Higher education is more important than ever in the world today. With a worldwide recession and the proliferation of machines built to do the work of humans, unemployment is soaring and higher level qualifications are often the difference between one candidate and another. A university degree is therefore a highly sought after commodity in the current economic climate.

Furthermore, the recent increase in tuition fees in UK higher education has increased the competition at the best British universities to an even greater extent than before. Indeed, far from discouraging students to apply, the increase in fees is leading potential undergraduates to ‘aim higher’ than before and subsequently some of the leading universities are receiving more applications than ever, without necessarily expanding their intake.

The introduction of the A* grade at A-Level in Britain a few years ago has raised the bar for the grades necessary to be accepted into top universities too with leading universities such as Cambridge University, University College London and the London School of Economics often quoting at least one A* in their conditional offers. Similar increases in standards are required for students sitting exams sitting for other syllabuses such as

It is now only students with a competitive edge that can succeed in higher education. But how do you acquire that competitive edge?

Firstly, you have to embrace the competition. Thrive off it. Competition allows us to fulfil our potential and pushes us to reach our own personal best. Education is a tool to set you up for the rest of your life and teaches the skills necessary to succeed in the working world. Competition in education is therefore the catalyst that maximises your skillset and will produce a better end product than a non-competitive environment

Secondly, you have to set yourself goals. To be the best, you have to envisage yourself at the top. By setting targets, you acquire a tangible ideal and have something to work towards. These targets can start small but should always culminate in something bigger. Missing these targets isn’t a problem; just by having them, you will have already achieved more than if they weren’t there. Ensure that you prepare yourself sufficiently for exams, and read our earlier post on equipping yourself with the best techniques to give yourself the best shot when it comes to ‘crunch time’.

Finally, a competitive edge is only possible by standing out from the crowd. Being better than your competition requires being different to your competition. At Oxbridge, particularly in essay subjects, the difference between a 2i and a 1st class degree is often exactly that: a 2i student says everything that is expected of a candidate and formulates a strong argument in an effective manner; a 1st class candidate goes beyond what is expected and gives an original and independent interpretation of a quotation, text or writer. The difference between a bland, uninteresting personal statement and one that is intelligent and interesting is often evidence that a candidate has done something different and worthwhile that focusses upon exploring their academic passion to a more advanced level, outside of the classroom.

Standing out from the crowd is all about focus, original thought and daring to be different. Competition just provides a bigger crowd from which to stand out.

Our programme, Cambridge Immerse, offers courses in a range of different disciplines. The summer school is the perfect way to experience student life in the university city of Cambridge – and if you’re interested in history beyond just the beautiful city, then take look at our History Summer School at Cambridge Immerse.

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