Why I'm grateful for my Oxbridge rejection

Written by a member of the TSR community

This time last year my rejection from the University of Oxford was still at the forefront of my mind. One year on, I am now studying a totally different course at a different university, and I honestly couldn’t picture myself anywhere else. Here’s how I learned to be grateful for my Oxbridge rejection post-interview – and how you can too.

1. I made it through to the interview stage

Let’s do some basic maths. A lot of people apply to Oxbridge each academic year. Of these applications, not everyone is actually invited to interview. A 3-year average on the Oxford University website shows that only 49% of all Experimental Psychology applicants are interviewed, dropping to 44% for Law and 28% for Medicine. This means that you have done incredibly well to have made it this far; getting an interview at either of these prestigious institutions is a huge achievement in itself. If Oxford or Cambridge couldn’t picture you as a potential student, then they would not have given you this incredible opportunity to showcase your academic ability.

2. I had an enlightening experience discussing a subject I loved with experts in the field

What distinguishes Oxbridge from other higher-education institutions is their ‘tutorial’ or ‘supervision’ system. During my interviews, I was given the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with experts in the field about a subject I was truly passionate about, whilst also being challenged on the spot to push my thinking to a higher level than I’d ever reached before. The intellectual intensity of the interviews made it a truly special experience, and so it is an opportunity that I will be forever grateful for.

3. It made me realise that I had chosen the wrong degree

Okay, I’ll admit that this may not apply to everyone. Whilst I thought that Psychology was the only subject I was passionate about enough to study for three years, progressing through my four interviews made me increasingly doubt this assertion. At A-Level, Psychology is considered a ‘humanities’ subject; yet at university level it is taught as a science. During the Oxford interviews I was presented with a lot of data to analyse – this came as a huge wake-up call, making me realise how heavily scientific the degree would actually be. It is so difficult to gauge exactly what a course will be like when you read prospectuses or information online – this first-hand experience at Oxford allowed me to take a step back and completely reconsider my choice. I ended up changing disciplines completely and am now taking a BA rather than a BSc degree.

4. I no longer have the ‘what if’ in the back of my mind

I know for a fact that if I had not taken the leap and applied, I would still be wondering ‘what if’ today. I know now that Oxford saw potential in me, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to talk with passionate academics on their own areas of expertise.


So, there you go. Getting rejected by Oxbridge is categorically not the end of the world. Whatever university you end up going to will be the right one for you. Life is a mixture of successes and failures – failure will make you more resilient, and increasingly grateful for the success that is bound to be coming your way.

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