Do you want to spend a year studying in the same halls that Stephen Hawking, Adam Smith, and Margaret Thatcher once did? Join the club!
The University of Oxford is one of the world's top universities and prospective students are flocking to experts to seek the magic formula for getting into this seemingly-enchanted institution.
Here’s five ways to make sure you get accepted onto the Oxford MBA:
1. Assess your fit
Oxford is an incredibly unique place that can offer incredibly unique opportunities, but it certainly is not for everyone.
To succeed in the Oxford MBA, you must have an ability to thrive in international situations (most years over 50 different countries are represented in a single class!); an interest in thought-provoking theoretical conversations (professors and your classmates will press you to dig deeper); and an ability to simultaneously embrace unconventional ideas while flourishing in a culture of tradition at an 800-year-old institution.
Even more than most business schools, Oxford is exceptionally concerned with ‘fit’, so be sure to have solid reasons for wanting to be a part of this one-of-a-kind community—be honest, be detailed, and be unequivocal.
The best way to decide if Oxford is right for you is an in-person visit: stroll through campus, sit in on classes, talk to current students, even take in the nightlife during your stay. Picture yourself living there and continually assess how you feel along the way.
During the interview process, Oxford will ask if you have visited. While not visiting certainly will not disqualify you from getting into the program, showing that you have gone to the effort of tangibly experiencing what Oxford has to offer can serve as solid proof of your interest.
2. Communicate your character, not just your credentials
Perhaps the most crucial part of the Oxford MBA application is communicating your personal ‘story’ effectively. Oxford has a particular interest in building classes of students who want to meaningfully impact the world. Ideal students aim to build solutions, help others in need, or otherwise profoundly alter the paradigms of current society.
Any way you can communicate that you have big ideas and the passion and energy to see them through will score you huge points in the admissions process. Rather than focusing on test scores and GPA, emphasize how you can channel your aptitude into inspiring your classmates and in turn being inspired by them. Bonus points if you can effectively demonstrate your plans for impacting the world post-graduation and how Oxford can be a crucial part of that.
3. Take the GMAT or the GRE, but realize it’s not the crux of the application
Of course, taking the GMAT or the GRE is necessary to get into the program, and an excellent score certainly does not hurt. Oxford’s focus, however, is heavily weighted toward purpose and hunger for progress, not necessarily the numbers.
A somewhat low GMAT score will not necessarily eliminate a candidate if he shows exceptional potential via other channels, so spend your crucial moments concentrating on building your story, not on increasing your GMAT score by 10 more points.
4. Tell a cohesive story
A critical facet of a successful application is authenticity. The best way to achieve this is by telling a consistent story throughout your entire application: personal statements, interviews, recommendations, and even work experience should all demonstrate your potential impact on Oxford and your future classmates. Make sure your character and intent are reflected cohesively and powerfully throughout your application, not just in one or two elements.
If you’ve followed these strategies, the last (and best!) phase of your pre-MBA journey is to mentally prepare for what is sure to be your most life-changing year to date. Not a day goes by that I do not reflect on my experience at Oxford.
If you follow these guidelines, you too will have the opportunity to spend at least a few minutes of every day reflecting on how fortunate you are to also have a part of your heart forever in the city of dreaming spires.
By Andrea Coulis. Andrea is a senior tutor for MyGuru, a provider of online GMAT tutoring. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and an MBA from the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School. This article was first published in April 2018 and updated in October 2020.
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Thank you so much for writing this piece. I am a Business Coach based in Uganda with certifications from Scaling Up Coaches (USA), International Coaching Federation, a Bachelor of Accountancy from University of Zimbabwe. I am passionate about unlocking Africa's economic potential and an Oxford MBA will be a great pivot.