Hi Crimson, what are some common mistakes international students make when applying to UK universities?
My Top 5 UK Mistakes:
1. Students start thinking about the UK in their last year of school but your entire expected grade submission is based off your results from your second to last year and internal performance (IB predicted grades, AS grades + A2 expected grades). You need to plan your academics early and be aware how high stakes all of your last 3 years are!
2. Students don’t realize that the college you apply for at Cambridge and Oxford has a massive variance in acceptance rate. Being tactical and personalized about this decision helps you improve your odds. If you’re a weaker candidate then you should be applying for an easier college that you like!
3. Students assume no extra curricular activities help with the UK. The reality is relevant extra-curricular competitions (Mathematics Olympiad, university math courses and other competitions help with math) do help.
4. Students don’t train properly for the Oxbridge interview and try and “wing it”. 80% of candidates that apply to Oxbridge get offered an interview and one of the key drivers in determining if you win a conditional offer is your performance in the interview which is almost like a verbal academic test. You need adequate preparation for this and it varies enormously based on your subject!
5. Student don’t think deeply enough about what they are applying for! Whatever you apply for, you are basically doing for the next 3-4 years with very little opportunity for variance. Don’t apply for law and commit to law without speaking to an expensive number of practicing lawyers and current students so you can understand the benefits and costs. Research is key!
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I just want to amend one thing that Jamie said, and add another very important thing to consider of my own:
While it is true that colleges vary a lot in acceptance rates (it should be noted that acceptance rates vary hugely between courses in different colleges too), the college you apply to does not significantly affect your chances of being accepted. This is because of the pooling system both Oxford and Cambridge use to ensure all colleges fill all their spaces. Basically, if you apply to Corpus Christi (Cambridge), which is a small college that receives a high number of applications and therefore has a low acceptance rate, your chances of getting into Corpus Christi may be lower since more people are competing for fewer spaces. However, if you are deemed of a high enough standard to attend the university by your interviewers and the admissions team, but it’s been a very strong year and there isn’t enough space for you in the college, they will pool you to another Cambridge college that has empty spaces for students in your course. In the same way, if none of the students that are invited to interview impress the interviewers and admissions team, they may reject all applicants for that course and instead take people from the pool to fill their spaces or just not have students in that course for that year. Even if you do not achieve a place because the college had 5 places for History (for example) and you are the 6th ranking applicant but still very good, the college may offer you a deferred place meaning that you have a place for the following year instead. Ultimately, if you are the sort of person who is of a high enough standard and would thrive at an institution like Oxford or Cambridge, you will achieve a place in one way or another.
Another thing international students sometimes may not realise is that international student fees in the UK are substantially higher than those for UK and EU students. There are lots of scholarships available for international students to help with this (the Girdlers Scholarship and Myers Scholarship at Cambridge are specifically for New Zealand students), but it is something that should always be considered. That being said, they still are a way off the fees you would pay at many US institutions.
Hope this was useful!