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Undergraduate admissions: The application cycle

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Andrew Miller

  • Access Officer
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In this blogpost we will walk you through the steps of the application process. Other posts will take you through the steps individually and in more detail.

Choose a course

Choosing a course comes at the very beginning of this process. You should choose a course that you and enjoy and have a real interest in. Self-directed learning is a big part any university course and it is much easier to motivate yourself when you are passionate about your subject.

For more information about how to choose your course/subject, please see this blogpost.

College preference?

Once you've decided that you want to apply to Oxford, you can decide whether you want to state a preference for the college you're applying to or make an open application and let the computer randomly assign you to a college. This shouldn't be a stressful process and should not distract you from other parts of your application, such as drafting your personal statement or revising for your exams, or otherwise working hard in school. If you want to state a preference for college it should be on personal preferences around a college's look and feel, location in the city, facilities, proximity to lectures, etc. Open Days are a great way to sample the atmosphere of a college, and there is also plenty of information available on the internet.

Most importantly, stating a preference for a college or making an open application makes absolutely no difference to your chances of being made an offer. Colleges don't know which option you chose and will never ask you.

The University of Oxford uses a system of reallocation to make sure that applicants are equally distributed across colleges and to ensure fair access. You can be reallocated at any stage of the process.

Important dates and deadlines – UCAS and Admissions tests

The key date to remember is: 15 October.

You must submit your UCAS form by 15 October for any application to Oxford. The deadline is always 15 October; the date never changes. However, it is good practice to aim to submit your application in advance of the deadline to give your referee enough time to attach your reference and predicted grades. Your school is likely to have their own internal timetable, so please listen to your teachers!

The registration deadline for Admissions tests is also 15 October. This is separate to your UCAS form so please make sure you do both! The single exception to this is the LNAT for Law which you must have taken by 15 October. These are hard deadlines and cannot be changed.

You will sit the tests at an approved test centre. For most UK applicants, this means your school. You will sit the tests under exam conditions on a specified date; in 2021 this will be 3 or 4 November depending on the subject. Make a note of the date of your test and make sure that you are available.

Submit written work

The majority of our essay-based subjects require a submission of written work. It will be clear from the subject webpage whether this is a requirement, and the deadline for this is usually the week after any Admissions tests. If you are unsure about whether you need to submit written work, you can check the University website.

The purpose of this written work is to give us another chance to get to know you academically, and we can also use your written work as a talking point at interview.

The choice of what to submit is up to you. It should be a piece that you have already written that has been marked by your teacher. It should not be written especially for this. It should be something that you are proud of and happy to discuss.


If you are successful in being called for interview, you can expect your interview to take place during the first two or three weeks of December. In a normal year, candidates travel to Oxford for their interview and colleges provide free accommodation and meals (and in many cases will also cover travel expenses). This experience gives candidates a little taster of what it is like to

Sadly we are not in a normal year just yet, and in December 2021 we will again conduct all interviews online using Microsoft Teams. We strongly recommend that candidates have their online interview at school so they can have the support of their teachers, use of the school WiFi, and access to IT staff if required. However, we understand that it is not possible for some candidates to take their interviews at school, in which case it's absolutely fine to be at home.

The substance of our interviews, their purpose and format, remains the same whether online or in-person and we will delve into that further in a later blogpost.


Hopefully you can then enjoy a relaxing holiday season as you wait to hear the outcome of your application in the middle of January.

Where next?

  • How to choose your subject?Read more
  • Discover the undergraduate courses on offer at LincolnRead more
  • Explore our options for financial supportRead more