Oxbridge Applications this year

If you didn’t know, I applied to Oxford University for 2021 to read German and Linguistics, but unfortunately I did not get accepted. I was a little disappointed but I wasn’t massively upset by this news, because I know that I’ve done my best to get to the interview stage alone – anyway it’s an honour to be even considered and encouraged by my teachers to even apply in the first place back in September.

However, in this article I wanted to take a look at how well other applicant have done this year and some reasons as to why people didn’t get in.

At my school, 17 people applied to Oxbridge this year. Two for Cambridge, the rest Oxford. Out of those, 12 got through to the interview stage, including the two Cambridge applicants, with five being rejected.

On the 12th January 2021, a week ago, the Oxford candidates got the dreaded (or longed for) email claiming our acceptance or rejection. This is what shocked me. I didn’t have my heart entirely set on Oxford, as I knew that getting into the University would be close to a miracle, but I would have thought a good chunk out of the other applicants from my school would get accepted. Only one person out of 12 got accepted, a medicine candidate to Christ Church college. All other 11 applicants were not successful, including me. Even those applying to lesser subscribed courses such as Modern Languages and Classics (with general acceptance rates of 33% and 34% – the highest rates of acceptance in past years) were not successful.

One single person from a high-performing school was accepted into Oxford University 2021. From a school where the overall A-Level and GCSE results each year are outstanding, for example in 2019 89% of all students received grades A*–C, and 41% A*–A. With regard to GCSE results, in 2019 66% achieved A*–A grades (9-4 in the new system).

Earlier this week, the Cambridge applicants got their news with yet another disappointment of neither of the two getting in, despite being probably the two strongest applicants out of all 17.

Each year between 4-8 students are normally accepted to Oxbridge from my school – this year only 1. Surely this has something to do with the pandemic and its affects on university admission rates.

With the news of last years exams being cancelled in 2020, and the inequity of the results for both GCSE and A-Level, affecting those applying to university to start last September, many students decided to defer, knowing that the ‘university experience’ would not be the same this year or that they didn’t achieve the grades they probably deserved. I don’t blame them: if it were me going to university last September, I probably would have deferred too. For me, this would have been due to the lack of guidance from the Government relating how universities will be; the act of paying £9,250 to effectively just sit in the dorm room all day and have online lessons; the overall lack of certainty; and the fact that there’d be no ‘university experience’.

However, there are consequential effects for those applying to university this year – my year group. I was interviewed by the Telegraph last summer about my thoughts on the current education situation. My main argument was that there’d be more competition for university places in 2021, this year, as there’d be more people applying and there was so much uncertainty and neglect for this year’s exams. I felt as though my year group and year 11 had been neglected, and only now, with the ever increasing uncertainty around exams and education for 2021, we have been pushed to one side yet again.

We are seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic again and again, more so on students and the youth, as so many of us have missed out on university places and more. The Government are keen to forget about how we must be feeling – online learning day-in day-out with no support or guidance. The teachers must be so frustrated with the lack of advice and direction so far from the Education Board and Secretary. We are all, to sum up, fed up of this pandemic and we still have a long way to go.

I want to further read up on the admissions statistics of other universities and courses in the upcoming weeks, when no doubt newspapers will release other articles about (I hope) the unfairness of this year’s rates of acceptance. For example, I’d love to learn more about the medical candidates of this year. At my school, my friends – medicine applicants – have suffered a great deal of bad news. Exeter University rejected a good amount of them, based on the UKAT scores: the university claimed they would only be taking those Medical candidates in the top band of UKAT scores above a certain amount of points (the top 3% in the nation) or those candidates from last year, who have already achieved A-Level results. The unfairness of this is outstanding, but I can understand why a university would prefer to accept those who have solid grades already.

Will exams actually happen? Will there be any more U-turns in education? Will schools actually go back to school before the summer? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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