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What to do if you don’t get into Oxbridge (it’s not the end of the world!)

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

The competition for places at Oxford and Cambridge has been more intense than ever this year. Nearly 77,000 students applied before the 15th January including applications for Medical School; nearly 50,000 applications if medicine is not included.

There have been a combination of factors that have increased pressure on places for the 2021 application cycle. Firstly, the increase in numbers applying; secondly, more students achieved their Oxbridge conditions last year with teacher assessed grades and many Colleges honoured their offers with the result that Cambridge accepted 10% more students than in previous years. Finally, both universities have a strong social mobility agenda, with students from state schools representing 69.1% at Oxford and over 70% Cambridge, therefore putting more pressure on places for international and independently educated students.

Therefore, it is no surprise that many a student has been left disappointed either because they are not called for interview or if they are following the interview stage. But as resilience coaches will tell you it is how you deal with the bad news that counts and here, we have put together our thoughts on how to move on and look towards the positives.

1. Ask for feedback: Oxford and Cambridge are happy to give feedback post the interview stage. You can contact the College you applied for and ask for your admissions test score, and what mark successful applicants received. This can be helpful in working out what went well and where there are areas to improve on.

2. Focus on your other options. If you have applied for Oxbridge then it is almost certain you have been forecast excellent academic grades. Firstly, you will be waiting for, or already have received offers from the other top universities you have almost certainly applied for. In terms of the UK all of the research based ‘Russell Group’ universities offer an excellent academic experience and will be globally recognised on future CV’s. Additionally you can consider other top universities who have later deadlines such as many of the European universities or further afield with choices such as the National University of Singapore.

For help deciding which direction you would like to take, contact Carfax Education at or call us on +971 4 438 5276

3. Oxbridge is still an option for further academics studies: Many students are tempted to reapply once they have their results and there is no restriction on applying again. If you have definitely decided that you still wish to pursue undergraduate studies at Oxford or Cambridge then take a year off; do some additional courses over the summer, find some work experience and spend the time reading widely and building your personal profile.

Equally many students will consider these elite institutions for postgraduate study, so the Oxbridge road is not closed!

Either way, it is worthwhile contacting our consultancy team in order for guidance and support with your application.

4. Reflect on the positives: Any form of rejection is uncomfortable and it is easy to focus on the negatives. Although being rejected from Oxbridge is disappointing sometimes it can work out for the best. Be proud of your achievement and know this isn’t the end, just a new direction.

Carfax Consultants can help you to craft your application to be its best. We can guide you on building your personal profile, relevant extracurricular activities, preparing the application and practicing for interview.

Call Carfax Consultants now on +971 4 438 5276, or visit


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