Guide to UK Applications • Undergraduate

You Made It to Oxbridge – Get Up to Speed With Some of the Traditions!

POSTED ON 01/14/2017 BY The Red Pen

You Made It to Oxbridge – Get Up to Speed With Some of the Traditions!

Dear Student,

Congratulations on getting an offer from Oxbridge! When you were sitting opposite your interviewer in December, your chances of success at Oxford were around one in three and about one in four at Cambridge. Now that you have an offer, it is time to ensure you get the grades to fulfil your conditional requirements and gear up for the adventure of a lifetime!

Get ready for a world steeped in tradition; from matriculating at the Oxford Sheldonian1 in your sub-fusc2 uniforms to meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their frequent visits, the two universities have a lot in store for you.

While you cycle your way through town, I am sure you won’t fail to admire the majestic, historical beauty all around you. Whether it is the Oxford Radcliffe Camera4, the Cambridge King’s Chapel5, or the Venetian-style Bridge of Sighs6, the grandiose architecture is sure to leave you in awe.

When you walk down the Oxford ‘quads’ or Cambridge ‘courts’7, do not forget to look at the wondrous spires looming above you. Remember to keep off the grass, though! The long hollow corridors of the colleges have heard the echoes of several wise men before you and have buried within them decades’ worth of stories! It is as awe-inspiring as it is intimidating to sit in the same halls as some of the biggest thinkers of our millennium, such as Einstein.

Your passion for your subject has brought you a long way. The Oxford ‘tutorials’ or Cambridge ‘supervisions’ are sure to fuel your interest with every passing week. With a plethora of libraries around you, there will be no end to your exciting journey of knowledge and progress. Do not forget to check out the copyright Cambridge University Library and the Oxford Bodleian Library, which proudly hold a copy of every book printed in the UK. But, be sure to carry your bod card or university card3 if you want to get yourself into the libraries; not anyone can just waltz in.

You have more than 500 societies to choose from at these institutions, established by students, for students to explore their interests and find their identities. Whether it is debating at the Union or performing at the Oxford Playhouse or Cambridge ADC theatre, there is a platform for everyone to unleash their potential.

Welcome to the world where punting down the River Cam or River Thames/Cherwell will be your favourite pastime. Cheer for your university at the Oxbridge boat race while you are by the rivers too. The famed rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge is temporarily laid to rest as the Blues teams compete against other universities in cricket, rowing, swimming and skiing. Perhaps sports are not your forte and you relish an intellectual challenge–expand your general knowledge and join the University Challenge Team! If you are seeking leadership experience, join the JCR committee13.

Now here’s something to keep in mind–although you are part of the university, your college is really your home. Your college porters11 are your go-to people for everything and the fancy dress college parties; ‘bops’12 are the most awaited event of the week. The various Oxford balls and Cambridge May balls offer you a much-needed break from the rigorous academic demands. Never mind if you have two left feet; sit back and enjoy sipping expensive wine while watching the most spectacular fireworks.

Prepare well and make the most of your Oxbridge experience; you will leave with some thrilling memories.

Oxbridge looks forward to welcoming you!

Best wishes,

Namita Mehta
President, The Red Pen



  1. Oxford Sheldonian Theatre – the official ceremony hall at the University of Oxford, located in the centre of town
  2. Sub-fusc – the formal uniform worn at exams and ceremonies at the University of Oxford
  3. University card/bod card – your student ID card
  4. Oxford Radcliffe Camera – one of the central landmarks and largest library reading rooms in Oxford
  5. Cambridge King’s Chapel – one of the central landmarks and largest college chapels in Cambridge
  6. Bridge of Sighs – present in both Oxford and Cambridge, inspired by the Venetian-style bridges
  7. Quads/courts – rectangular-shaped lawns surrounding the college accommodation
  8. Formal halls – elaborate dinners, wearing formal wear and gowns, where dinner is served to your table
  9. Tutorials/supervisions – hour-long teaching sessions with one or two students or small groups. On average, students attend these four times a week
  10. Oxbridge boat race – the oldest tradition in the world, where Oxford and Cambridge compete in rowing across the River Thames in London
  11. Porters – the gatekeepers/receptionists at each college
  12. Bops – weekly parties for students
  13. JCR – Junior Common Room committee, which is a student body that monitors various aspects of student life at the college