The UK is home to two of the most prestigious universities in the world. Both Oxford and Cambridge command serious international respect, drawing students from just about everywhere. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the standards placed on prospective new students is high: in addition to extremely strong A-level results, candidates will have to survive two face-to-face interviews and demonstrate a catalogue of considered extra-curricular activities. This may seem unnecessarily gruelling or out of reach, especially when compared to the simpler application process of most other UK universities. But for those who are accepted into Oxbridge, the rewards are plentiful.
Some seriously famous names are among the alumni of both institutions. Some leading lights have also taught at them, with Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkein and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking lecturing at Oxford and Cambridge respectively. As a student, you will also benefit from stellar guest speakers and world-class debating societies.
With exceptional teaching comes outstanding courses. Whatever you wish to specialise in, you can be sure there is a lecturer to guide you at Oxbridge. On applicable courses, you will also have the opportunity to participate in new breakthrough research.
However, this high-class tuition is not for everyone. Be prepared to work harder than your peers to gain your degree, with a lot of time devoted to reading. In addition to spending a lot of time studying, purchasing the necessary textbooks requires you to devote a substantial amount of money to your course, too. This can be inconvenient, but hard-up students can take the edge off with a £50 loan from a specialist provider allowing them to get ahead of the game with summer reading. Additionally, popular course books can often be found second hand at a reduced price, either in local bookshops or online.
Performing under pressure
If you’re going to be studying at either of these universities, then you can expect to be put under significant pressure. In many cases, this can help students to cope with testing situations in the future and brings out the best in them in the safety of the ‘classroom’. However, if you’re not used to dealing with the high standards of elite education, then you might find that this environment is a little overwhelming in the beginning.
It is worth remembering that this intense regime is part of the reason that degrees from these institutions are so sought-after by employers. If you can get through your Oxford or Cambridge education, then it is highly likely that you’ll be able to cope with the rigours of your workplace.
Particularly intimidating are the various entrance interviews you’ll be expected to get through before obtaining a place at either of these universities. It is worth doing as much preparation as you can with your schoolteachers and outside tutors since you’ll only get one chance to succeed.
History and tradition
Oxbridge aren’t just distinct from the rest of UK universities because of their academic achievements and the intelligence of their alumni. The buildings themselves are also steeped in history with beautiful architecture, making both towns a popular day trip from London.
You’ll find plenty of traditions interspersed throughout the academic year, too. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the boat race which both universities compete in every year but just as important are all the smaller rituals that you’ll be exposed to along the way such as posh dinners and traditional songs. Students here are immersed in a unique culture that’s difficult to find elsewhere. This can really help to foster a sense of belonging and pride.