What to expect when you’re expecting a decision
There’s a lot going on at Oxford in the eight to ten weeks after the deadline.
You can find a timeline overview and important details on how it all works in our Decision Timeline — here’s how we answer some of our most common questions on this.
Quick note on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The graduate admissions cycle is progressing as planned. Many staff are working remotely, but we have access to all the usual systems and are processing applications and making decisions as normal. For advice and updates from the University, see Coronavirus: Applying for Graduate Study.
What’s actually going on with my application right now?
When you submit your application, the first thing we do is get a real human in Graduate Admissions to go through it and check that it’s in order.
In an average week this only takes a day or so but around deadlines, with so many applications coming in at the same time (as well as last-minute questions), it’ll usually take at least a few days and up to a week or so.
(You don’t need to allow time for us to do this — you can still submit at any time up until the deadline!)
Once we’re done, we’ll let you know by email whether it’s complete for the deadline.
If it is then we also let the academic department know to get started with your assessment. If it isn’t, you can send in what’s missing before the next upcoming deadline date as long as the course is still open.
What else happens between the deadline and the decision — will I be interviewed?
After we’ve checked the application in the first week or so, the academic department will get assessors started with looking at your application.
Some departments will interview a shortlist of applicants during this period, but many don’t. Your course page will let you know whether to expect an interview.
When will I find out if I’ve got an offer?
The average waiting time for a final decision is 8 to 10 weeks after the deadline you apply to.
For January applicants your academic department’s administrator will send you an email by around the end of March to tell you whether you’ve been offered a place or not.
We do often get very large numbers of applications compared to the number of places available on each course — for example, the DPhil in Public Policy has well over 100 applications each year and less than 10 places. Sadly, there’s always likely to be some really great people that we’re not able to take on.
If you’re made an offer, you’ll often need to send in a few more documents to confirm that you’ve finished your degree or fulfilled other conditions of an offer, like getting a certain result in an IELTS or TOEFL test of your English language skills. (If you’re sending documents to Graduate Admissions, make sure you send these digitally and not by post!)
What about colleges?
If you’re in then you’re also guaranteed a college place (unless you’re applying for one of a very small group of courses which are ‘non-matriculated’ — check your course page if you’re not sure).
Your application automatically goes on for college placement and you don’t need to contact colleges yourself — for details on how that works, see our Decision Timeline.
When will I find out about funding and scholarships?
The short answer is that this just depends on the award you’re being considered for, but if you’re made an offer by your department that doesn’t mention funding that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be offered any— see our explainer on when and how scholarship offers are sent:
When will I know if I’ve been awarded a scholarship?
Here’s a little bit more about what to expect over the coming weeks.
Can you give me more exact dates that I’ll hear by?
We would love to give you exact dates for decisions — but in our (very, very long) experience, the time periods we give really are the most realistic estimate.
Progress is very different for each application and the people and offices involved in looking at it for funding, colleges, and even for admission are very different, even within one course.
What if another university has given me an early deadline to respond?
It’s not usually possible to get an early decision on your application but if waiting might mean giving up on your Oxford decision altogether to meet the deadline of another offer, contact the academic department to let them know the situation and see when they might be able to give you an update.
If you’re waiting to find out which college you’ll get an offer from before you decide what to do with your Oxford offer, unfortunately we can’t really get that done any quicker. However, you’re guaranteed a college place at Oxford and your teaching will be arranged centrally by your academic department.
Deep breaths all round
We talk to thousands of applicants every year about their worries and questions and we get that this can be a tense and difficult time. You might have competing offers from other great universities with different acceptance deadlines to juggle, or exams coming up if you’re on-course right now.
We’ll keep you informed on important news and anything you need to do throughout this process as quickly as we can.
If you do find yourself fretting about the future or in need of a quiet moment to think over your options, you might find this five-minute Mindful Breathing Space podcast from our Counselling Service helpful — or their other self-help podcasts on exam revision, perfectionism and self-compassion that anyone can listen to any time, day or night.