Rejected from Oxbridge: What now?

Your options after being rejected by Oxford or Cambridge

After waiting for that all-important decision, you find out you didn’t make it.

But whatever you decide to do, getting knocked back by Oxbridge isn't the end of the world.

Yes, being accepted would have been amazing – but you are still in control of what happens now.

So what should your next steps be? We consult TSR members who have been there, done that.

Option 1: Embrace one of your other choices

The truth is that you can make a success of your academic and professional life wherever you study.

TSR member innerhollow, who went to a university which is a popular choice for former Oxbridge candidates, says: “My university is filled with so-called 'Oxbridge rejects'.

“Trust me when I say that you will soon stop caring about your rejection from Oxford or Cambridge, especially once you actually start uni.

“You will be just as happy at whichever uni you do go to, be it UCL, Durham, Imperial or wherever, and do just as well as you would have done.

“You can have a good time at uni, get top grades, make mum and dad (and yourself) proud, get a kick-ass graduate job; whatever it was that made you want to go to Oxford, Cambridge or any other university in the first place.”

And The_Lonely_Goatherd emphasises the fact that there are several other brilliant universities in the UK: "Please don't label yourself a failure or an 'Oxbridge reject'. Getting into Oxford or not does not define your intelligence, or you as a person. These things always involve a great deal of luck.

“You may be disappointed initially, or for a while. Or even maybe a long time. But this too shall pass. We are fortunate in the UK to have several outstanding departments spread across a wide range of institutions. Chances are if you got to an Oxford interview, you're going to be made offers from other excellent universities. You'll go there, have a great time with less work than you would have at Oxford, and will almost certainly be glad that you weren't made an Oxford offer in the end.”

Option 2: Reapply for an undergraduate course at Oxbridge next year

You don't have to give up on your Oxbridge dream if you're still determined to make it happen.

TSR member DashBox was rejected from Cambridge and wanted to reapply for next year.

He started a thread to ask for advice, and auburnstar suggested he could start a course elsewhere and apply for Oxford, since Cambridge are less open to applications from students already enrolled on a course: "A friend of mine rejected Oxford pre-interview because he made a bad course decision (basically he loves English but didn't want to study it).

"Then he got his A level results (A*A*A) and went to St Andrews. He got one of our school teachers to write the reference, help with submitted work and submit the UCAS form before 15th October.

"Got an interview offer and went down and interviewed and now has found out he has a place starting in October 2017.

"I'm thinking of doing the same provided I get A*A*AA or A*A*A*A (most post-results applicants who are successful exceed AAA/A*AA)."

TSR member Radicalist received a rejection from Oxford after their interview in 2017, then reapplied the next year and got offered a place taking PPE.

They started a thread offering lots of advice to anyone else considering reapplying, including revising for any pre-interview assessments and reading as widely as you can around your subject before the interview, because "you want to give yourself as much possible prior knowledge when going into an Oxford application – not because they necessarily look for prior knowledge but because being familiar with as many ideas, concepts and methods as possible will only help you when encountering new ones".

Alternatively, dragonkeeper999 suggests taking a gap year if you think you have a good shot at being accepted next year, and lists some ideas for ways of spending a year off:

  • Secure work experience (contact local science related companies and ask for a week or two of work shadowing)
  • Do a Year in Industry programme or other internship
  • Get a job (earn some cash, very useful, as well as get some experience of working a full time job)
  • Volunteer (for example in a local school, library, community centre or sports club)
  • Travel
  • Do extra reading
  • Study online courses

Option 3: Revisit Oxbridge when thinking about your masters

If you do your undegraduate course elsewhere and do well, you could apply for Oxbridge later.

Newcastle456 was rejected from Oxford twice, but ended up doing his MPhil at Cambridge.

He said: “Don't ever be bitter, it’s not worth the time or effort. At the end of the day, you didn't quite make it, it could be down to a number of reasons and we will never truly know why. 

“No admissions system is flawless, they may have let a gem go and another university may have uncovered that rough diamond. What I am saying is keep your chin up, persistence can break down a lot of barriers. You often need to take one step back to go two steps forward. 

“If you really are that great, committed, what not, you will have other opportunities. Some people come up smelling of roses all the time, others don't. A great person will get back up and try again, not dwell on past failures but look forward to the next challenge.”

Whatever you decide to do, you are not alone. Talk to others currently in the same position as you in the dedicated threads for people who didn't get offered a place at Oxford and those who didn't get an offer from Cambridge