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 at www.ucas.com. Applications open in early September and there is a strict deadline of 6pm (UK time) on 15 October. Your application must be complete - including the reference - and submitted before the deadline. Late applications cannot be accepted.
Before you start:
- Decide which course you would like to study. You can only apply for one course at Oxford or Cambridge in the same year. See information on all our courses.
- For most courses at Oxford you are required to take a test as part of your application. Please check the details for your course, including how to register. Registration is not automatic.
The 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 on filling in your UCAS application.
If you are applying for a second undergraduate degree, please send a copy of 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. Writing a personal statement for Oxford is no different from writing a personal statement for any other university. In fact it’s important to remember that the same wording will be seen by all the universities you apply to and should therefore focus on the course you want to study, not the universities themselves. Please read this helpful advice from UCAS about writing your personal statement.
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 as well (check the details for your course). If your application is shortlisted, your interview will also be taken in to 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 extracurricular 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.
Should I include extracurricular activities?
If you're applying for competitive courses, which includes any course at Oxford, 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 extracurricular activities. The remaining 20% can then cover any unrelated extracurricular 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 extracurricular activities. In fact, extracurricular activities are only helpful in so far as they demonstrate the selection criteria for your course.
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, 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.
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.) 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?
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. Don’t keep writing and rewriting your statement though, as it is more important to keep up with your school or college work, and to explore your subject with wider reading. (See suggested reading and resources.)
Some dos and don’ts
- 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.
- 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 will.
- DO read the UCAS guidance on personal statements.
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.
Advice for candidates
- 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.
Advice for referees
- See how to write UCAS Undergraduate references.
- 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 for you to refer to the selection criteria for the chosen course.
- Please also include information on any mitigating circumstances that you think we should know about.
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. You can contact our Admissions Office for further information and advice if you're not sure what to include.
Students with disabilities
There are many students at Oxford who have disabilities, including dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning difficulties; Autistic Spectrum conditions; and other long-term mental or physical health conditions. We are committed to helping all our students fulfil their potential, and making sure that they have the support they need to flourish here. Our Disability Advisory Service provides support from the point you are considering an application right up until graduation, and are always delighted to hear from potential candidates.
You might think that mentioning your disability or specific learning difficulty will affect your application. We can assure you this it not the case: admissions decisions are made on academic grounds alone. Please tell us about any disability, seen on unseen, on your UCAS application. We can decide together if any support is needed. The earlier you tell us, the better prepared you will be.
Do visit the Disability pages to read lots more about the kind of support we offer to our students, and the Bodleian Libraries’ Accessible Resources Unit for information on study resources. You may also like to have look at the students with disabilities’ videos to hear from Oxford students; and see the video Dyslexia Unbound. This is a 15-minute film made by Oxford tutors for students with specific learning difficulties.
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, 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.