If you want to study at Oxford, you need to apply a year before the start date of your course by completing an online UCAS application form. Applications open in June so you can start work on the form from then. You won't be able to submit your application until early September. There is a strict submission deadline of 6pm (UK time) on 15 October. Your application must be complete - including the academic reference - and submitted before the deadline. Late applications cannot be accepted.
The deadline for applications for 2021 entry is 6pm (UK time) on 15 October 2020 and this must be strictly adhered to. There is no change to this deadline in light of COVID-19 and late entries cannot be accepted.
Completing a UCAS application for Oxford follows the same process as for other universities, we just have an earlier submission deadline of 15 October.
Unless you already have a degree from a university, we do not require any certificates, transcripts or other documents at this stage. If you are offered a place at the University we will contact you to request these from you.
Before you start:
- Choose which course you would like to study. You can only apply to one course at Oxford, and you can't apply to Oxford and Cambridge in the same year. See information on all our courses.
- Check the admission requirements for your course. Specific grades and subjects required are also shown on each course page.
- Decide whether to express a preference for a particular college or make an open application. If you make an open application, you will be assigned to a college which has had relatively fewer applications for your course in the year you apply.
The UCAS application will ask for:
- Personal details including an email address. Make sure you check this address frequently.
- Details about your education, and any qualifications you have already achieved.
- A personal statement where you tell us why you are interested in your chosen course. See our guidance on writing your personal statement.
- Your reference. Remember that your teacher or adviser will need some time to complete your reference, and this must be completed before the deadline. See our guidance on academic references.
- A fee payment to UCAS is required to complete the process.
Read guidance from UCAS on filling in your application.
For most courses at Oxford you are required to take a test as part of your application. Registration for tests is not automatic and is not part of the UCAS process. Please check the details for your course, including how to register.
If you are applying for a second undergraduate degree, please send a copy of the transcript from your first degree to the college that is considering your application, to arrive by 10 November. No other references, transcripts, or certificates are required or accepted except for students applying for Graduate-entry Medicine (A101) or Choral or Organ Awards.
One section of the application is called your personal statement. This is where you can write whatever you’d like to say about yourself and your motivation to study your course.
People sometimes think that there is a trick to writing a personal statement for Oxford, or that we are looking for some special secret formula, but this is not the case. It’s important to remember that you can only write one personal statement and so the same wording will be seen by all the universities you apply to. Your personal statement should therefore focus on the course you want to study, not the universities themselves. Please read this helpful advice from UCAS.
Provided that your academic referee can give us some background on the impact of COVID-19 on your education in their reference, you do not need to specifically refer to this in your personal statement. If the pandemic has shaped how you think about your subject or offered you relevant opportunities to show your interest in your subject area, you can of course include this as part of your motivation for applying for the course. Otherwise, follow the advice given below.
How important is the personal statement?
Universities build a picture of you as a student from all the different information you provide, to help decide whether or not to offer you a place. The picture is made up of several different pieces: your personal statement, academic record, predicted A-level grades (or equivalent), and your teacher's reference. For most courses at Oxford you will also need to take an admissions test or submit written work (check the details for your course). If your application is shortlisted, your interview will also be taken into account. This means that your personal statement is important but it’s not everything: it’s just one part of the overall picture.
What are Oxford tutors looking for?
Tutors at Oxford are only interested in your academic ability and potential. They want to see that you are truly committed to the subject or subjects you want to study at university but it’s not enough just to say that you have a passion for something: you need to show tutors how you have engaged with your subject, above and beyond whatever you have studied at school or college. This can include any relevant extra-curricular activities.
Try to avoid writing your personal statement as though you are ticking things off a list. There is no checklist of required achievements, and tutors will not just scan what you have written to look for key words or phrases. Tutors will read your personal statement to try to understand what has motivated you to apply for their course. It’s a good idea to evaluate your experiences, to show what you have learned from them and how they have helped develop your understanding of your subject.
Where should I start?
Think about talking to your friends about what you want to study at university: what would you tell them? What have you read or watched or seen that has inspired you? (This might have been at school, at home, in a museum, on TV, in a book, on YouTube or a podcast or anywhere else. You can also take a look at our suggested reading and resources.) Why was it interesting? What do you want to find out next? What did you do?
If you find this difficult, it might be time to think about whether or not you’ve really chosen the right course. If you can’t think of anything that has inspired you, this lack of enthusiasm will probably come across in your personal statement, or it will become clear at interview, and you’re unlikely to gain a place at Oxford. If you find it easy to answer these questions, you will have a long list of ideas to help you write your personal statement.
When you start to write, remember not just to list your achievements but show how they have affected you, how you have benefited, and what you’d like to learn next. Be honest about yourself and what has inspired you, whether that’s been text books, museums and literature, or websites, podcasts and blogs. Be sure to tell the truth, as tutors might check later, so don’t exaggerate and certainly don’t make any false claims. Don’t hold back either – this is no time for modesty.
When you've written a first draft, have a look back at the selection criteria for your course and think about the evidence you've given for each of the criteria. Have you covered everything?
Should I include extra-curricular activities?
We typically suggest that you focus around 80% of your personal statement on your academic interests, abilities and achievements. This can include discussion of any relevant extra-curricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extra-curricular activities.
There’s a myth that Oxford is looking for the most well-rounded applicants, and that you will only be offered a place if you have a long list of varied extra-curricular activities. In fact, extra-curricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course.
If you are applying to other universities as well as to Oxford (you can make five choices on your UCAS form) then you may need to find out whether the other universities have different selection criteria. If they do, then you might want to provide some information about your extra-curricular interests – but keep it to a minimum. The space in your personal statement is limited, so think carefully about what you want to include.
Do I need experience of work and travel?
We understand that not everyone has the opportunity to do work experience or to go travelling so these activities are not a requirement for any of our courses. Tutors won’t be impressed by your connections, or the stamps in your passport, but they will be impressed by how you’ve engaged with your subject.
For example, some of our applicants for Medicine may have had work experience placements in prestigious hospitals but not be able to evaluate their time there. If you have no more experience than some simple voluntary work, or even just discussing medical matters with your friends and family, you can still write an effective personal statement by reflecting critically on what you have learned and discussed.
To give another example, for the History of Art course, tutors will not want to hear about all the galleries and exhibitions that you have visited around the world if you cannot discuss the art that you saw. You can come across more effectively in your personal statement by evaluating art you have seen, even if you’ve only seen it online or in books without ever leaving the school library.
Don’t be put off by any friends who you think have more impressive things to say in their personal statements. Remember that tutors do not have a checklist of achievements that they are looking for: they want to see how you have engaged with your subject.
I’m applying to different courses at different universities – how should I write my personal statement?
If you are thinking of applying for completely different courses at different universities (eg Physics and Accounting, or Biology and Music) we’d encourage you to reconsider. It’s important to choose a subject area that you really want to study, and focus on that one area when making your applications. Also, you can only write one personal statement which will be seen by all the universities to which you apply, so it needs to be relevant for all your courses.
If you are thinking of applying for related courses at different universities then we suggest that you avoid using course titles in your personal statement. We recommend that you write about your interest in the general course themes, and how you have engaged with relevant subject areas, so that your personal statement is equally relevant for each of your course choices.
Does my personal statement need to stand out?
Students sometimes feel that they need to say something dramatic to stand out from the crowd and be really memorable in their personal statement but this is not true. Applying to Oxford is not like a talent show where you may only have a few seconds to make an impression. Tutors consider each application carefully on its individual merits, looking for evidence of your commitment and ability. If you use your personal statement to demonstrate your academic abilities and your engagement with your subject or subjects, then your application will be memorable for all the right reasons.
How many versions should I write?
Ask a teacher to read through what you’ve written, listen to their feedback and then make any updates that they suggest. You may need two or three tries to get it right and it can take longer than you think, especially with the limited number of characters. It can be tricky to get in everything you want to mention, but don't spend too much time trying to make your personal statement completely perfect - it's only one of the things that the tutors will consider.
Some dos and don’ts
- DO apply for a course you really want to study.
- DO be yourself: tell the truth about your interests.
- DO sell yourself: this is not the time for modesty.
- DO re-read your personal statement before an interview – the tutors may ask you to talk about things you've mentioned
- DO read the UCAS guidance on personal statements.
- DON’T be tempted to make anything up, as you might be asked about it at interview.
- DON’T copy anyone else’s personal statement. UCAS uses plagiarism detection software.
- DON'T list qualifications like your GCSE grades or anything else that's covered elsewhere on the application.
- DON’T just list your other achievements: you need to evaluate them.
- DON'T feel the need to be dramatic in order to be memorable.
A reference from a teacher or someone else who is qualified to comment on your academic ability is an essential part of your application. Your application will be incomplete without a reference and we will not be able to consider it.
UCAS have now published guidance for how academic references should explain the impact of COVID-19. Please refer to this guidance in addition to the information provided here.
Advice for candidates
- The process is different for those applying through a school/college/centre and those applying after they have left school or as an individual. See how to get a UCAS Undergraduate reference.
- The reference must be in English. If your referee is not confident writing in English, they can ask an English-speaking colleague to help them. Alternatively, you can have a certified translation made for them to upload. Please ask them not to submit a reference in any language other than English, and to make sure that they have uploaded a reference in English to UCAS by the 15 October deadline.
- Your reference must be from someone who can write about your academic potential; it can't be from a family member.
Advice for referees
- See how to write UCAS Undergraduate references for general information about writing an academic reference for a student's UCAS application as well as specific guidance for how to explain the impact of COVID-19 on this candidate.
- We strongly recommend following the UCAS advice to publish relevant information about school closures and disruption to whole cohorts on a specifically created web page on your school website. You can then link to this webpage in your academic references to ensure that most of the reference word count can still be dedicated to the academic potential of your student.
- There is more information about writing a UCAS reference for a student applying to Oxford on our Advice for Teachers page.
- If the candidate is currently studying or awaiting results you will be asked to include predicted grades for these qualifications. This is an important part of the application, so please do include predicted grades.
- It may be helpful first for you to refer to the selection criteria and admission requirements for your candidate's chosen course.
- Please also include information on any mitigating circumstances that you think we should know about. Alternatively, if for any reason this is inappropriate, you may like to contact the college considering your candidate's application.
We strongly recommend following the UCAS advice to publish relevant information about school closures and disruption to whole cohorts on a specifically created web page on your school website. You can then link to this webpage in your academic references to ensure that most of the reference word count can still be dedicated to the academic potential of your student.
This is the section of the UCAS form where you list all your qualifications along with the grades you have already achieved and any standardised test scores. You also need to list any educational qualifications you are currently working towards.
Please list everything as the admissions tutors need to see the whole picture of your academic studies so far. It doesn't matter if you have taken a lot of qualifications, a few, or none, we ask you to tell us about them.
Note: do not send us transcripts for the qualifications you've already taken; you will only need to produce certificates or transcripts if you are offered a place here. However, if you are applying for a second undergraduate degree, you will need to send a transcript from your first degree separately, to the college that is considering your application. You do not upload this as part of your UCAS form.
For any future exams, whoever writes your academic reference must tell us how they think you will perform in them. These predictions help the admissions tutors understand your academic potential and will let them know if you are going to meet the admission requirements for your course.
We appreciate that many educational systems around the world do not usually predict a student's grades in this way; however without these predictions from your teacher we are unable to consider your application. There’s lots of advice for teachers in the teachers’ section of our website and on UCAS about writing references and predicting grades.
Why do we ask for predicted grades?
Using predicted grades means you can apply to study at Oxford before you have finished school (or equivalent) and you don't have to wait until all your exams are complete and your results are known. If you are made an offer of a place, it will be conditional on your achieving the required grades (based on the entrance requirements for your course) in any outstanding exams.
What if you can't provide predicted grades?
If you have listed any exams or qualifications as not yet taken on your UCAS form, then you must get your teacher to provide predicted grades for them.
If you can't get predicted grades, then your only alternative is to wait until you have got the final results for all your exams and qualifications before applying to Oxford.
Please remember that you can only apply to Oxford between early September and 15 October every year.
My exams were cancelled because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and I was awarded grades that I don't feel reflect my potential. If I choose to sit my exams in autumn 2020 or summer 2021, will you consider those exams as retakes and will this disadvantage my application?
Any students who are unhappy with the grades they have been awarded this summer and who choose to take examinations this autumn, or in June 2021, are welcome to apply to us. Please follow the steps outlined in our guide for applicants and note our application deadline of 15 October. This deadline is earlier than most other universities. We will not consider the results of the exams you take in autumn or June 2021 as retakes, so your application will not be disadvantaged by summer 2020 results when admissions decisions are made.
Please note that applicants for Medicine would still need to achieve all the academic requirements in a single examinations sitting, so you would need to take all your qualifications and not just the one(s) in which you are unhappy with your grade. You would also need to take the BMAT as part of your application. Further information can be found on the Medicine admissions pages
I’m taking US qualifications, but my exams were cancelled and I won’t be able to sit them until after Oxford’s application deadline for undergraduate courses. Can I still apply if I don’t know my grades?
Yes, you can still apply to Oxford even if you don’t know your grades yet. Most candidates who apply to Oxford do so during their last year at school or college, before they have completed their final examinations or tests, so it is absolutely fine to apply before you have your final results. You will need to declare any exams you are yet to take on your UCAS form as 'pending qualifications' and for each exam you are yet to take your academic referee must include a predicted grade. Predicted grades or scores are a crucial part of your application, and it cannot be competitive without them.
If you have personal circumstances that you'd like to tell us about please include them in your personal statement, or ask your teacher to include the information in your reference. If for any reason this is not appropriate, then please wait until you have had confirmation that your application has been received by a college and then contact them directly. This is likely to be around the end of October. You can contact our Admissions Office for further information and advice if you're not sure what to include.
Usually special circumstances are something that you as an individual have experienced, something that is unique to you. So we would not, for example, expect you to let us know about your school being closed due to COVID-19. We are aware of the widespread disruption to education over the last number of months and will be asking your academic referee to give us this information.
Students with disabilities
Other extenuating circumstances
We are sympathetic to the fact that sometimes candidates under-perform at school or college because of extenuating circumstances. If you feel that your performance has been affected in this way please let us know. Examples would include disruption caused by change of school or system, severe discontinuity of teachers (but not if this was due to nationwide school closures due to COVID-19), bereavement, and debilitating illness. We take care to treat each application individually and would always take such mitigating circumstances into account, if they are brought to our attention. You could include this information in your personal statement or your teacher could mention this in their reference. If for any reason this is not possible, then we would advise you to contact the college you applied to (or are assigned to if making an open application) once you have had confirmation that your application has been received. This is likely to be around the end of October.
Teachers and other academic referees should follow the guidance provided by UCAS in order to explain the impact of COVID-19 on your education.
Declaring your disability
Whatever your particular circumstances, the earlier we know about your individual requirements, then the sooner we can begin to meet them. We are committed to making sure that all our students can benefit from the great opportunities at Oxford so please do tell us about any disability, whether seen or unseen, on your UCAS application. This should include any long-term illness, mental health condition, an autism spectrum condition or specific learning difficulty.
Please be assured that admissions decisions are made on academic grounds alone.
By telling us now, you will help us put in place any agreed support early and to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate your access to your course and our University. It will also mean that we can provide appropriate arrangements during the admissions process, so for any test or interview. While you do not need to include this information at this stage, we strongly recommend you do so in order to give us time to prepare and arrange suitable support.
You’ll find the relevant section at the bottom of the Personal Details tab of your UCAS application
- Click ‘see list’ to select the relevant category
- Fill in the second box below Category to give details of any facilities or special provisions required.
- UCAS also has some good advice about how to tell us about your disability.
See also our further Guidance for disabled applicants. This includes information on contacting our Disability Advisory Service and how to put in place any necessary arrangements for our admissions tests, if this is one of the admission requirements for your chosen course.