The UK stands out in its application process, which is very unique. All students apply through UCAS, and they select only 5 degree options. They only write one application, and it is sent to all 5 options. Importantly, students cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge. Their centuries-old rivalry will mean you have to choose one out of the two.
The main application deadlines vary by university, but if you want to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, you have to abide by the October 15th deadline. Applicants to other UK schools can submit their applications by January 15th instead. The reason for an earlier deadline is because most Oxbridge applicants have to do a supplemental entrance exam depending on their subject, and because the universities need extra time to conduct interviews, which take place around December.
The Oxbridge interviews are subject-specific, and you will be expected to know a great deal about the course you are applying for. The questions differ from interview to interview, but be prepared to answer a diverse set of puzzles, open-ended, or fact-seeking questions. Rather than the definite answer, the interviewers will be interested to hear your thinking process. Additionally, be prepared to discuss your personal statement at length, including any academic courses or research positions you have mentioned.
Finally, remember that you will need one recommendation. Oxbridge does not require additional references. Ideally, this is written by a teacher that taught you an advanced class in a subject you indicated interest in.
As such, remember to tell your school you need this reference early!
The most important part of your application materials, however, will be the personal statement. The personal statement is not a creative essay per se. Instead, you will have to describe a) your motivation to study your chosen degree, and b) your ability and aptitude for the degree. Here are some tips:
- Talk about academics: Many think your grades will show your academic abilities, but that is not true. Talk about why you like your chosen subjects, or if you cannot study it in school, related subjects (Law → English or Social Sciences | Engineering → Physics or Math).
- Describe non-academic experiences: The universities will want to see if you are engaged with your degree outside of the classroom. Remember not only to talk about what you have done, but how it increased your overall motivation and skill-set for the degree.
- Do not mention university names: All 5 of your options will receive the essay. Do not mention one of them, as the essay must be general.
The academic description matters more for Oxbridge applicants than most because Oxbridge has a penchant for students who are more scholarly. Ideally, do online courses and research in your degree to show that you really have what it takes.
The personal statement has to be 4,000 characters (including spaces) at most, which is around 670 words. While it is not as much writing as in the US applications, the essay needs to be even more carefully thought out to include most of the things you have done with concision. Most Prep Zone students start crafting their essays by July before their last year in high school, so they can be ready by the October deadlines.