Why didn't your child apply to Oxford or Cambridge?

(351 Posts)
ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 09:10:21

www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/27/oxbridge-state-school-numbers-falling

Given that most people who apply will not get in - there's no shame in an unsuccessful application. So what are the real reasons for this apparent reluctance?

grovel Tue 27-May-14 09:33:06

My DS went to a boarding school with glorious cloisters, chapel etc. He had "perfect" AS and A level grades and was a "viable" Oxbridge candidate. He refused to try for two reasons:

He said he'd "done" Hogwarts

His friends at Oxbridge were much more stressed about their work than friends at other universities. He wasn't totally in love with his subject and was going to university to "get a decent degree" and to have a ball.

creamteas Tue 27-May-14 09:50:34

Other than the name, there was nothing positive about what they were offering when DS1 was choosing.

In his subject they have a pretty dull and out-of-date curriculum in comparison with other universities. They also didn't offer a year in industry, which he spent working abroad.

They expected to be chose for their 'brand', but actually have an inferior offering.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 27-May-14 09:55:17

Why waste one of your choices if you know the entry standards are way beyond your predictions?

Dd is only 12 but knows what she wants to study (& has a short list) Oxford doesn't offer it.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 27-May-14 09:57:39

Why waste one of your choices if you know the entry standards are way beyond your predictions?

Dd is only 12 but knows what she wants to study (& has a short list) Oxford doesn't offer it.

KatieKaye Tue 27-May-14 09:58:19

Because we live in Scotland and therefore get free tuition at Scottish universities, so nothing south of the border was even considered.

summerends Tue 27-May-14 10:27:21

Perhaps because at least for some courses there is a perceived complacency that means that other universities provide a better quality of options and overall teaching. Also, the tutorial system, although superb for the right student and tutor, is dependent on teaching relationships with a small number of academics which may be claustrophobic when those relationships do not work.

senua Tue 27-May-14 10:29:40

Oxbridge were much more stressed about their work than friends at other universities. He wasn't totally in love with his subject and was going to university to "get a decent degree" and to have a ball.

This was DS's view.

A friend got an Oxbridge offer but turned it down, mistakenly I believe. They felt (from visits, interviews and other contact) that it was all a bit knobby and unfriendly. I should imagine that after three years they would be assimilated and find it normal, but they weren't to be persuaded.

senua Tue 27-May-14 10:37:27

BTW, I always think that statistic about Independent /State is a bit simplistic. Very few people get into Oxbridge. The sort who are likely to get in are head-and-shoulders above the rest, and this difference is fairly easy to spot by the time they get to age sixteen.
And the Independents do spot them and offer them scholarship places for sixth form. So Independents tend to dominate Oxbridge places because ... they recruit Oxbridge possibles. You don't need an Oxbridge degree to work that one out!

VelvetStrider Tue 27-May-14 10:42:58

Lots of specialist degree courses aren't available at either Oxford or Cambridge, so if you want to do something different from the mainstream, you have to go elsewhere no matter how intelligent or educated you are.

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 10:44:11

I'm involved in the widening access scheme for Oxbridge and experience has shown me that there are hugely varied reasons why students don't apply, some justified, many not.

Ones I've come across include;

1. It costs more to study there.
2. All the students are rich.
3. You have to have been to public school.
4. People from 'ordinary' backgrounds feel out of place.
5. Lectures are often in Latin (no really).
6. You have to have all A*s at GCSE.
7. You're not allowed to work during term time.
8. It's super-intensive.
9. It's too old fashioned.
10. You have to live in a college.
11. You're not allowed to stay in accommodation during the holidays.
12. Everyone there is a genuis.

I could go on....

But the main reason why students from less advanatged backgrounds don't apply is the overwhelming feeling that it's just not for people like them. That all the students are posh and/or genius level geeks.

EduardoBarcelona Tue 27-May-14 10:48:41

relation did - he didnt get in

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 10:49:26

Oh Word - if only number 5 were true!

DeWee Tue 27-May-14 10:56:20

senua that is partually true, but not totally true. I went to Oxbridge (and no, I didn't find it snobby or unfriendly, the "traditional" public schoolboy image type tended to be unusual and unpopular.)

Independents often do push people to go-the school I was at pushed anyone who they thought had an outside hope to try. Dh (from a comprehensive) they were happy for him to try out, but only when he said.
Also my school had a very rigorous preparation. We had lots of practice interviews Oxbridge style, advice, they took us for a 3 day open day, sold the idea to people. We were told some silly things that apparently "upped" the chance (but were rubbish) but then the interview time was no surprise because it had been talked through so much. We even had a form to fill out when we got back to write down questions we were asked, which were passed onto following years.
Dh had none of that. Because he was the first to go to Oxbridge, and he's not sure any had even interviewed before.
Personally I think getting rid of the entrance exam, for that reason, was a mistake-you can get past years' papers to practice on, but if you don't know anyone, you can't sort out a practice interview.

And also independents, I think, have disproportionally more teachers who were Oxbridge-who are then familiar with the entry system, aren't intimidated by the idea and are inclined to push towards it.

lottiegarbanzo Tue 27-May-14 11:16:26

Because it's lots of extra work to attempt to get in - not worth sacrificing sixth form social life if you're not fairly confident of a chance, very determined and very committed to your subject, or perhaps more importantly, to the notion of going to Oxbridge.

It's not the best place for many subjects.

It's more work and more intense than other places. Maybe that's great if total absorption and intensity is what you want. But, a very bright student might be likely to get a 2:1 at Oxbridge or a first elsewhere, because classifications are relative to your cohort. Lots of people would prefer the first.

I think confidence and competitiveness are key. Lots of bright people aren't driven by competition or status. My experience is that many Oxbridge graduates are.

It is also that quite a few are 'narrow over-achievers', relatively immature and unworldly, not the all round bright, wise, engaged people I somehow expected them to be, probably quite naively. (Yes I said some, of those I've met). This perhaps reflects a particular focus that some entrants have, that many people who aren't so bothered by the cachet don't and, they can have the breadth of awareness and perhaps wisdom to see all sorts of wider advantages to going elsewhere, that suit them, as an individual.

calmet Tue 27-May-14 11:23:35

"The sort who are likely to get in are head-and-shoulders above the rest, and this difference is fairly easy to spot by the time they get to age sixteen.
And the Independents do spot them and offer them scholarship places for sixth form. "

How are the independents supposed to spot them? Nobody ever came to my school in a very deprived area to talent spot, and we had some very bright children. One of whom actually did go on to Cambridge and won lots of prizes for being top of her year. She was never offered a scholarship, or even given a chance of applying for one.

calmet Tue 27-May-14 11:28:49

Survey after survey shows that children in more deprived areas, see Cambridge and Oxford as snobby, and not for people like them. I know I thought this was young, and would have been too scared of being laughed at and mocked for being "common". I suspect ordinary middle class kids do fine there though.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 11:33:05

Because it's lots of extra work to attempt to get in - not worth sacrificing sixth form social life if you're not fairly confident of a chance..

What sort of sixth form lottie? (Genuine question - in my own childhood competition was taken for granted and that has carried on with the next generation. There's always been some cachet attached to being one of those encouraged to do "lots of extra work" - even where there was no obvious benefit to be had.)

Shootingatpigeons Tue 27-May-14 11:33:35

At DD's very academic private girls' school there is a feeling that the admissions process is a source of pressure and threat to self esteem that many don't need, that there is something to be lost. Year after year they see that candidates that are as senua puts it head and shoulders above the rest who don't get in, (and sometimes some candidates who are not who do) and however well prepared and without parental pressure that is a disappointment and blow to confidence at best (and often with a weight of parental expectation, devastating) so why bother to put yourself through a confidence threatening lottery when you can go to do a course that really appeals at a top university, probably having a choice of several offers.

One of DD2s friends has just turned down a place, apparently, to her friends, because she does not feel that the people she met at interview were the type of people she wants to spend the next few years with hmm but partly I suspect an act of rebellion against parental pressure. To be fair the place she has firmed is more highly rated for research excellence in her subject, her argument to her parents; if the best academics are making a rational decision to go there why is my decision irrational? hmm

TalkinPeace Tue 27-May-14 11:36:55

Round here the state 6th form colleges gets loads of kids in : and kids leave the independent schools to get the specialist Oxbridge / Ivy League / RG support that the colleges offer.

I'd not transfer my kids to an independent school for 6th form unless it was free. grin

Cerisier Tue 27-May-14 11:48:38

DD didn't apply as she dropped a grade in one AS so thought there was no point. Two of her friends who were offered Oxbridge places have turned them down as they had better offers from elsewhere in the world.

bluestrawhat Tue 27-May-14 11:51:13

Your question is an odd one - in that you are suggesting that the unlikelihood of getting in is a reason to give it a go anyway. There are few people who would take the same attitude to a job i.e. I'm not going to get it so I'll go through all the trouble of filling in an application form and possibly an interview just for the fun of it confused

The application process can be gruelling and time consuming. You have to be sure you want it and can cope psychologically and in terms of your prep for your A Levels to go through it.

And having witnessed many people go through this process, however much they may say they don't really care at the beginning, if they reach the end of the process they have a significant emotional investment in it. Some people never recover. You'll know an Oxbridge reject when you spot one.

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 11:54:37

Talkin I belive you're in Hampshire?

They do okay as far as Oxbridge success is concerned. Not one of the most successful areas howver. Certainly, nothing to write home about.

TalkinPeace Tue 27-May-14 11:57:17

Word
I am in Hampshire and I'm quite happy with the options on offer.
Oxbridge is much less clever than it thinks it is.
I'm encouraging my kids to think much more laterally.

Its a shame that you think of it in terms of successful "areas" - that pattern heads towards 'Superzip' situations that are so damaging in the USA

Hamuketsu Tue 27-May-14 12:04:30

My dd1 is potentially Oxbridge material but doesn't plan to apply. Firstly, she thinks that the subject she wants to study is better served elsewhere. Secondly, dh and I both went to Cambridge and she wants to "be her own person" and avoid comparisons. Finally, I think Oxbridge applications from her school will be knocked for a few years by the rejection by Cambridge of their quasi-celebrity "genius" pupil - the type with seven top-grade A'levels, some of them done when he was 12, composing symphonies for the school orchestra, etc.. Of course, there were many factors involved - and the chap went happily off to Harvard - but I expect there will be a long hangover of "if he can't, I can't" reactions.

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