Getting into your dream university is a day you will remember for the rest of your lives. After all the hard work, boring exams, and late nights, you can finally relax with the knowledge that it has all been worth it.
For many of us, the dream is to study at Oxford and Cambridge. These institutions not only represent unparalleled educational excellence, but opportunity. Opportunity to pursue the career and life you want. And deserve.
Getting into one of these world-class universities is an achievement. But, in this article, I'm going to tell you the tools I used to get offers from both of them.
Success in your applications start way before you begin writing your personal statement. You first need to position yourself correctly.
The way to do this is to build a personal brand.
You may think that a personal brand is something only celebrities or influencers need to worry about. But, you'd be wrong. A personal brand is for anyone who wishes to intentionally modify the way they are perceived. When it comes to your oxbridge applications, it all starts with a positive perception.
In particular, you want to ensure you are perceived as a competent and ambitious individual, with a sustained passion for your chosen subject. Put another way, you have a mission. Everything you have done leading up to the application has been pointing in the same direction, helping you to make a brilliant personal pitch.
For instance, if you're applying to law at Oxford or Cambridge - and have a particular interest in commercial law - ensure your prior commitments have demonstrated an unequivocal interest in commercial law. Your hobbies, work experience, and academic focus should all be commercially focus e.g. start a business, get an internship at a commercial law firm, and focus your dissertation on a commercial law topic.
It's all about demonstrating that law - and particularly commercial law in this example - is what you are all about. It surprises me how many students lack focus when it comes to their applications. Don't be one of those students
The first major hurdle you cross as an applicant is the personal statements.
The key point here is to create a narrative. This is because humans are sold on emotions and no the facts
Most of the other applicants will write their personal statement explaining that they find the law fascinating, they have some decent grades, and then start 'brown-nosing' the universities in the flawed belief that this is how they should demonstrate passion for studying at Oxbridge. The truth is, this isn't very persuasive.
Alternatively, if you write your personal statement by building a narrative of how your previous experiences led you to sending this application and Oxbridge is the logical next step in your career plan, then it's going to sound so much better.
For instance, if I was applying to Oxford or Cambridge today I would begin by quickly showing how my interest in law was first ignited i.e. I set the scene. As an example, if I was interested in banking and finance law, perhaps my concerns over the unregulated nature of decentralised currencies sparked the initial interest. You can then go on to say how you did work experience in a law firm specialising in this sector and decided to learn coding so you can understand how cryptocurrencies operate (and their underlying blockchain technology).
By threading the application into your life story, you will not only persuade them from an emotional perspective but demonstrate you’ve really thought about where you are going in life. Oxbridge don't just want academic robots, they want interesting people to study there. People who could, one day, change the world.
Researching the university and the degree is a given. So, what do I mean by tactical research?
Tactical research means going above and beyond the call of duty to find information that is both unique and intriguing. It's information that gives unrivalled strength to your applications because nobody else has been as meticulous as you in hunting it out. It's what gives your application the WOW factor.
One way of demonstrating the WOW factor through tactical research is to find out who is responsible for selecting applicants. (Although, note, if you are applying for a graduate position this is likely to be easier than those of you who applying for an undergraduate position).
Once you've the responsible individual(s) you can then start reading about the work they've done, the things they're interested in, and stalk them on LinkedIn to understand their career plan. By doing this you can start crafting an application that appeal to them. In other words, you are making your application no only personal to you but personal to THEM too.
For instance, if they are the head of commercial law but they also have involvement in advising banks on financial regulation matters, it could be a good idea to mention that financial regulation conference you attended or that blockchain-based business you started a couple of years ago.
The point is, you want to be playing your best hand at all times. And tactical research offers you to pull out an ace when everyone else has a joker.
If you look for advice online about how to get into Oxford and Cambridge, it's all very generic. People will tell you to study hard, prepare well, and practice interviewing. All of this is true, but it won't help you stand out; it's what everyone is doing.
Instead, to get into Oxford or Cambridge you need to be unique. Do something that nobody else is doing. So, I guess the point of this article is to help you think of different ways of doing this and point you in the right direction. We've all got something incredible to offer, now you need to figure out what that is.