I didn’t apply to Oxford or Cambridge, and why that’s OK

Created in HIVE by the TSR community

Today, applicants to the University of Cambridge will find out whether their application was successful or not. Oxford applicants found out last week. I have friends that fall into both of those categories. I fall into neither. 

When I completed my end of year exams last year, which would determine my predicted grades for my UCAS application, I was expecting results of around AAA, and researched courses accordingly. Oxford and Cambridge were never in consideration, and it wasn’t a distant dream like it was for other people, either. I just wasn’t really interested in Oxbridge. 


Then, I got my results back, and I was predicted A*A*A*. That was unexpected. Although I wasn’t interested in Oxbridge, I did have a university in mind that I wanted to go to, and that was St. Andrews. I had seen a picture of it on Instagram in Year 9, and not knowing anything about universities, I found out that it was high on the league tables and decided it was the university for me. Year 13 rolled around and I began going to open days and starting my UCAS application. St. Andrews was the last of the open days that I went to, and the one I was most excited for. After all, this was the university that I had set as my goal for the past two years, and I was determined to get an offer from. 

Only then did I realise I didn’t really like it that much. It’s true, the town is beautiful and St. Salvator’s quad, the part that you always see in photos, even more so, but the university was not for me. I didn’t like the accommodation and how you couldn’t apply for a specific building – instead you apply for a room type and they assign you to a building. I also wasn’t as comfortable with living in a small town as I hoped I would be; coming from London, it’s weird not having a range of shops to choose from within 20 minutes. 


Now I had an issue. Because I had been set on St. Andrews, I hadn’t paid much attention to the other universities that I was applying to – they were nice, but I didn’t have much of an opinion beyond that. People were suggesting that I at least try applying to Oxford or Cambridge. After all, I had the predicted grades to have a reasonable chance of getting an interview. It felt like a waste if I didn’t even try to get an offer. I started doing some research into these universities that I had never planned on visiting, let alone applying to. I found out they have a very different environment to other universities: there’s far more of a focus on academics and the teaching style is different and in smaller groups. In the end, I chose not to apply; I didn’t think I would like it there and I decided to save myself the stress of going through the process. It doesn’t matter whether I could’ve got in if I wasn’t going to like it anyway. 

So if you are going to apply to one of these universities, make sure you know that you actually want to go there first. If you aren’t applying, can’t apply, or get rejected: all is not lost. If you play your cards right, you can do just as well at a different university as you would have at Oxford or Cambridge, and even enjoy your time more. If you really want to go, there’s always post graduate options. Not going to one of these universities is not the end of the world when there are so many other good options to choose from.

Whatever you choose to do, do your research first. Don’t be like me and pick your first choice based on an Instagram post.

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