexibility and options when if comes to converting to law as a postgraduate.

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