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Programmes for High Flyers: Oxbridge and Medicine

Early Applicants: Oxbridge, Medics, Dentists and Vets

Hereford Sixth Form College encourages and supports academically gifted students to realise their potential to win places at the highest ranked universities in an increasingly competitive environment.

This is achieved through the quality of our subject teaching and a programme of dedicated specialist advice and support for students considering applying for Oxbridge and for aspiring medics, vets and dentists; these students are known collectively as "Early Applicants" because their university applications currently have to be made in the October before they sit their A Level exams.

Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine

These students have their own distinct support programme run by the Careers Department.
The programme includes:

  • Advice on work experience and volunteering.
  • Advice on wider reading and research.
  • A summer conference.
  • Access to specialised university taster sessions.
  • Individual and group mock interviews.
  • Talks from former students, professionals and specialists in these subjects.

Medicine is also one of the most popular streams on the HE+ programme which is staffed by consultants from the local hospital.


The competition for places at Oxford and Cambridge has been increasing steadily since 2000, but the number of places available remains much the same.

Between 2010-2018 on average, 38% of Hereford Sixth Form College Students were successful in their Oxbridge applications. The national average for 2017 was 17%.

  • 21 out of 57 applicants received offers for 2018.
  • 10 out of 37 applicants received offers for 2017.
  • 13 out of 40 applicants received offers for 2016.
  • 14 out of 38 applicants received offers for 2015.
  • 14 out of 39 applicants received offers for 2014.
  • 20 out of 45 applicants received offers for 2013.

Early applicants who do not receive Oxbridge offers nevertheless gain valuable experience and most win places at Russell Group universities (including Imperial, UCL, LSE, Durham, Bristol, St. Andrews) to study some of the most competitive subjects. 
The programme also now supports applicants considering applying to universities in the USA, Ireland and Continental Europe.

Early Applicants programme

It is increasingly clear that Oxbridge admissions tutors now focus almost exclusively on academic excellence (already demonstrated and potential), plus enthusiasm and aptitude for their subject. Subject specific tests set by universities are increasingly the norm. 

Oxford has always had its own admissions tests and, as a result of the demise of AS Levels, Cambridge has also introduced its own admissions tests.

Extra curricular activities count for much less than in the past. So, while the College provides every opportunity for students to participate in Sports, Music and the Arts generally, this programme is about academic success.

Lecture at Christ's College Cambridge for Early Applicants and HE+ students

Lecture at Christ's College Cambridge for Early Applicants and HE+ students

The programme is available both to students who have already shown real academic promise and to those whose potential has not yet been reflected in their performance in public exams.

Experience suggests that an average of seven A*s at GCSE is normally required to obtain an Oxbridge offer. However, contextual information may be used to explain why an evidently gifted student gained fewer GCSE A*s than might otherwise have been possible.

  • All students with four or more A*s at GCSE are automatically enrolled on the programme.

The Early Applicants programme runs in parallel with (and in addition to) the Cambridge HE+ project led by Hereford Sixth Form College.
The programme includes:

  • Subject enhancement - to demonstrate candidates' potential for academic excellence in and passion for their chosen subject.
  • Preparation for universities' own subject specific or aptitude tests.
  • Intensive interview preparation and presentational skills training.
  • Using our close working relationships with Oxbridge colleges' schools liaison officers and admissions tutors.
  • Privileged access to universities' "widening participation" initiatives available only to the maintained sector.

Widening participation

In recent years a number of students have taken advantage of the range of activities in the "widening particpation" initiatives. These included:

  • The Cambridge shadowing scheme.
  • Physics and computing taster days at Cambridge and Oxford.
  • The Oxford Pathways Study days
  • The Cambridge STEM summer school.
  • Courses offered by UNIQ, the Sutton Trust and Villiers Park.
  • Various essay competitions.

In 2016, Hereford Sixth Form College student, Gabby Jonsberg-Holmes won the Radhika Swarup prize:
Student Wins University of Cambridge Essay Prize

Subject selection

For all Early Applicants, choosing the right combination of A Levels is crucial.
For example:

  • Many Oxbridge science courses require or prefer A Level Maths: specialist maths teachers will advise on the appropriate course to select.
  • For medicine, dentistry and veterinary science entry requirements vary from university to university but Chemistry and Biology are now essential at most.

Requirements may also change from year to year, but advice will be given at enrolment.

Marriam Khan, Outreach Officer from Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), University of Oxford, gave a presentation to Early Applicants on Making a Competitive Application: Preparation for Interview.

Marriam Khan, Outreach Officer from Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), University of Oxford, gave a presentation to Early Applicants on Making a Competitive Application: Preparation for Interview.

Early applicants

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