Oxbridge = Oxford + Cambridge. You've probably already sorted that out, but if you're from the US, I'll bet you've never heard the term before.
Yup, I'm willing to make that bet, because for the past two years I haven't said "Oxbridge" once without someone asking what it was, or thinking I'd invented the word myself, or laughing like I'd just said something ridiculous like "dinglesnorter hoppenstein." (Note to self: future name for a pet.) And that was just in casual conversation. When I asked actual professionals, a.k.a. the folks who are supposed to know these things, for advice about Oxbridge, they'd often say "Ox-whaa?" and look at me like I'd just asked for directions to Xunantunich. Few people in the US know much about British schools, it seems, and even fewer the unusual Oxford and Cambridge systems.
Hmm yes, I remember those days of innocence. When I first sat down to begin my own applications, I hadn't the foggiest idea what I was up against.
Turns out there are plenty of resources for students coming straight from high school. Entire businesses, in fact, if you happen to live in the UK, whom you can hire to hold your hand throughout the long and tangled process. As for me, an adult student, an international to boot, well...it soon became clear that I was on my own. I was constantly haunted by a sense of ineptness, a bit like if I had shown up at a concert as the only musician who had never seen the music, but hopeful that I could "catch on" to the tune eventually.
Well, catch on I did...more or less. Now that I've navigated the complicated vettings of Oxbridge, I'm determined to help my future fellow clueless applicants by offering my take on how the whole application thing goes down.
(Spoiler alert: it's mostly a crapshoot. At least it feels that way, generally. It likely involves a dartboard.)
I'll try to mention what I wish I'd known earlier, though in hindsight these can be hard to figure out. And how you, my dear applicant, might stumble onto these posts, I can't say. I guess you'll have to get lucky with your search terms, looking for phrases like Oxbridge application, or nontraditional students, or potential punters and pubcrawlers rah! rah! rah! dominus illuminatio mea et hinc lucem et pocula sacra!
Now I'm just getting silly. But that's what Oxonians and Cantabs do. They parade around with boars' heads and walk backwards at midnight and race tortoises. Lesson number one. You must be a wee bit silly in the head. Because listen - this is crazy. Right?
Anyone who actually knows anything about the schools will surely laugh at my perspective, but there you have it. The things I'll try to mention include:
1. Where to look for help, such as it is
2. How to be an optimistic snowball in hell
3. The UCAS, or "The Form that Crushed Entire Cities"
4. The dreaded Personal Statement, or "Sounding Like a Doofus in Four Thousand Characters or Less"
5. Extra, extra, extra forms! (Read all about it!)
6. Do you think you’re clever? The INTERVIEWS
And, of course...
7. Why it's all so incredibly worth it, even if you don't get in
I’m not going to flood my blog with this, but I’ll sprinkle it in here and there. And if I don’t proceed in a logical fashion, it’s because that’s a proper reflection of my internal thought process. (As opposed to my external thought process, which is more or less non-existent.)
Take heart, good souls everywhere, whether you are in the middle of a current journey or at the beginning of a new one!