Applying to Oxford can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our tutors will expect you to be prepared and give your best at interview – but they’re also experts in ascertaining your potential to succeed here at Oxford.
The two most important requirements for anyone wishing to study here are that you have genuine passion for your subject and can think creatively, applying your existing knowledge to new problems and situations. If you think that you meet these two criteria, and you would like to gain an outstanding education in a progressive, open-minded college that celebrates diversity, then Somerville might well be for you.
You can use our How to Apply guide to learn more about applying to Oxford and preparing for your interview.
I hadn’t visited Somerville before I applied, but when I arrived for interviews I knew immediately that it was the right decision. I felt at home and I loved the relaxed atmosphere.
Ilona Clayton, Undergraduate (History & German)
Before you apply, it’s important to know that Oxford applications work a bit differently from other universities. You start in the same way using the UCAS system, but we have an earlier deadline – October 15 – and you have the option of nominating a college of your choice. You might also be asked to submit samples of schoolwork or sit an admissions test as part of your application. If you’re shortlisted, we’ll ask you to attend one or more interviews. Interviews and tests can sound daunting, but there is plenty of information and help available. Below you can find out more about each step of applying.
Applying to Somerville is simple. When you complete the UCAS application form, you will be prompted to either name a college like Somerville as your preferred choice, or to make an “open application” which leaves the decision up to the Admissions Office computer. Around 20% of Oxford applicants opt for an open application. If you are allocated to Somerville, your choice to make an open application will not influence any decisions we make about whether to interview or admit you. You can always contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org with any enquiries you may have. Please note, however, that tutors should never be contacted directly by the applicants or their representatives.
So many people apply to Oxford that we can’t interview everyone, and therefore most courses use some form of admissions test to help us decide who to interview. These range from written papers like the Thinking Skills Assessment, to submitting some examples of your work such as essays.
It’s important not to worry about these too much. Our tests are deliberately structured so that they don’t require special preparation and can demonstrate your raw potential, and there are plenty of past papers and other resources available on the University’s admissions tests website to help you succeed on the day.
As the requirements vary from course to course, it’s important to check what you need to do for your subject as soon as you can. Don’t forget to register for any admissions tests that you require! UCAS will not automatically enrol you when you apply to Oxford, so don’t get caught out. To register, you need to let your school know which tests you need to sit before the October 15th deadline and they will enrol you.
If you are shortlisted after your admissions tests, we’ll invite you to Somerville for one or more interviews. We’ll typically put you up for free, or arrange Skype interviews if you live outside of Europe and face difficulty travelling; during the pandemic period all interviews are online
Interviews have a scary reputation, but you don’t need to worry. Our friendly and professional tutors will talk to you about areas of your subject or work through a problem or scenario with you. Generally, the interview will begin by giving you a short period of time to read through several problems, talking points, or short extracts of scholarship, before a discussion with two tutors on the problems or ideas. No special preparation or coaching is required, and no one will be trying to catch you out – the focus is less on what you already know and more on how you handle new ideas.
We host an annual event called ‘Demystifying Interviews’, which is open to all state-school pupils applying to Somerville in every subject save Medicine (as applications for this subject are College-blind). This event will allow you to sit-in on some mock interviews and have a look around Somerville ahead of time. The event is free and there is a travel bursary available.
Interview Tips From Our Students
Many Oxford applicants worry about the interviews and what the tutors will expect of them. To dispel the myths that surround the process, we asked some of our first year undergraduates to give us their top tips for you.
When Can I Apply?
You can apply before you’ve done your final school qualifications, or afterwards – we welcome applications from those taking a gap year. For some courses, you’ll need to be studying specific subjects in order to qualify, and whatever you wish to study, you’ll need an excellent academic record. If we make you an offer, this will either be conditional if you haven’t yet sat your final school exams, or unconditional if you have.