What to Do if You Don’t Get an Oxbridge Interview

Not receiving an Oxbridge interview unfortunately means that you have been rejected from Oxford or Cambridge University, and this can be a difficult and frustrating experience. Applying to Oxbridge for your undergraduate degree requires extremely hard work and you may feel lost when finding out you’ve not been successful so early in the process.

However, while this rejection will not have been the result you were hoping for, there are lots of steps you can take next. Understanding why you have been rejected and putting this rejection into perspective can help you stay positive about attending university and take active, productive steps in your education as you get closer to your final exams.

Below are some helpful tips and steps to follow if you do not receive an Oxbridge interview.

Why might you not be invited to interview?

There are several reasons why you might not have been invited to interview. Firstly, there may have been a particularly high number of applicants to their chosen course that year, so the competition was greater than in other years or on other courses.

Secondly, there may have been weaknesses in your application. These weaknesses can cover a huge range, but the most common ones include: a weak personal statement, a lack of work experience (particularly for Medicine), and weak GCSE grades (or equivalent past qualifications). To pinpoint exactly where your application could have been improved, it’s important to ask for feedback on Oxbridge’s decision – see step 2 for information on how to do this.

5 steps to follow if you do not receive an Oxbridge interview

1. Remember the statistics

Although not getting accepted into Oxbridge is a disappointment, it’s important to remember that it’s very common. Reminding yourself of the statistics can bring some solace and help you feel less alone in your experience. In 2021, the average Oxbridge acceptance rate was just 15%, with this dropping to just 8% for international applications. In addition, Oxford invites just 45% of its applicants to interview while Cambridge interviews around 75%, so the admissions process is competitive from the very beginning.

All of this is not to say that it’s impossible to get into Oxbridge in the future. If you are set on attending Oxford or Cambridge, it is possible to apply again in the next admissions cycle. Read more about this in the sections below.

2. Ask for feedback from the university

Both Oxford and Cambridge accept requests for more information on your application status. This includes information on why they decided not to invite you for an interview or why your application has been unsuccessful.

Oxford – To request feedback from Oxford, you should make a written request to the Tutor for Admissions of the relevant college. For Law, Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, initial shortlisting is carried out centrally (rather than by a specific college), so requests for feedback should be sent to the Admissions Coordinator of the appropriate programme. You will need to make sure you request feedback before 15th February.

Cambridge – To request feedback from Cambridge, you will again need to get in contact with the specific college you applied for. Although Cambridge does not routinely release interview and assessment scores, they will give you an indication of your student’s performance in their feedback.

Receiving feedback from the university can help you identify where your application could have been improved, helping you better tailor your application and/or focus on areas of weakness if you choose to reapply.

What if you think there’s been an error?

In some cases, there might be a case for an appeal on the outcome of your application. If you suspect an error in the case of your application, you will need to submit a written request to the admissions tutor or senior tutor of the college you applied to. The university will then investigate your case to assess whether there has been a procedural error. Only in the case of a procedural error can there be an appeal.

3. Assess your other options

There are many other fantastic universities in the UK aside from Oxford and Cambridge. These include the other ‘Golden Triangle’ universities based in London, including the London School of Economics (LSE), University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London, as well as Russell Group universities. Take a look at the available courses and acceptance rates of these universities, as there might be something well-suited to you that is easier to get into than Oxbridge. See the acceptance rates of Oxbridge and Russell Group universities below.

UniversityAcceptance rate (2021)
Oxford13.5%
Cambridge15.7%
UCL15.7%
LSE6.6%
Imperial11.5%
Warwick14.2%
Durham19%
Manchester12.5%
Bristol13.1%
Birmingham13.8%
Exeter19.6%
Cardiff17.9%
Edinburgh11.7%
Glasgow15.7%
King’s College London12.6%
Leeds13.4%
Liverpool15.7%
Newcastle19.3%
Nottingham15.7%
QMUL17%
Queen’s University Belfast17.9%
Sheffield15.2%
Southampton14.1%
York19.2%

In addition, there are many Russell Group and other top universities that perform exceptionally well in the league tables, with some even ranking above Oxford and Cambridge for certain subjects, such as St Andrews, Durham, Warwick, Edinburgh, and more. See the table below for some examples (based on The Guardian’s 2023 subject rankings*).

Physics1. Oxford
2. Durham
3. Cambridge
4. St Andrews
5. Lancaster
6. Aberdeen
7. Birmingham
8. Leicester
9. Cardiff
10. HullEconomics1. St Andrews
2. Oxford
3. Cambridge
4. LSE
5. Warwick
6. Stirling
7. Durham
8. Hertfordshire
9. Heriot-Watt
10. UCLMedicine1. Cambridge
2. Aberdeen
3. Edinburgh
4. Imperial
5. St Andrews
6. Oxford
7. Swansea
8. Brighton Sussex Medical School
9. Keele
10. GlasgowPsychology1. Cambridge
2. Bath
3. Glasgow
4. Oxford
5. St Andrews
6. UCL
7. King’s College London
8. York
9. Exeter
10. Cardiff

SubjectTop 10 ranking universities
Mathematics1. Oxford
2. St Andrews
3. Imperial
4. Cambridge
5. Glasgow
6. Edinburgh
7. LSE
8. Warwick
9. Stirling
10. Bath

*Note that The Guardian offers just one of several different league tables in the UK. This particular ranking takes into account a wide range of factors, including average entry tariff, student satisfaction, staff to student ratio, and career prospects.

What if you are set on attending Oxford or Cambridge?

Being rejected from Oxford or Cambridge doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not right for Oxbridge – it can just mean that you were unlucky this time. We know from speaking to admissions officers that they regularly have to cut people that they would have liked to offer a place to, simply because the competition was too great. You’ve now done the Oxbridge admissions process once and, with the help of feedback on your application, you’ll know what to expect and how to maximise your chances of success.

You can therefore reapply to Oxford or Cambridge. You have two options when it comes to reapplying:

1. Apply again at the start of the next academic year. If you truly feel there is no other university you’d like to attend, then you can wait until the next admissions cycle and apply again. However, you should make sure that you use this year off wisely and take their application feedback into careful consideration, working on explicit feedback provided by Oxford or Cambridge to develop a stronger application.

For example, if feedback showed that you lacked some real-life experience or understanding of the field, use this year to gain more work experience or volunteer at a relevant organisation. You might also explore wider readings to enhance your knowledge of your chosen subject and enter competitions or challenges that will help you stand out, such as the UK Maths Challenge or essay competitions.

2. Apply while in your first year at another university. We know of students who were unsuccessful in their first attempts to apply to Oxbridge, who then reapplied during their first year of study at a different university (typically their insurance choice).

Something you should note if you choose this option is that Oxbridge will want to see academic excellence from your first year of university study. This typically means a first-class grade overall (around 70% or above) and a strong performance in both coursework and exams throughout the year.

Also, note that you will not be able to transfer into the second year of an Oxbridge degree. If your application is successful, you will have to start over and do your first year again at Oxford or Cambridge.

4. Prioritise meeting the entry requirements for your insurance choice

The top priority for you after being rejected from Oxbridge should be to stay motivated at school and to achieve the best possible grades in your A levels (or equivalent). The grade offered by your insurance choice may be lower than Oxford or Cambridge, but it could still be a challenge and will almost certainly require plenty of hard work and revision. You must try your best to ensure you meet these grades in order to guarantee an offer to study at a good university.

5. If you don’t get into your insurance choice, Clearing is an option

If you don’t meet the entry requirements for your insurance choice, that doesn’t mean you can’t attend a great university. Once universities have confirmed their offers and know how many students will be attending each course, a process called ‘Clearing’ begins.

Clearing is a process by which universities offer ‘spare’ spaces on their courses to applicants without a confirmed university place via UCAS. It is open from 5th July and closes on 18th October. You will be able to talk to potential universities directly over the phone and make your final choices on your UCAS account during this period.

If you find yourself in Clearing, UCAS now also offers a service called Clearing Plus. This is whereby UCAS personally matches you to courses you may be interested in, using what they know about you from your application, and what universities and colleges you are looking for. So, if you’re looking to streamline the process, this is an additional option.

How can we help?

At the Profs, we have many admissions consultants who can guide you through the process of applying or reapplying to Oxbridge, as well as other top universities like LSE, UCL, Imperial and more. Over 90% of our applicants receive an offer from their first or second-choice universities and our Oxbridge acceptance rate is 55% – more than three times the national average. Get in touch with our friendly team today to access our dedicated support.