Even with a centralised system such as UCAS, applying to a university in the UK can feel like something of a chore. This is only made more complicated when applying to Oxford, Cambridge, and other top UK universities that incorporate added elements such as written work submissions, admissions tests, and/or interviews. With this in mind, our friends at Oxbridge Applications have put together this blog which takes you through the application process stage-by-stage, including important dates for your diary. Combine this with their Oxbridge Application Calendar to ensure that you’re on top of everything you need to get done over the coming months.


September is the month in which you will need to lay the groundwork and establish everything that your chosen course requires. It’s in September that most admissions test bookings open, so be sure to check out which tests you’re required to take and get booked in as soon as you can to avoid disappointment. The UCAS website also opens for the new round of applications during September, so you can begin filling out your basic details and getting set up to submit your application.

By the end of September you should have: Decided on your five university/course choices, registered and begun filling out your UCAS form, come close to finalising your Personal Statement, researched and registered for any admissions tests.

Top Personal Statement Tips

Get Started:

As difficult as a personal statement can be, getting started is often the most difficult part. You my spend hours, days, weeks, even, sitting thinking about what you could possibly say about yourself or your academic journey so far. It’s important to remember that feeling apprehensive like this is totally normal! The key to getting started is, perhaps obviously, to just start. This may sound silly to say, but it’s easy to get caught up wanting to read just one more book, or watch just one more documentary, but even if you’ve not got through all the material you wanted to, start getting ideas down on paper and the ideas will flow a lot more easily. Why not begin by making a list of all the things you want to mention in your personal statement? Getting your thoughts down in writing is a big first step, and we promise you’ll feel a lot better about the personal statement once this step is done.

Match Oxbridge Expectations:

When writing your personal statement for top UK universities, it’s important to think not just about what you want to showcase about yourself, but also about what Oxbridge will want to see from you. Our top tip on this front is to make sure that everything you say links back to a key skill or area of personal development that will help you in your future academic career. Oxbridge are looking for someone who is going to enjoy a rigorous studying schedule and will show sufficient passion for their subject to put in the hours and hours of required effort to mastering it. This means that your personal statement needs to prove with hard evidence that you’ve got genuine interest in your subject. Oxbridge also want to see a critical side to your research and reading. This means that you’ve not just read the most revered books on the syllabus and can namecheck them, but that you’ve read them and have something interesting to bring to a discussion of their contents; do you agree with the author? How does the book make you feel? How does the contents reflect a wider issue within society or your subject area? Considering questions like these will help impress your admissions tutors and help your statement stand out.

Standing Out

This can be the trickiest part of the personal statement, since it can be so easy to work through a clear personal statement formula, mentioning all the right things as you go, but to still not achieve a place at your chosen uni. This is where making sure that you have interesting feature points, ideas, or experiences mentioned in the personal statement will help you stand out and get that illusive invitation to interview. Begin by thinking of all the ‘evidence’ you have to show passion for your subject. This could be seminars you’ve attended, books you’ve read, awards you’ve won, anything along these lines that shows you’ve demonstrated interest in learning more about your subject. Then, and this is the key, develop these ideas further through reflection and further research. It’s not going to be enough to just name a TV show you watched or work experience you did, so think about what this experience meant to you, how it made you think/feel, and how it has impacted your opinions on your subject area. This is where great personal statements are made; in the analysis.

Read the Oxbridge Personal Statement Guide where you can find top pieces of advice on personal statement writing, from how to get started, to meeting Oxbridge expectations, to making yours stand out from the crowd.


October is perhaps the most important month of the application cycle when it comes to the UCAS form itself. Mid-October is the submission deadline for all undergraduate courses at Oxbridge, as well as medicine, veterinary medicine, and dentistry at other universities. October is also the month when the first wave of admissions tests, excluding the LNAT, will be held (with the rest taking place at the start of November). This means that you’re going to be spending October finalising and double checking your UCAS form and personal statement before submission, as well as revising for admissions tests (and yes, aptitude tests can be prepared for! Head over to our resource hub for advice and revision materials).


For most applicants November is a slightly more relaxed month when it comes to deadlines, with most admissions tests having taken place in mid-October or at the very start of November. Following this, most applicants choose to spend the month preparing for interviews should they be called up, since these take place in the first weeks of December in both Oxford and Cambridge. The only other key deadline in November is the submission of written work for Oxford applicants, so if you’re applying to a humanities course which requires this make sure you’ve discussed these with your teachers and scanned them for submission by this date.


December is all about the interviews! The vast majority of Oxford and Cambridge admissions interviews occur at the start of December, after which tutors set off finalising who in each cohort will be offered a place in January, so as far as you’re concerned as an applicant, interviews are the only real task for December. We recommend spending as much of November as possible preparing for interviews so that you’re best placed to perform well in December before taking a well-deserved rest over the Christmas period!


Finally, offers are released! Along with the new year, January also brings with it the end of the admissions process until exam results come in, ending the agonising wait many applicants will have experienced of the winter holidays. There’s not a lot for applicants to action in January, other than to be proud of themselves (regardless of whether they are offered a place or not) for completing the application cycle and getting this far. If your offer does not come in from Oxbridge, this is the month to consider your other options going forward, using the months before exam results to decide whether you’re happy to accept an offer from another university or if you’d like to consider reapplying. Remember that there’s no correct option here, so take the time to think about what would work best for you as an individual.

About Oxbridge Applications

Oxbridge Applications, part of the Dukes Education family, speaks with young people and their families daily to discuss individual educational pathways. Register with Oxbridge Applications and receive a wealth of resources, including their free e-book “So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana”.

It can be difficult to work out exactly what you should be doing to give yourself the best chance of success, contact the Oxbridge Applications team today who are always happy to help.

Telephone +44(0)20 7499 2394, email info@oxbridgeapplications.com, or request a callback to discuss your situation.