Having studied for her undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Oxford, biomedical scientist and Figtree tutor, Claudia, is perfectly placed to guide prospective students through their Oxbridge applications. We asked her what students need to do to stand out, and how her support can help streamline the process.
Why did you decide to specialise in Oxbridge tutoring and applications?
I started tutoring in my second year of undergraduate studies at Oxford, and have been doing it ever since. I first began working with girls from my old school who were looking to study engineering at Oxford – helping them to understand what the process entails and offering practice interviews. I know from experience how daunting Oxbridge applications can be, so when I realised how many people were interested in extra support, I decided to specialise in helping students achieve their Oxbridge ambitions.
It’s been a really wonderful and fulfilling experience – my students are always very engaged and focused, which helps make the process great fun. Applying for any university is obviously very stressful, so part of my role is to add structure and remove as much anxiety as possible from the situation.
What makes Oxbridge application different to other universities?
There are many different nuances – both between Oxford and Cambridge, and between Oxbridge and other universities – and many of these are subject-dependent. For example, in my specialist area of physics and engineering, you must sit an exam at the time of application. For engineering or physics at Oxford, this means taking the Physics Aptitude Test. For engineering at Cambridge, you have to sit the Engineering Admissions Assessment. Navigating all this, on top of preparing adequately, is a big challenge. That’s why it’s important to get support with the specific processes and requirements of the university, college and subject in question.
Selected applicants will then be asked to go to the university for an interview. This is conducted by subject tutors from the applicable college. This in itself is a big part of the application and needs dedicated preparation.
How do you support your students through the process?
Initially I want to explore the subject a student is looking to study, to understand what it is that motivates them. We’ll talk about further reading and documentaries that can expand their knowledge in particular areas of interest. From here, the student can begin to plan out their personal statement, following a recommended structure.
When it comes to preparing for the necessary extra assessments, practice is key. These are hard papers, which require students to think creatively and apply their technical knowledge. I encourage my students to complete as many past papers as they can – both on their own, and with my support.
Finally, we tackle the interview – and with only a week or two between invitation and interview date, I aim to start preparing well in advance of even hearing if a student has reached this stage. Work on the written assessment is actually a good foundation for the interview too, as we will already have identified areas in which more focus is needed.
The interview is the part which requires the most technical preparation – plus students need to be ready to talk through the way they are thinking. We do lots of interview practice together, modelling various scenarios to help students think quickly and effectively on their feet.
What’s the advantage of having a specialist Oxbridge advisor?
An experienced Oxbridge tutor or application consultant will have been through the process multiple times, with many different students. Along with having deep knowledge of each institution’s needs and nuances, an Oxbridge advisor can help build confidence over time with targeted preparation and application strategies. Plus, my Oxbridge application colleagues at Figtree will all have studied at either Oxford or Cambridge – so we’re able to share personal experiences and insider tips to help our students at each stage of the process.
What’s the most important thing you want your Oxbridge students to remember?
You’re trying to show the college why you love the subject you are applying for, why you think this university is the best place for you to learn that subject, and why you are the perfect candidate to study there.
For more information on our dedicated Oxbridge application services, please get in touch with the Figtree team.