There are also resources aimed specifically at Welsh applicants, to help you prepare your application with your specific context in mind!
First things first, you need to decide whether you would like to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. You’re only allowed to pick one, and you also have to work out if it’s right for you - which can be really daunting. This is something that every applicant has to do, so there are lots of resources out there, aimed at people from across the UK and the world, and from a range of different backgrounds. Check out the rest of the InsideUni 🔗 site, videos with current students on the InsideUni Youtube channel 🔗 🌟, and the official admissions websites for Oxford 🔗 & Cambridge 🔗 to inform your choices.
The SEREN network 🔗 🌟 is a series of local hubs throughout Wales that provide events and resources to help you think academically and apply to leading UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. They also provide a free annual Jesus College, Oxford 🔗 is Oxford’s link college for Wales from 2020 (previously they only covered South Wales). This means they can act as your first point of contact at Oxford if you have questions. They hold regular events in Wales and regularly invite Welsh schools to visit the college.
Cambridge’s Link Colleges are Churchill College 🔗 for South Wales and Powys, and Magdelene College 🔗 for North Wales and Ceredigion. Similarly, they can act as your first point of contact if you have questions and hold regular events in their respective regions.
InsideUni Welsh Students Q&A 🔗 🌟 Students from both Oxford and Cambridge, studying a range of different subjects, answer some questions from home about their experiences of studying at and applying to Oxbridge. Cambridge Welsh Society’s ‘Life at Cambridge’ video 🔗 is also useful.
Having done a bit of research, you might now be thinking that it sounds great and all, but is it really worth it? We’ve spoken to some Welsh students at Oxbridge who made the decision that it was right for them:.
“I nearly didn't apply to Oxford, but now I can safely say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. By attending events hosted by the Welsh Society, I'm still able to nurture my Welsh identity and it’s just one of the many reasons that Oxford feels like home” - Natalie, History, Jesus College, Oxford
Once you’ve decided it is worth giving a shot, the next step is applying!
There are details on the application process in the general sites linked above, as again this will apply to all applicants. However, we’ve noted here some things to be aware of as a Welsh applicant:
SAQ FAQ 🔗 🌟 When you apply to Cambridge, you also submit a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ), to give the university some additional information about you, including an optional additional personal statement. They will want to know about your AS Level grades and UMS scores here. Also, use this opportunity! Your A Level experience might be quite different compared to English students, with AS Levels, the Welsh Baccalaureate or Welsh language restrictions. Make sure you tell the university about these when asked in the SAQ so they can take your circumstances into account.
Special Circumstances form 🔗 If you’re applying to Oxford you won’t be asked to submit an SAQ but if you feel your performance has been severely affected there are a number of ways you can let the university know.
For many Cambridge and Oxford courses, you will have to take an admissions test.
Your School - Your school may well be a registered test centre for admissions tests, so asking them is the first place to start.
Finding a local test centre 🔗 If your school is not a registered test centre, worry not! You can find one close to you by following this link. NB: Somewhat confusingly, Oxford uses ‘Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing’.
Getting your school registered as a test centre 🔗 Particularly useful if you live in a rural area or will have significant trouble getting to a test center, you can also ask your school to register instead. This is a fairly quick and easy process so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle for them. The deadline for doing this is 15th October, the same as the Oxbridge UCAS deadline.
If you have to submit an essay as part of your application, this will be an essay that you have already written at school.
If you attend a Welsh medium school so don’t have an English language essay to submit, it is definitely worth talking to the college you are applying to. They might then agree to you submitting a Welsh piece of work with an English translation or asking your teachers about submitting a school assignment in English.
Again, you’re in the same boat as everyone else here! InsideUni 🔗 🌟 has relevant testimonials of students who have been through the interview process, to help familiarise you in what it might be like.
Be clear if something hasn’t been covered in your course - although this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t answer a question, and showing flexible thinking is a good thing! This is what one Welsh student had to say about interviews:
“At interviews, I was faced with questions that I had never been faced with before. I was asked to compare Molière (17th century French dramatist)’s comedy with Pobol y Cwm. I know..! No matter how much interview preparation you do, you can never fully prepare for the questions they ask so don’t think they’re trying to catch you out. They want to see how you’re thinking so say your thoughts out loud, it doesn’t matter if you think you’re wrong or right. They don’t expect you to know everything because you’re there to learn!” - Lois, French, Jesus College, Oxford
Although your AS Levels will appear on your UCAS form, generally they won’t be considered that much in your application as they don’t have a consistent English equivalent. Instead, Oxford and Cambridge use contextualised (so weighted by how well your school does) GCSE scores and your predicted A-level grades.
If you are made an offer, the grades you have to achieve will be A-level grades and won’t include the Welsh Baccalaureate.
CAMBRIDGE entrance requirements 🔗 - ‘Welsh qualifications’ section.
OXFORD entrance requirements 🔗 - see the ‘UK qualifications’ page and scroll down to the bottom for the ‘Welsh qualifications’ tab.
ADVICE FOR TEACHERS
InsideUni 'For Teachers' guide 🔗 🌟 A great resource to show your teachers if they want to help, but are unsure where to start.
Have a look at the Guidance for Teachers 🔗 🌟 page from the Seren Network - you’ll find some useful links under the ‘For teachers’ subheading.
Like any student, you might be concerned about how much it’s going to cost.
These sites from Oxford Living Costs 🔗 and Cambridge Living Costs 🔗 put into context the amount (roughly) you’ll need.
It’s not just about the cost though - there are lots of ways to fund your time at Oxford or Cambridge. Have a look at InsideUni’s Financial Aid guide 🔗 to see what support might be available for you.
Student Finance Wales (SFW) 🔗 🌟 provides loans for tuition fees. It also provides a given amount of money to everyone for maintenance costs 🔗 (equivalent to the maximum English loan), with the proportion that is a grant rather than a loan determined by your household income. You also may be eligible to apply for a further Special Support Grant. You apply to them even though you will be studying in England, as you are a Welsh student.
Additionally, several grants and bursaries are available specifically for Welsh students. For instance, students from Pembrokeshire can apply for the Milford Haven scholarships 🔗 and engineering students from the Breconshire area can apply for a T J Jones scholarship 🔗.
Jesus College, Oxford has launched a new Michael Sheen Bursary 🔗 🌟 which will support Welsh students attending the college. Applications will be means-tested and will open in October 2021.
This is what two students had to say about finances:
“I’ve found that the Welsh maintenance loan is more than enough to cover rent and other living costs while also providing some extra which allows me to pursue hobbies and new interests gained while at university. It also means that I’m self sufficient and don’t have to put any pressure on my parents financially” - Earth Sciences Student, St Anne’s College, Oxford.
“As Welsh students we do enjoy a unique generosity on the student finance front. I think it is the most generous package in the UK and it has no impact on the additional bursaries you can receive from university” Jack, Law, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
ADJUSTING FROM THE WELSH LANGUAGE
As with any other English language university, one challenge you might face at Oxford or Cambridge is adjusting from a Welsh medium education at secondary school.
If this applies to you, don’t be put off from applying. The transition from Welsh language to English language is definitely manageable, as two students explain:
“Learning to use English technical language rather than Welsh is something that I have had to deal with because I did all my A-levels in Welsh. There is some difficulty in the transition, but once you get into the swing of it you become much better at learning all the terminology. By the end of your first year I can’t imagine you will be struggling much with it at all” - Caredig, Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences, Magdalene College, Cambridge.
“I did all my A-Levels through the medium of Welsh and having to write essays in English, which was something I hadn’t done since GCSE, was a bit of a challenge when I first started at Oxford. However, writing at least one essay a week meant that I got plenty of practice and I got into the swing of it in no time. It sounds daunting but you just need to throw yourself into it.” - Lois, French, Jesus College, Oxford.
COMMUNITY AND CULTURE
Cambridge has a Welsh Society, Cymdeithas Y Mabinogi 🔗 🌟, which is a great way to meet other Welsh students. The society regularly hosts formal halls, quiz nights, pub crawls, and joint events with the Scottish or Celtic societies, such as Celidhs.
Oxford also has a Welsh Society, Cymdeithas Dafydd ap Gwilym 🔗 (sometimes referred to as ‘Y Dafydd’) that organises a number of events such as quizzes, Six Nations pub trips, and a St David’s Day dinner to help connect the Welsh community across the university. Y Dafydd is the second oldest society at Oxford, founded in 1886.
Jesus College 🔗 at Oxford is known as the ‘Welsh College’ and has a relatively large number of Welsh students, about 15%. It hosts Welsh language carol services and an annual St David’s Day service that Welsh students from across the university can attend.
It can be a bit daunting knowing you’ll be one of not that many Welsh students. However, as these current students explain, it can be a good thing:
“Oxford isn't as southern and English as you might think, with students from all over the UK and lots of international students too. Don't be afraid to be proudly Welsh within your college, such as by organising a Six Nations viewing in your JCR!” - Hannah, History, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
“It’s a small Welsh community which means that we really do have each other’s backs. We all know each other so it’s really friendly and a great atmosphere. Even if you’re surrounded by people who aren’t Welsh you don’t feel left out. If anything it’s a nice quirk to have” - Mary, Biochemistry, Oxford
“There’s a really good Welsh community at Cambridge. Obviously at times you do feel a bit outnumbered, but because of that we are a really tight-knit community and our Welsh society does a lot together. […] It’s an absolute bonus if you're able to pronounce Llanfairpwllgwingyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantisiliogogogoch. You might be asked to say it everywhere you go!” - Jack, Law, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
"Living in Wales and coming from a small area it can seem daunting moving to a city and away from home. But honestly the collegiate system that operates in oxford makes you feel part of a welcoming community and family, allowing the transition of moving away to university so much easier.” - Kahlio, Biomedicine, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
“Don’t see coming from a Welsh school or a Welsh medium school as a disadvantage in any way. If you want to apply, go for it!” - Abbie, Earth Sciences, St Peter’s College, Oxford
“I would encourage any one who thinks they have a chance to give it a go and apply! It's only one of your five UCAS options and there is lots of help available with the application process. I'm really enjoying my time at Oxford so far!” - Jack, History and Economics, St Hilda’s College, Oxford
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