Parents of Oxbridge applicants for 2013

(223 Posts)
Thowra Sat 29-Sep-12 08:20:48

Anybody else have DC applying for Oxford or Cambridge at the moment? DD submitted her UCAS into school on friday for checking. There are only two applying in her year. Trying to keep her feet (and mine) on the ground as she has fallen completely in love with Oxford and the college she is applying to, but realistically we know she's more likely to be rejected than not. She's got the grades, but I don't know if she's got enough confidence to carry off the interview. All the uni's she has applied to look fantastic, though, so we'll wait and see.

harbingerofdoom Sat 29-Sep-12 21:38:37

Have just come back from Oxford. DD2 is starting her second year in a shared house.
It's all very fresh in my mind, from interview to being there.
She too fell in love with the college.
Need more details from you to help.
DD was at a state school.
HTH

gelo Sat 29-Sep-12 22:06:32

Good luck to her Oxford is indeed beautiful. I am taking ds up on Tuesday for the first time and can't wait to see his college. We went through the nail biting last year - if she can perform strongly in the entrance test (assuming her subject has one) then that helps a lot. The interviews are daunting, but once they get going not too bad (usually).

Yellowtip Sat 29-Sep-12 23:04:44

Good luck to your DD but do try to see the good in choices 2-5. My house is a shambles tonight with half packed boxes everywhere, belonging to the DC I'm taking up to/ back to Oxford tomorrow. I've been through this four times now and each time have tried not to be too caught up with it but in the end it's inevitable, as it's hard not to hope against hope that they get an offer, especially in that week or so after interviews and before Christmas.

If you say which course and/ or college or even which aptitude test then some seasoned MNers (possibly including interviewing tutors) might be able to help.... There seem to be lots of Maths MNers around (not me smile).

gelo Sat 29-Sep-12 23:35:13

It's good advice from yellow. If your dd can find a backup (or two) that she's also very happy about and excited to go to it does help ease the nerves somewhat as well as softening the blow if she's unlucky.

Thowra Sun 30-Sep-12 15:34:41

Thanks. Course doesn't have an exam, so a lot rides on the interview. I don't really want to say subject and college, because they only take four, and it could 'out' us. It's a science course at a college that is pretty highly regarded but not as sought after as Christchurch, Magdalen etc. Actually I've googled the tutor who will probably be interviewing blush, and their specialism is about as far from DDS special interests as can be, and does not feature at all in her PS. Because of this I am wondering whether the college is in fact the best choice. eek. I'm overthinking it, aren't I?

I do like her other choices, but I think everything is going to feel second best if it's not Oxford. I realize this is ridiculous, believe me, I do.

Thowra Sun 30-Sep-12 15:37:16

Oh, and DD is state school. they are very supportive, but I don't know if they do the sort of interview practice she might get at private.

OneHandFlapping Sun 30-Sep-12 15:42:42

Tell her not to lose heart if she seems to be making a hash of the interview (Hopefully she'll get one if she's got good grades.) DS felt he answered every question wrong/forgot to consider things/said stupid things, and managed to get an offer. Other people who felt their interview went well didn't get in. You just can't tell.

Thowra Sun 30-Sep-12 16:00:03

She 'should' get an interview. GCSE's were mostly A* with a couple of A's. AAAA at AS. predicted A*A*A at A2 (her school will not predict up, they will only give exactly what UMS scores indicate at AS. A lot of schools would have predicted her A*A*A*.)

PS seems pretty good, she researched well, did many drafts, and had it looked over by me / teachers etc. Hopefully her reference should be very good, we haven't seen it yet.

So she's pretty confident she will get to interview, (her subject interview about 75%) and has cleared her diary for the relevant dates in December. After that, well it seems like a bit of a lottery, TBH.

Anyone else applying this year?

gelo Sun 30-Sep-12 16:48:19

My experience for science apps without an entrance test is they seem to be very fair about inviting the best people with a decent chance of meeting the offer and they don't discriminate between people predicted As and A*s either (recognising that schools differ widely in their ability to predict this) so I think your dd is right to cautiously expect an interview.

Her best course of action between now and then is, as well as keeping on top of her regular work, to read around her subject as much as possible and be prepared to talk intelligently about it. Good luck to her!

Thowra Sun 30-Sep-12 17:10:25

Yes, wider reading does seem to be the key, she was already doing this, but she's made herself a little reading list to cover before December, and of course she's rereading the books she mentioned in her PS.

Yellowtip Mon 01-Oct-12 23:28:00

Thowra she sounds as though she'll be bound to get an interview with those grades + no written test + a good reference from a state school (grammar or not). She also sounds way ahead of the game if she's re-reading books mentioned on the PS. I'd also say that not having flagged up the same special interest as the tutor in question would be good, not bad, for a number of reasons. She looks to be set fair I'd have said.

gelo (just registered the name smile) I'm literally just back with DS having found himself allocated a stunning room with his own shower room and beams and magnificent views much to the chagrin of the lovely freshers helpers not to mention his envy sisters whose rooms don't compare. They're being grudgingly good natured. I hope you and your DS both have a great day tomorrow (sorry, tangent). Hope he fares as well.

gelo Tue 02-Oct-12 01:09:22

Hi yellow, yes it is me, and thanks for your good wishes. How lovely for your ds to have such a splendid room. We shall see what my ds has to live in for the year tomorrow (well later today,in fact). Fingers crossed he's happy with it (he's not usually fussy, so should be OK). I hope all of yours have a great term too.

Ds got back from Italy late last night, most of his clothes are still wet (we don't have a tumble drier, and it's not been a good drying day), and instead of packing sensibly today he's been getting a haircut and cobbling together a computer from various bits begged borrowed or stolen as he's decided the hard drive on his laptop is faulty and it needs to be returned and no he can't survive without a computer for any length of time hmm. So just within the last hour a huge disorganised pile of stuff has appeared in the living room, and he's almost certainly forgotten several vital bits and pieces (especially since he lost the list of essentials that I made for him), but at least he has a working computer, so that's alright grin. I have no idea how it will all fit in the car - how you manage with multiple dc at once astonishes me!

We just heard today that one of his friends has quit uni after just 4 days, so I'm feeling just slightly jittery. Oh and he's picked up a nasty cough from somewhere too, so not the best way to start the term - tired, ill, and probably missing half his things. I'd better go and join the empty nest thread (apologies OP for hijacking yours) for some hand holding.

Thowra Tue 02-Oct-12 19:22:16

Not a hijack, Gelo - I should have called this thread "Parents of Oxbridge applicants for 2013 And People Who Can Tell Us How To Get In"

Yellowtip Tue 02-Oct-12 19:35:55

Well you mentioned overthinking it Thowra which may be the first mistake (though your DD does sound a very strong candidate, so your mistakes may well not matter a bit smile). I'd say that key to the process is for a student to be natural and not go in with preconceptions but to go with the flow. On some other very recent thread (can't remember where) there's a link to an indie school which has 'Oxbridge Mondays' and 'Individual Oxbridge Planners' and has sessions on 'perennial problems' etc. That all sounds massively tense. She really does look good on paper Thowra but it's so difficult if they fall in love because it must be hideous to have to pick up the pieces if the December letter says 'Thanks, but no thanks'. We were talking about this yesterday when I dropped mine off: it's best to get perspecive on Oxford - a lot of it is very much the same as other good places and pretty mundane. I'm not a scientist though and have no scientist except for one medic, so can't help with the nitty gritty of interviews on that I'm afraid. The general stuff is the same though across all subjects and the Oxford website is fab.

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 22:49:29

Good luck. I think it is brave to apply and in the end if the student has fallen in love with the place thats a good sign. Something has to pull them through the nerves and make them push the academic boat out. Its a wonderful wonderful place.
Cambridge admission stats are scary. As many with fantastic grades were rejected as accepted last year.
I havent got any advice. Well except that it helped DD that I dropped her off for her interview. I wish I had done the same for DS. They both found the journey up for the interview, and the days immediately before, quite daunting. I think its perfectly ok if they want a parent with them on the journey. The colleges do handle the interviews very well though so no need to stay in town though many parents do. Its important to keep in telephone contact the night before 2nd interviews I think.
I dont think it matters about having a different specialist interest. The faculty has to 'pass' each candidate, then the college. The faculty ranks the candidates so if approved by faculty but not by college then another college might interview. This can be exciting and/or stressful. I think its best not to have too many extra curricular commitments this term. Just enough to distract from nerves but not so as to interfere with sleep and interview prep.
Getting rejected after interview isn't too bad because at least the student has tried. Those that were gutted at dd/ds schools tried again the following year.

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 22:53:00

PS it is very important that your DD doesn't get drunk the day before her interview.

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 23:04:13

I hasten to add that mine didn't but it was an apparently common response to terror and independence for interviewees to sample the Oxford bars and clubs the night before.

I used to do mock Oxbridge interviews and am ex-Oxbridge.

Remember that the person interviewing wants her to fit in. Your tutor sees a lot of you - being one of four in a college rather than one of 250 at Warwick or Edinburgh or something - and needs to look forward to that time.

All applicants will have a string of good grades, extra-curricular accomplishments, etc. It's the spark they are looking for. When they ask a question they want to see the thinking, not the answer. Applicants need to consider what their spark is - say they are interviewing eighteen people for those four places, why will you be memorable?

I muddled up my interviewers slightly and spent ten minutes telling a literature professor that literary criticism is poncey navel gazing. He loved it, and quoted me back to myself some years later although in his defence he was very drunk.

There is also a possibility that you apply to one college and are interviewed by others - this certainly used to be the case and helps them even out unbalanced applications. An Oxford place is an Oxford place, and if they think you'd be more suited to St Cuthbert's than Holy Slipper then they might be right. I'd have been miserable at the college I applied to, but thrived at the college who offered me a place.

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 23:09:51

pps DD says that she was asked by the freshers this week whether anyone would like them and if she was happy. She is very very very very very happy and everyone is really friendly and no one at her college is in the least bit snobby. She also says it is quite common for students to think they have been accepted by mistake.

funnyperson an acquaintance was barred from the college bar during her interview weekend for drunken antics, and blames that for her failure to get in!

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 23:19:05

ppps there is a good pastoral system. DD has 8 college 'children' (freshers) whom she has already taken out to lunch, and a lovely college 'mum' and 'dad' (they are in the year above). DD is at the best college. It is the one she chose first. I am at one with her on her opinion.

yellowtip will have an interesting mum's perspective as to which is the best college.

funnyperson Tue 02-Oct-12 23:20:24

horatia yes, exactly. You would think the interviewees would know better, its surprising how many loose their head.

Copthallresident Wed 03-Oct-12 00:34:58

I have a Scientist daughter and her peers went through this a couple of years ago. I think Yellowtip's advice is very wise. Your daughter sounds like an amazing candidate and should get in but some of the ablest candidates don't , and some surprising ones do. She will however get in to an excellent course elsewhere, wherever DD's Science geek friends ended up they are loving it, are being challenged and inspired, and being taught by exciting people at the frontiers of Science ( Hadron Collider Physicists at Durham, Steve Jones at UCL etc etc) A lot of very able Scientists go for Medicine, or Cambridge because it has a reputation for being the Science Oxbridge and the Natural Sciences course is highly regarded if they are going into research (cross disciplinary knowledge is of benefit in some cutting edge research). It certainly seemed marginally easier to get on to some of the specialist courses at Oxford (certainly Biology) but clearly if someone is passionate about specialising they will choose Oxford rather than Cambridge. Also bear in mind that some non Oxbridge Science courses are actually more difficult to get on to, depending on specialisms and their place in world research rankings. I gather the Durham Chemistry course is notorious for rejecting applicants who get into Oxbridge (including one of DDs peers predicted A*A*AA) so might be an unwise number 2 for all but the very cleverest. And certainly Cambridge seem to have frequently added to feedback that although they had been unable to offer a place at undergraduate level they advised they reapply at Master's level!

DD's school advised that there are two big sources of uncertainty. Firstly that you don't know the quality and quantity of candidates applying to a particular course and college in any given year. They publish admissions stats but these just encourage strategic applications, so that less popular colleges and courses become popular the next year. Though Cambridge have a formal pool and Oxford an informal one, a good cadidate seems to have less chance of being picked up if they were just unlucky enough to be applying to a very popular course at a popular college. Secondly you are interviewed by the tutors who will teach you and though they will try to be objective inevitably they are going to be swayed if someone is clearly going to be a pleasure for them to teach. Although your daughter should stick to her guns in terms of what interests her, that is where she is going to demonstrate passion for the subject, it might be worth a bit of reading up on, and bearing in mind, the interviewers area of interest. It might help establish a rapour and if nothing else it might be what triggers an off piste question! I know of someone who was interviewed by a plant biologist though their area of interest was molecular biology. They got tripped up because they were asked to talk about a stag beatle, they went into all sorts of details about the advanced biochemistry and various qualities at a molecular level of beatles (sorry this is probably rubbish in Biology terms but that sort of thing anyway!!!). They were so keen to show off and got so stuck in their train of thought it didn't occurr to them until after that when the interviewer kept asking if there was anything else, that what he might have been after was more wide ranging and in his area, rather than more detailed, things they assumed didn't need saying, for instance that it was called a stag beatle, it's position in the food chain, role in the environment, endangered status , especially since the candidate has included in his application that he volunteered in a nature reserve (and had done studies of stag beatle numbers!) It was mentioned on the feedback .

I hope this helps. Good luck to your daughter.

And above all do warn her this is just the start of it. The step up to university level science is a big one, they have a lot of contact and lab hours, a high workload and are really challenged. Even some of DDs peers who achieved 4 A*s have found themselves struggling, and even retaking years, and not because they were a fixture in the bar. Some of the advanced concepts they are studying are just very difficult to understand.

Copthallresident Wed 03-Oct-12 00:54:44

You might find this article on Cambridge admisssions interesting www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/10/how-cambridge-admissions-really-work

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now