Help! Poor BA, but a good MSc - Can I get into Oxbridge?


Hi all.

I've previously posted this on The Student Room, but as I haven't gotten any replies, I thought I would try here.

So the thing is:

I'm currently studying a two-year Master's in a top EU university and have an average translatable to a high 2.1, and good hopes of getting a 1st in my final year. I've also secured two internships related to my field, one in a development NGO and another at the UN.

My problem is that at the time I was doing my BA, I was still fairly immature and lacked motivation and study skills. This resulted in me graduating with just a pass in my degree. I attribute this failure partly to problems within my family and feeling generally unhappy, but in the end I wasn't experiencing anything 'medical' (i. e. no diagnosed depression) that I could prove to gain mitigating circumstances retrospectively.

I've worked incredibly hard to get where I am today and matured significantly as an academic and person, and would like to think that my life isn't over because of a mishap in my early twenties.

Now, there's a specific Master's (yes, I would like to do two) in Oxford (and a similar one in Cambridge) that I would very much like to do, so my question is: do I have any chance of getting in? If yes, are there any specific things I could do in my final year to further improve my situation? And also; how might I go about addressing my poor BA in my personal statement?

I would be very grateful for any help and insight you might have.


If you're applying to do another Master's the poor BA, whilst harming your chances, will not be of as much interest to them as the other Masters. If you do well in your Masters (distinction) then chances are they'll give more weight to that than the BA. So to answer you: yes you do have a chance to get in.

As for specific things to improve your chances, it's no secret that Oxbridge is very competitive. Depends on the programme you're applying to, but I would say for the personal statement talk about how you used your BA experience as an opportunity for personal growth and for reviving your academic aspirations, which thereby led you to ensure that you excel in the Masters. Also if there are similarities in the curriculum of the Oxbridge Masters and the Masters you currently have, emphasise them in the personal statement. Also, and THAT'S IMPORTANT, make sure your letters of recommendation are EXCELLENT- if you can get one lecturer/supervisor from your BA who could write something EXCELLENT then use him. Otherwise I'd avoid referees from the BA course and focus on ones from the Masters as letters of recommendation are fundamental in the admissions process.

Good luck!


I'm a bit worried that you think your 'life will be over' if you don't get into Oxbridge. Even if you have a great Masters they still might not take you. If they don't take you, isn't there anywhere else where you could do that particular Masters?


Why do another Master's? My BA grades aren't very good but my MSc grades are quite good (not excellent but good) and I got into a PhD in Cambridge (in natural sciences). I would wonder why you want to do a second Master's instead of either going for a PhD or finding a job. I have no idea what the chances for you to get in would be because I can imagine that will depend a lot on other factors such as direction of study, other applicants, funding etc. I think it's always best to be honest about things, so you could just explain your poor BA grades like you did here. Best of luck.


I feel like I time-travelled to ghostwrite this post! In the exact same position right now, would you perhaps be able to give some advice through benefit of hindsight? I'm so worried my non-honours degree will ruin my chances of a second Masters (aiming for Oxbridge and SOAS), even with a good postgraduate program in my home country.