Our students and tutors come from all sorts of backgrounds. We are certainly not looking for just one sort of student, or for some stereotype of the ‘Oxford student’. At St Hugh’s, we ask that you are intelligent, that you work hard and that you share our passion for learning. Beyond that, there is no St Hugh’s ‘type’.
You need to show that you have the very highest academic ability and potential. Your IB scores, A-levels, Advanced Highers and a host of other qualifications can show this (and we do expect you to have excellent grades), but we don’t just look at your marks so far.
Your motivation for study is vital: we want to know that you are going to make the most of the academic experience that Oxford offers. In practice, that means good grades, a strong reference and a clear personal statement about why you want to follow your chosen degree course. It does not mean that you have to know about Oxford or be specially prepared by people who know the system. Some of the tutors here have themselves studied at Oxford, some have not, and we don’t mind whether you come from a background where people already know Oxford or from one where university is an unusual choice: your ability and potential are what matter.
Frequently asked questions
Should I make an open application?
Applicants sometimes worry about whether they should choose a particular college or make an open application to Oxford (by leaving the college selection box blank). If you make an open application, you will be allocated a college (usually one that, for that year, has a slightly lower than average number of applicants per place). Once an open applicant has been allocated a college, he or she is treated in exactly the same way by that college as applicants who chose that college. In fact, a college cannot tell from the application which route a candidate has followed, and both routes are equally valid. We advise applicants to choose a college if they have a strong preference, but if they feel they cannot easily choose between colleges, an open application is the best solution. At several stages in the admissions process, applicants may anyway be moved between colleges, to ensure that an applicant’s choice of college does not affect his or her chances of gaining a place at Oxford.
At St Hugh’s, we regularly accept candidates through both routes, and our primary interest is in your motivation for studying your course of choice. Our tutors have often worked in a number of different colleges and universities during their academic career, and they will be looking for your interest in and aptitude for the subject you have chosen, rather than examining why you did or did not choose a particular college.
What are you looking for?
Our sole aim is to admit the most able candidates. By most able we mean those of greatest academic merit who convince us that they have inquiring, analytical minds, love of learning and intellectual ambition. We are committed to encouraging access to Oxford for all those who have the intellectual qualities to excel here, regardless of an applicant’s background or the degree of experience of Oxford applications that their families or schools may have. Recent initiatives include housing the Sutton Trust Summer School in College in 2000 and joining with six other colleges to develop contacts with Further Education Colleges.
Candidates are most likely to convince us that they have the qualities for which we are seeking if they have shown the initiative to read around and beyond the syllabus they are pursuing at school. Particularly where they wish to apply for a subject not usually available at school, they should have made an effort to acquaint themselves with its nature, and be able to give good reasons for wanting to spend three or four years studying it at Oxford. In other words, interest, enthusiasm and commitment count for a great deal, along with potential. We want students who will grow intellectually during their time at Oxford and make the most of the opportunities that it can offer them.
What is an interview like?
In common with other colleges (and virtually all employers), we interview the vast majority of candidates who apply to us. We do this because we feel that interviews can provide important information above and beyond what can be gauged from predicted or obtained grades, references, submitted essays or written tests. We would encourage all candidates to arrange a mock interview with teachers or family friends before coming up to Oxford for the real thing.
Interviews vary tremendously, but some things are common. At St Hugh’s they are normally 20-30 minutes long and will be with one or more tutors in your chosen subject, sometimes jointly, sometimes separately. They will probably begin with some straightforward, often very general, questions designed to put you at your ease and end with an opportunity for you to ask questions of the interviewer(s). In between, you’ll be asked why you wish to study your chosen subject and be invited to comment on one or more problems and issues relevant to it; sometimes these may be ones that arise from your UCAS form or from any written work you have submitted, so make sure you remember what you wrote.
We are not necessarily looking for a ‘right’ answer to these questions; there may not be one! Instead, successful applicants will be those who convince us of their ability to think creatively and deploy their existing knowledge to new situations. Candidates are provided with free accommodation during the interview process and there are always undergraduate students around to show you the College and answer any questions you may have.
Can I apply post A-level or gap year?
If you are applying post A-level, perhaps making a second attempt at Oxbridge entry, you should have no qualms in applying to us. The Sixth Form is a period of enormous intellectual development, and you may have changed out of all recognition over the course of a year. Some of our best undergraduates have been post A-level applicants. We think that the post A-level mode of entry is under-used.
As a general rule, we also have no difficulties with candidates who plan to take a gap year; our sole concern is that they have well thought out plans for what they intend to do and can justify these at interview. Beyond that, such applications are treated exactly on a par with those from candidates who wish to come to Oxford straight from school.
Can I apply if I have Scottish, European or international qualifications?
We think that a diversity of educational backgrounds in the undergraduate body adds to the College’s strengths. This means that we welcome applications from those with Scottish, European or other international qualifications, and we are proud that those who apply to us come from all over the world. We encourage applications from candidates in Scottish schools who are taking Highers and Advanced Highers; the same is true of candidates taking the International Baccalaureate, the Irish Higher Certificate and US qualifications. We are well aware of the details of these examinations and can make realistic conditional offers based on them.
What happens if I am an applicant with special needs?
We welcome applications from candidates with particular physical requirements and/or special educational needs, and we are accustomed to making special arrangements for them at interview and after they have been admitted.
Please feel free to contact the College at an early stage in the applications process so that we can be as helpful as possible in making these arrangements.
What if I have further questions?
If you have any specific queries that are not dealt with here – about a particular Joint School, for instance, attitudes to a gap year in a particular subject, or levels of conditional offers for a particular degree course – please contact the Admissions Office, or the Tutors in the subject(s) of interest to you. Remember too that we encourage all potential applicants to visit the College on formal Open Days or at other times and that additional information is also available on the University’s website.