Oxbridge: What if you don’t get offered a place?

Applying for a place at an Oxbridge university is competitive. Applicants with excellent academic records and obvious potential stand a good chance of being offered a place, but it is by no means certain. In 2013, there were over 17 000 applicants for undergraduate places at Oxford and not many less to Cambridge but both universities admit only 3500 undergraduates each year. This means that there are a lot of disappointed applicants.

What can you do if you don’t get an offer?

There isn’t much you can do to change the situation if you don’t get an offer from the Oxbridge universities. You may have failed to get an interview or you may have missed being shortlisted through the results from your pre-interview test. Either way, this is final for this year of applications. You have two options at this point.

Continue with your application and go to a different university

As part of your UCAS form, you will have applied to a number of universities so receiving a rejection from your preferred choice will shift your focus onto these. If you didn’t complete all of your five choices, you can still do so by going online to the Track, a portal to monitor and manage your applications on the UCAS website. If you only applied to one choice so paid the reduced application fee, you can still add more by paying the addition £11 fee.

If you used all of your five choices but have been rejected from all of them or declined any offers you received, you can add a further choice through Extra which is available on the UCAS website between 25 February and 2 July.

If you have chosen a range of universities, then it is likely that you will be offered a place in at least one of them. Visit the universities if you haven’t done so already and research what life is like. Choose the university that is most likely to provide the course and challenge that you need, along with the lifestyle that you feel comfortable with. If you were drawn to the collegiate nature of the Oxbridge universities for example, then you may feel more relaxed at one of the other collegiate universities around the UK such as Durham or York.

Continue with applications to Oxbridge

If you are determined to go to an Oxbridge university, then you may wish to consider deferring your university application until the following year. This would allow you to focus on getting the best grades you can in your examinations and then take a gap year or further study whilst applying for the following year. If you achieve the grades normally required for conditional offers, this would allow you to apply with greater confidence, knowing that any offer would be unconditional.

In addition, taking a year to reapply may provide you with the time needed to develop specialist knowledge of the subject you wish to study. This may make you feel more confident at interview or help increase your success at the test or essay stage of your application. However, no amount of preparation, reading or research can guarantee that you will be offered a place if you reapply, and it is important that you are realistic that you may get a further rejection.

What if you receive a conditional offer but don’t meet the conditions of your offer?

If you don’t get the grades you need then any offer you received would become void and the place withdrawn. If you applied to Cambridge however, there is a smaller summer pool where those who just missed out on their conditions may be put. Those applicants placed into the pool are then considered by other colleges who have space on their courses.

Once the place is withdrawn, then you can accept your insurance offer or consider other options through clearing.

Whilst it is important to consider what could happen when you get your results in the summer, it is by no means decided upon yet. Most offers are conditional and thus you can directly affect what will happen in August through preparation and revision for the examinations. By focusing on getting the best grades at this stage, you will be making the most positive step towards achieving the best option for university in the future. Once you’ve decided on your insurance choices, any further decisions regarding reapplication or insurance choices can be made once the examinations are over.