How not to get into Oxbridge
1) Apply for Cambridge with an AS average of under 90%.
The logic is simple: Cambridge asks for a breakdown of your UMS marks, while Oxford do not. Suppose you’ve scored 80% in all your AS papers. If you apply to Oxford, you’ll look like just another straight A student; but if you apply for Cambridge, you’re almost certain to be rejected. In addition, if your grades are weak, you’re less likely to meet a Cambridge offer than the relatively undemanding 3A offers which Oxford make.
2) Waste all your time on extra-curriculars.
Apparently the modal number of hobbies for an Oxford don is zero. They don’t much care about extra-curricular activities; your love of football and your earnest volunteering are unlikely to do much for your application. In fact, they might harm it. The tutor might worry that you’ll spend your time playing sports when you should be following Lenin’s excellent advice to the Soviet youth: ‘learn, learn, and learn!’
3) Be late for the interview.
Pretty obvious I know.
4) Don’t read any of the books mentioned in your personal statement.
Apparently a book which applicants commonly claim to have read is the ‘Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith. Tutors like to ask such students whether they’ve reached the bit about the pin factory; students usually say no. The bit about the pin factory is on page two.
5) Spend your time on articles like this.
Although no doubt valuable as a means of procrastination, I am pretty sceptical about the value of the endless stream of articles offering the secret to Oxbridge admission. They display all the hallmarks of bad science: empirical claims made without any reference to data, heavy reliance on anecdote, and a complete lack of quantitative predictions. When was the last time you heard a claim like ‘apply for a low ranked college’ backed up by any data – let alone a peer reviewed study? And I hope it doesn’t sound superior, but how many of the people offering advice actually got into Oxbridge themselves?