My girl has set her heart on Oxford or Cambridge. Encourage or ignore????

(293 Posts)
Ilovemyrabbits Tue 04-Jun-13 20:47:56

DD is 12...I know, it's very young and she's got a long way to go before we seriously need to consider this BUT...she is a very determined young lady who becomes very focussed when she has a goal in mind. She is academic and does well at school but she's not always top of the class. She's not overly outgoing, but she mixes well when she needs to. She has told all her friends she wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Her Y6 teacher told her she could do this if she wanted to. In the teacher's defence, she has two daughters who have gone through the Oxbridge process successfully and I think she was trying to be encouraging.

I am torn here between wanting to encourage dd in her aims, because it's good to aim high, and wanting her to be grounded. She's quite a sensible girl, even at 12, but I'm trying to figure how to deal with this. Part of me thinks, keep quiet...it's a long way before the decisions need to be made and she may well adapt her plans by then. Another part of me thinks, she's stubborn and what do we do if she sticks with it?? Should we be encouraging her now? Asking teachers if she's capable? Or what????

Neither her dad nor I went to university, so I guess we're a little out of our comfort zone here. Does anyone have any advice for me????

Sorry, I have not remotely read the whole thread cos it's massive, but the post about you having to study lots of 'early literature' at Cambridge caught my eye.

This is incorrect. Cambridge actually has one of the least medieval-heavy English Lit courses I know about. There are options to study pre-1250 lit, but they're not much taken up and obviously, aren't core. This is because Cambridge has a separate faculty covering the early stuff.

This is not possibly something the OP or her DD need to consider, especially at 12, but anyone else reading might want to know.

annaspanner123 Tue 15-Oct-13 21:39:20

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

2rebecca Mon 17-Jun-13 15:55:30

I agree with sensua's comment on page 1 that encouraging your child to be interested and passionate about a subject is more likely to lead to happiness (and an Oxbridge place) than being fixated on Oxbridge itself as a goal.
I wouldn't dismiss Oxbridge, but I wouldn't actively encourage it either, I'd foster her interest in learning.

alreadytaken Sun 16-Jun-13 10:23:10

senua you are right to be concerned. It is not in accordance with the claimed ethos of this website and the talk guidelines to insult and try to bully someone who disagrees with you. It might be acceptable in AIBU but these threads are meant to be supportive.

OP your child is only 12 and may change her mind several times about what she wants to do. There is a lot of advice here about encouraging her English and it is important but take her to places like the Science museum and the National Space Centre www.spacecentre.co.uk/ too. An English degree can involve analysing language to such an extent that the joy of reading is lost, she may want to study something else when older. I'd encourage her to read books like Horrible Histories, Asimov's I Robot, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight or the Ship who Sang and Edwin Abbott's Flatland for variety and to provoke some interesting discussions.

It's possible to stay in university accommodation in the holidays. www.universityrooms.co.uk/ Doing so would help to ensure that when the time comes she is not daunted by the size of university. Some universities are appealing places to stay - e,g, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Swansea, York are all interesting places to visit and will help her to see that there may be places she would eventually prefer to Oxbridge. Bangor or Royal Holloway might also appeal but I'm not sure if you can stay at those universities.

Children should be able to feel that their parents will support them in anything they want to do. Given the difficulty of getting into Oxbridge it's sensible to point out that lots of very bright people go to other universities, that she doesn't really know much about universities yet and that she ought to consider others. If she wants to go to university you'll support her but she needs to work very hard at school. There's no need to do more than that. Some parents do plot from 12 (or earlier) to get their children in to Oxbridge but it isn't necessary and puts too much pressure on the child. Bumbez personally I'm not convinced school choice even matters that much as long as the teachers don't actually damage the child's interest in a subject. If parents are very supportive you can even overcome that. You do need to make sure subject choice includes academic subjects.

There is plenty of time later on to try and get children to consider the Oxbridge teaching style, course content, short terms and whether they'd really be happy there. They should be clear they have your support and backing for whatever they want to do but that they don't need to decide until they are older.

Bumbez Sat 15-Jun-13 22:21:20

My dd who is only 10 announced today that she would like to go to Oxford or Cambridge so I did a mumsnet search and found this very recent thread.

Like you Op I have told her its achievable if she works hard but it depends what she wants to do. At the moment she wants to be an author in her spare time and have a regular job too. Her jobs vary from being a zoo keeper for elephants, dog trainer or vet.

She is clever but will be going to the local academy, which I think has just failed its ofsted.

Some great advice smile

harbinger Fri 14-Jun-13 21:32:03

I concur with Fraumoose about inspirational teachers but also the people behind them that help.
I'm old but I had a maths teacher when I was 11/12 giving me 'O' level and her own problems. She was absolutely bonkers,barking.....but she nurtured a growing child. Looking back,she might have been at Bletchley.
I did 'O' level maths two years early.
My DDs didn't have any teachers that were inspirational or encouraging. Sorry. No nothing. Good old comprehensive angry

funnyperson Fri 14-Jun-13 12:45:02

fraumoose what you say about a particular person encouraging and inspiring a child to go further is very interesting. Whenever I walk along the beach near Harlech I marvel at Phillip Pullman's English teacher at his local primary school in Harlech, who was, apparently, his inspiration. It is worlds away from Oxford. Then there is Monty Don, who failed his A levels after attending a posh private school, and then decided out of cussedness, or so he says, that he would read English at Cambridge, and did so from a state sixth form college.

And PPS, sorry, last post - just saw it was English she was interested in, which is what I did.

1. Yes, it's one of the hyper competitive subjects. But someone has to get in, so...

2. The degree is in English language as well as literature. She could make herself stand out a bit by having more working knowledge of the former (as everyone will wibble on in their interview about Shakespeare, Keats et al). Linguistics, history of the language, the science of it all is a bit dry for a 12 year old (it was a bit dry for a 20 year old too!) but you study texts in Old English and from the medieval period and some of that is right up a teen's street because it's terribly romantic - chivalry and monsters. So all the Arthurian legends (Thomas Malory), Chaucer's tales, Beowulf, the Pearl, Piers Plowman, Gawain and the Green Knight, even the Decameron (Italian, but Shakespeare plundered it for most of his plots and it's fun spotting them) etc. When she's older, Paradise Lost and the Faerie Queene would be good fun for her to read and, again, would make her stand out.

3. Just to keep other options open - there are better places if it's English she's drawn to more than 'Oxford'. UEA, UCL, York...My course stopped at about 1900 and I had to push really hard to be allowed to cite American authors in one of my dissertations (they had to get someone outside the Uni to mark it). If you keep repeating that to her (even if neither of you really believe it) it will be softer for her if she doesn't get in. She can justify it to others and herself by saying eg her favourite period is the 20th century.

Good luck! I had a blast.

And PS - even if she does get in, making a success of it will be up to her style as a learner, which both you and she will have more of an idea about at GCSEs. If she needs any chivvying with revision, or organising herself for example that would be a concern.

You have to be very independent at Oxford. With the terms being so short you have to do all your reading in the holidays. We 'did' Shakespeare in 3 weeks so there obviously wouldn't have been a hope in hell's chance of reading all the plays in that time.

I only went to two lectures (my bad) and there were no classes or seminars. Just you and your tutors for an hour each once a week. They just give you an essay title and you go off and do the rest - no reading list or anything.

I think my son could have slipped through the cracks in a system like that, which is why it was a no for him - for now.

I set my heart on it at 12 too, when my HM encouraged me. Became borderline obsessed with it eg forcing my parents to let me sit a scholarship to go to a school which did A levels (I was in Scotland and knew it was harder to get in with Highers)...so it's just as well I did get in otherwise I might have had a 17 year old breakdown!

Oxbridge is a brilliant opportunity, if she gets it. And that's not just about the teaching - actually if you're into a specific subject, there are better places to go - but the whole experience. Being surrounded by clever, quirky people so you don't feel odd anymore. The handsome architecture. The history. The connections you make. And then all the extra curricular activities you can do and the access you have to amazing people eg I got to interview Stephen Fry for the student newspaper, went up to the Edinburgh Fringe twice with young and spotty Mel and Sue and Ali G...

BUT I think an awful lot of it is down to luck. It just has to be with so many straight A students applying for so few places. It's how you perform in interview, and whether or not the interviewers are having a good day. So manage her expectations now. And as people have said above, keep repeating that, depending on her subject, there may be just as good/better places. Including the American Unis, who're taking loads of British kids now. Harvard/Yale/Princeton/MIT/Sanford on the CV are just as good as Oxbridge, and it would be loads of fun to study there I imagine.

With my own DS, we knew he wasn't going to get in, and it wouldn't have been right for him anyway (he's Aserger's, and Oxford is just too pressured eg 8 week terms) so all started focussing on Nottingham/Glasgow after GCSEs, but with the thought that he then might do a DPhil at Cambridge. So that's maybe something to seed in too?

But 12 is not too young to dream. And it's great that this is hers! Go mini ilovemyrabbits!

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 11:17:56

Or rather if my view... differs from senua's, then so be it.

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 11:16:22

word she was referring to the comment I made about self appointed experts, which she commented on in terms at 9.14.

And if my view about the OP and OPs motives in asking the original question and the OPs response to those who don't come up with the answer she wants, then so be it. senua has no business to attempt to straitjacket any other poster's response unless it falls foul of the guidelines.

My response to the OP is based on solicitude for the child, not the mum.

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 11:04:16

I think senua is refering to your general approach to the OP, yellow.

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 10:58:25

I wasn't going to trouble to reply but you really do need to either read properly senua or to stop reading things into comments when they aren't there. It's fairly simple: Moose mentioned self appointed 'experts' on the forum as opposed to the thread and I responded to that making a slightly more general comment. It really is that straightforward. So I think cut the comments about snide, undermining and nasty because they just aren't there. Ridiculous. Russians seemed to get what I meant.

senua Fri 14-Jun-13 10:34:58

You are right LBP but I am feeling cross on behalf of OP. She wrote "neither her dad nor I went to university, so I guess we're a little out of our comfort zone here" but yellow seems to think that writing snide "self evident" and "obvious" remarks, as if any fool knows what to do, is reasonable. I think that it's undermining and nasty.

LittleBearPad Fri 14-Jun-13 10:11:30

Senua I wouldn't worry about it. Yellow seems to generally be in a bad mood on this thread.

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 09:49:07

russians there may be some confirmation bias at play, but to be fair to the OP, far more posters have postedin support of her actuvely encouraging her DD.

The posters telling her to back off have been prolific, but small in number.

And the OP has agreed to tread carefully.

What were you hoping for?

senua Fri 14-Jun-13 09:14:18

Obviously the comment wasn't ...

It wasn't at all obvious to me. But that must be my fault in the reading, not yours in the writing.hmm

senua Fri 14-Jun-13 09:08:07

What the jeff are you on about? I made a comment about one specific posting and get a comment back about my reading of the whole thread?

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 09:05:20

Obviously the comment wasn't thread specific nor even MN specific senua. The original question was very clearly a rhetorical one, if you read the thread.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 14-Jun-13 08:58:04

Senua I think that's a slightly simplistic reading of the thread. And the OP has made a clear decision as to what advice she is going to listen to - she's going the confirmation bias route.

senua Fri 14-Jun-13 08:55:14

Some advice from these self appointed/ so called experts is self evidently rubbish anyway.

That is spectacularly unhelpful!
The DD appears to come from a family where no-one has experience of higher education. OP feels ignorant and is trying to gain knowledge. To tell her that some of these posts are rubbish, but not to identify which ones, is not exactly adding to her understanding, is it?hmm

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 08:53:41

What's the saying? The more I know, the more I realise how little I know?

That said, I suppose there are certain things one can dispute with absolute certainty. Usually when someone is saying somehting extreme!

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 08:48:20

Anyone claiming to be the fount of all knowledge on any particular subject would be too dim to listen to word, I'd have thought.

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 08:46:52

I also think many things are so subjective, it's not really easy to say what the 'right' answer is.

We all bring so much of our own personality to any given situation. And of course our past experiences. This colours how we see things.

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