Oxford decision letters delayed until after Christmas

Decision letters for Oxford undergraduate applicants to all colleges will be posted on Thursday 10th January this year, with emails following on January 11th.

This policy applies to candidates from all colleges, and marks a shift from previous years, when colleges aimed to send out results before Christmas. Candidates will therefore have to wait roughly two weeks longer to hear whether or not they have been successful. The later date has been agreed for this admissions cycle only, and will be under review. 

The decision follows discussion by the University Admissions Committee, which is made up of college and departmental admissions representatives. It was prompted by substantial differences between school timetables and those of the University this year. The increasing use of pre-interview tests also caused difficulties: owing to the later school term dates, these had to be taken later than usual, meaning that the time between tests and interviews was cut by up to a week.

The delay of key interview dates this year has meant that several subjects will not confirm their final lists of accepted applicants until 18th December. Ruth Collier, Head of Press and Information Office at the University, said: “As a number of colleges are closing for the Christmas vacation on 19th and 20th December, it was decided that rather than rush to confirm the decisions, it would make much more sense to wait until the New Year.” 

Richard Little of the Oxford University Admissions Office described the later date as an “administrative decision purely about schools’ half terms” and commented that there would “not be enough time” to stick to the old pre-Christmas deadline. 

Ellen Mauder, Access and Outreach Officer at Wadham College, saw the change from the University’s point of view, arguing that the decision would ‘make the whole interview process a little bit more smooth.” She also added that the later date could be positive for candidates, as the school term will already have begun by the time they receive news of the outcome of their Oxford application. “This means schools can support their students back in January, whatever the outcome,” she said.  

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However, many candidates expressed unhappiness at the prolonged wait. Chris Cummings, an applicant for History and Politics at Regent’s Park, said: “I would much prefer to be put out of my misery. I believe the emails get sent on Friday 11th, and we have a General Studies exam in the morning. I’ll most likely be thinking about the email during the exam, and whilst General Studies admittedly isn’t the most important of exams, it could affect my performance.” 

Luke Sperry, an applicant from Nottingham, had similar concerns, saying, “The date of response falls within a week of two of my A-level maths modules. Rejection would therefore be far more damaging at that time than during Christmas. Furthermore, if I were to receive an offer, the euphoria might pose as a distraction.”

He added, “Worst of all, I am fully aware that the tutors already know whether I shall receive an offer or not. Although I can imagine that the tutors do not wish to disappoint people during Christmas, the wait is far more excruciating, and it is always better to know.”

Aelithya Kale, a medicine interviewee at Wadham, said the later date for sending out letters was “not a good thing. I’d like to get the letter as soon as possible.” However, he insisted, “It’s not going to ruin my Christmas.”

Wadham SU Access Officer, Loukia Koumi, commented, “We make interviewees wait around enough as it is. The process is already uncertain and gruelling. For the people who have interviews in the first week, they will have to wait a month to hear the result.”

All schools were notified in September 2012 and no complaints have been received. The University Press Office told Cherwell, “There are fors and againsts to knowing the decision prior to Christmas. Given 80% of candidates are inevitably not successful, hearing this immediately before Christmas may be worse than knowing afterwards, back at school with relevant higher education advisers.”