Good GCSE results? Aiming for Cambridge or Oxford? Here’s what you need to do now!

Is your child proudly clutching excellent GCSE results of mostly As and A*s? Congratulations, and not just to you for so patiently supporting a hard-working Year 11. Having achieved top grades, that student is showing potential for a top-rated university, but you might be wondering what to do next. If you’re beginning to dream of Oxbridge (that’s a conflation of Oxford and Cambridge by the way), though, note that success will take some preparation. So, here are some things you can do to maximise your child’s chances after the big hug and the celebratory shopping trip:

Oxbridge entry top tips

1. Get ready

Be clear about the time scale. While the Oxbridge application process is more

straight-forward than most parents think, it’s best to start engaging with it early. DC

will have to include either Oxford or Cambridge (you cannot apply to both) in the

standard UCAS form and submit it by October of Year 13. This means she has to

make her course choice months before students only aiming for other universities do.

2. Time to prepare

If DC still feels hazy about Oxbridge, you want to have a little university talk even

earlier, ideally before the start of Year 12. Just like when you had that talk about

the birds and the bees, you may discover lots of misconceptions. Try to explain that

universities differ in more than just location or nightlife: top ones teach subjects

at greater depth, appeal to top employers and suit keen, rapid learners. Studying at

Oxbridge is not about going somewhere posh.

3. Do your research

Next, both of you may want to study a prospectus or two. Encourage DC to look

beyond school subjects or other familiar courses, which are often vastly over-
subscribed. By doing this in good time, you can ensure that your student’s A-level

subjects fit the course requirements or suit more than one course. Sixth formers can

usually still switch A-levels in the first weeks of Year12.

4. Read around

Oxbridge wants readers, but school work in the sixth form can be a seemingly endless

slog. So, DC needs to start supplementing school text books and website pages with a

few challenging books in the holidays. Try to ensure she has a library card or a clutch

of book tokens. Teachers, librarians and bookshop staff will be happy to suggest age-
appropriate titles.

5. Go in depth

A student keen to show interest in her chosen course may then want to look for

articles by a subject expert or watch a related online lecture. DC will find links to

both in my tweets @oxbridgentrance.

6. Get a life!

Applicants are no longer expected to shine at music or sport, but being able to

combine school work with a course-related hobby or demanding volunteer job still

goes down well. It can also build verbal skills for the last stage of the admissions

process, the Oxbridge interview. If DC’s school does not have a volunteering

scheme, try

7. To road trip or not to road trip?

Should you go on a family outing to Oxford or Cambridge? Yes, if DC loves stylish

old buildings. Other students may need reassurance that Oxbridge life is actually quite

modern. So, being dragged through cobbled streets (colleges are not always open

to visitors) can be a turn-off. Your student may prefer one of the free, lively student

events listed on the Oxford or Cambridge website. Most include both a guided tour

and some application advice.

This is pretty much all you can do to lay the groundwork for success at this early stage.

The most contested courses and the pre-interview tests required for some courses may

need some extra preparation, but not until next year. Meanwhile, keep an eye on progress,

but try not to obsess about Oxbridge, as it will only make your student nervous. Instead,

you want to praise and enjoy those great GCSE results. Best of luck!

Elfi Pallis is the author of OXBRIDGE ENTRANCE: THE REAL RULES . She also blogs Oxbridge advice at

and tweets links to course-related articles or online lectures @oxbridgentrance.!/oxbridgentrance


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