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'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????

Encourage her! Someone has to go to Oxford and Cambridge, why shouldn't it be her?

At the same time you might want to say, "When you get older you will maybe be clearer what subject you want to study, and when you look into it you might decide that Oxford or Cambridge aren't the best places to study that, so don't get too settled yet on them."

At 12 she probably has only heard of those as "the best" universities, as she gets older she will pick up a more balanced view and may want to study elsewhere. But I don't think there's anything wrong in aiming high.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 21:00:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Relaxedandhappyperson Tue 04-Jun-13 21:00:56

Why not? It might not happen ultimately, for all sorts of reasons, but a goal like that is a Good Thing.

If she sticks with it and gets great grades then she should go for it. And if she doesn't, she'll be in a position to be realistic at 16/17/18 without anyone having squished her dreams before they started.

alienbanana Tue 04-Jun-13 21:02:57

Encourage, but I agree with angus. It doesn't have to be all about oxford or Cambridge

Relaxedandhappyperson Tue 04-Jun-13 21:03:07

I went to Oxford and for admissions they weren't remotely interested in things extra-curricular (did physics). Just whether you were bright and would do well.

Not decrying extra-curricular stuff obviously but IMHO it should be done for enjoyment and pleasure in the moment not for university admission purposes.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 21:08:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ZZZenagain Tue 04-Jun-13 21:08:55

does she know what she would like to study?

I would tell her that they are great universities to study at, however she needs to be very good to get in and she needs to work very hard once she is there in order to succeed. I wouldn't be negative and I wouldn't talk about it too much either at this stage.

If she has really set her mind on it, you could try asking a teacher whether this seems at all realistic and see if the teacher can offer you any advice on how to help dd prepare.

You won't know until she has her GCSE results if she has a real chance but working hard at school and striving to get good marks is good preparation for anything that lies ahead really.

lucidlady Tue 04-Jun-13 21:13:48

Definitely encourage her!

MummyMastodon Tue 04-Jun-13 21:37:36

Well, I clicked on this all ready to say 'encourage', thinking she would be about 16... but only 12, gosh.

I certainly wouldn't discourage her, of course, but I think I would try to defer her interest a bit - just tell her that of course she can apply as one of her choices if she does well in her GCSEs and try to leave it at that? There is such an element of randomness in who gets an offer and who doesn't, it would be awful for her to focus on this for six years and not make it.

DD has an Oxford offer, but she didn't think about Oxbridge at all until after GCSE results, and not with any seriousness until after AS results. One year of chasing Oxbridge is enough of an emotional rollercoaster, I wouldn't want six.

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:49:51

Agree with Mummy. I'd say stick it firmly on the back burner until after GCSE results (or whatever they're called by then).

mindgone Tue 04-Jun-13 22:54:19

I would tell her, as I told my own DCs, that the harder they work, and the better results they get, the more choice they have. The more choice you have, the better the chances of finding something you love. Whether that be at Oxford, Cambridge, or anywhere else. Incidentally, my DS wants to do a course which is not offered at either Oxford or Cambridge! So that would be a fly in the ointment for your DD! smile

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:54:21

angus you may be asked about your outside interests at a uni interview but these days at the top unis they won't be what gets you the interview.

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:57:57

I would add that as soon as it was clear that my eldest DC had a chance of Oxford or Cambridge and mentioned that she'd maybe like to try, I immediately bought an £11 Virgin rail ticket to Durham to show her somewhere else she might like.

joanofarchitrave Tue 04-Jun-13 23:01:41

IMO for a place at any good university she's going to need to show why she loves and is deeply into the subject she wants to study. Having said that, if she is motivated by Oxbridge, why not? Worked for me - the subject passion came afterwards.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 23:15:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I think you should encourage her to aim high and work hard. Her teacher has done the right thing by encouraging her to think this could be for her. There's plenty of time for her to find out more about herself before she even needs to think abot uni applications.

HollaAtMeBaby Tue 04-Jun-13 23:48:04

Why would you not encourage this? And don't wait for GCSE results, you need to be seriously focussed on oxbridge from 14 to maximise your chances. Is she at a state school, or private?

IKnowWhat Wed 05-Jun-13 00:01:52

In my experience it is more about how a student reflects on their extra curricular activities in their personnal statement rather than writing a long list of 'achievements'
I haven't suggested to my DC's that they do things because it will look good in a PS.
You can't fit much on the UCAS form anyway smile

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 00:06:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IKnowWhat Wed 05-Jun-13 00:13:43

Kids should be encouraged to get out and do things but it is perfectly ok if it's not County level sport or grade 8 music.

Duke of Edinbrugh is great but as it is compulsory at some shools I can't imagine it is given much weight in a personal statement.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 00:23:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

fossil971 Wed 05-Jun-13 00:23:30

I went to Cambridge out of a state comp in the 1980s/90s. Nobody else in my family went to university and I was the dullest mousy teenager possible! I didn't even get a brilliant degree but I am glad I went and I've stayed in my degree subject all my working life. Even then it was a pretty diverse place, it has far higher private school intake than average but they are still only about 50% so that's a lot of "normal" people too.

I would say to her, hold on to the idea, and when she gets nearer to applying she can certainly look at Oxbridge and maybe other places, and bl**dy good luck to her. I first had the idea for my career at 13, it is not too young to have the dream.

This isn't the first thread I've seen where someone's DC is thinking of Oxbridge and they are saying should they lower their expectations. FFS! Far more people fail from lack of aspiration than aiming too high!

The Be Cambridge website is pretty good viewing nearer the time maybe. Obviously I think it is the preferable place! grin

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 07:24:01

Thanks for all the comments. I know she's only 12, but being from a fairly low level of education, pulled myself up by my boot-strings kind of background, I'm struggling to know the right way to approach it even at this early stage. I've encouraged her to think of other universities as well, explained the 'red brick' universities as best I can. I didn't think to say that different universities offer different strengths, but that gives me another line of discussion for her.

I've said that she will have to work hard and that they only take the best of the best. She knows it's a tricky place to get into as her friend's brother, who is the loveliest boy, has recently been accepted for interview, but blew it and is now out of the running (his words...didn't realise they let them know immediately).

DD is in state education, not private. She is passionate about English. She's 'chosen' her options already and has included Latin and French for languages, history over geography and art over dance.

I am factoring in that she is young, but I know how easy it is to squash someone's dreams when they are young and change their whole life trajectory. I don't want to be responsible for that, but I conversely don't want to encourage her towards something she's not able to achieve. In that light, I've asked her old primary school teacher (I work with her) for advice. She's said that she'll check with her DH (dd's form tutor) what we should do. She will tell me if it was waste of time I'm sure, or she just won't come back to me. In addition, I'll ask the teachers at the next parents' evening whether it's realistic (if I can talk DD out of coming with us!).

The subject doesn't come up too often in the house but she has mentioned it before and we've said that's great and told her to consider Durham and Lancaster, cos her dad works oop north most of the time and it'd be practical smile I was just so shocked that she'd told her friends. It makes it seem much more 'real' if you know what I mean.

I did wonder whether I'd just get shot down for being unrealistic, told she's too young, etc, but most people have said to encourage her, so I think we'll step back, find out what we can about it all in the background and just encourage her in her pursuit of a great education, wherever that may end up.

notcitrus Wed 05-Jun-13 07:47:14

Encourage her to work hard and give herself the best chance to get into Oxbridge or whatever uni she wants when the time comes - maybe mention that they don't offer all subjects or things like sandwich courses which she may want, but why not go for it. GCSEs would be soon enough to adjust her plans should she be struggling then. Hard work is probably the best skill she could acquire at this age.

For comparison, I remember a teacher telling me when I was 6, if I didn't learn my times tables I wouldn't be able to get into Oxford or Cambridge when the time came. Obvioudly not literally true, but it shut me up at the time and meant O&C were always in the back of my mind when I thought about uni. So I applied even though my teachers thought I had litter chance - there's other spaces on the application form, after all - and got in.
In comparison, bright kids I worked with shortly after leaving school, age 11-12, didn't know what a university was. I hope I managed to plant the idea in some of their heads.

I'd encourage any kid to consider Oxbridge - by age 16 they can figure out if they have a slight chance, but application really is just filling in a form and possibly getting a polite rejection letter - and hopefully acceptances from other excellent unis. It's not like they'll get Failed Oxbridge Candidate tattooed on their forehead!

superbagpuss Wed 05-Jun-13 07:54:12

encourage her to write down where she wants to be in 5 years, 10 years time and how to get there to focus her

at 12 I wanted to go to oxford
at 16 I realised I wasn't clever enough and not committed enough so only ended up going to a ex poly

gave me the kick I needed, I had a ten year plan at 15, achieved it all by 25, now have the life I want at 32.

there is nothing wrong in having a plan, as long as she knows that plans have to change sometimes and there is more than one easy to skin a cat.

good luck to her

MammaMedusa Wed 05-Jun-13 08:04:07

One of my relatives did a PhD at Cambridge. She is a normal person, IYKWIM, you don't look at her and gasp "Elite! Incredible!". There is no particular reason why it should not be your daughter, too.

If it were me, I would be encouraging your daughter to develop a deep and wide knowledge in her subjects of interest. As it is English, she should read widely (including Victorian and earlier authors), see plays of what she has read, join book groups, go to author talks.

My relative says that for English a good working knowledge of the bible, Greek, Roman and Norse myths and also traditional fairy tales is a big help. These should all be quite fun to read around.

Doing this should be pleasurable for her anyway, and will certainly identify whether she is targeting the right subjects (especially in terms of enjoyment) and mean if she does get to interview she will have lots to say.

BeckAndCall Wed 05-Jun-13 08:05:06

The problem is, you've no idea at all as to whether its achievable for her or not until you get her GCSE results - nothing before that will give you the indication you need.

By all means encourage her to think of her long term options but if she's mentioning it more than a couple of time as year, it's too often at this stage.

UptheChimney Wed 05-Jun-13 08:12:38

I completely disagree, Yellowtip. Oxbridge is always inundated with applications from the creme de la creme from around the world. If your personal statement can show leadership skills, team work, sports and still achieve the top grades that will set you aside from the candidates who cannot show social skills, the ability to multi-task

You might disagree, but yellowtip is largely correct. In the UK, at the elite university level, we're chiefly interested in potential academic ability and excellence: usually demonstrated by achieved results. This is by no means a perfect system, but it's what we work within now. How a better system of selection to university might work is another thread. US teen movies & television series tell another story, but that;'s the US.

What you're doing is confusing results with causes. High achieving children, in families that value the development of human potential, are usually involved in all sorts of things, and generally excellent in a number of them. In a family where learning and doing -- beyond the usual round of eating, sleeping, working, and watching television -- are valued and encouraged as a part of life generally (ie not just limited to schooling) for all family members will often also be families where there is a high level of school-based achievement.

And so it might look like universities select with extra-curriculars in mind, but it's not usually the case (well not in the RG universities I've worked in all my life). It's that the "best and brightest" are also just generally more energetic, more interested in the world around them, more engaged in pursuing a range of activities generally.

* if the uni is trying to decide on their last spot between two straight A candidates, surely the one with extra-curricular activities is going to get the place?*

I can answer, No.

There are always differences between candidates, and ways of ranking them via interview, and other selection activities. Having the DoE badge, or being school captain, are nice, but IME in the UK they don't get you a university place. It is different in the US at the Ivies, but for example, in Australia, in a post-qualifications admissions system, it is the numerical score at matriculation (HSC or similar) that gets you in. Little else.

Sausageeggbacon Wed 05-Jun-13 08:13:38

She needs to be encouraged, the actually uni may change depending on course choice but DD is going to Uni and DS2 probably will. Encourage them to be the best they can and don't be seen as the one who killed the dream before it started,

QueenoftheHolly Wed 05-Jun-13 08:16:20

"Always aim for the moon, even if you miss you will land amongst the stars"

Yellowtip Wed 05-Jun-13 08:25:24

Thank you Up. One top university is currently giving extra points to those with proven ability at national level at in either the sporting world or the arts, but it t isn't Oxford or Cambridge. And the kind of talent they're seeking is light years away from milk monitor and DoE Bronze.

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 08:25:36

OP, I'd encourage, but with lots of caveats.

Gaining a place at Oxbridge is like any other dream where the chances are statistically against you.

The reality is that too many fab applicants apply. Someon ehas to be rejected. And often it's all a bit arbitary, or if not arbitary, based on things the applicant cannot control eg the personality of the admissions tutor!

I know a couple of girls (why is it usually girls?) who set their heart on it and have had their hearts broken. I do wonder why their parents and schools didn't manage expectations better. The reality is they are exceedingly clever girls who will have wonderful university careers. The rejection is in no way a reflection on their ability!!! Sigh.

As for personal statements, I would say that the ones I've seen have been highly impressive, but mostly discuss the applicants interest in the subject. There might be the odd mention of extra currics, but even these are included in connection to the subject IYSWIM.
I also think they might be popped in there to help applications elsewhere, where admissions might be more interested.

tiredaftertwo Wed 05-Jun-13 08:28:43

Ilovemyrabbits, you have had lots of sensible advice here. Assuming she is reasonably bright, I really doubt teachers at this stage will be able to say whether she could be a candidate or not - and I wouldn't trust the ones who thought they did, tbh. Children develop in all sorts of extraordinary ways.

I agree with others: work hard, throw yourself into school life, and other activities (not because they will get you in but the pursuit of excellence, development of stamina, organisational skills etc etc are all useful), read widely, do interesting things. Then you will be in a position to decide what it is you want, and have a better chance of getting it.

I would not discourage her at all - but I think I would try and shift her away of having this as her "dream". She can't really know what is involved, or what will be the best choice for her, and you don't want her say ending up reading maths at Warwick (which would mean she had done extremely well) and feeling like a failure because it didn't fit her dream. So I think I would try and steer her towards the idea that there are lots of very good options out there, but for the moment it is best to keep as broad a base as possible. Be ambitious, but don't narrow your aims or focus. Be open to new ideas, experiences, subjects and interests.

senua Wed 05-Jun-13 08:29:36

If she is clever enough to think about Oxbridge then she should be clever enough to understand paradoxes.
"Wanting to go to Oxbridge" will not get her in. There are no degrees in "wanting to go to Oxbridge". Admissions tutors are not interested in people who "want to go to Oxbridge".
What does attract the attention of admissions staff are people who are really interested in their subject, who are focused on it.
So, to get to Oxbridge, she shouldn't concentrate on Oxbridge but on her academic aspirations. Getting to Oxbridge shouldn't be the aim; it should merely be a natural by-product of her drive, of her love for her subject.

MissMarplesBloomers Wed 05-Jun-13 08:30:43

my DD1 was exactly the same, I am from a similar background to you OP. I encouraged & supported her to apply & she got an interview at Cambridge for Classics. I emphasised to her how proud I was of her to have got that far, as so many don't & that if they didn't offer her a place it was no reflection on her just they can cherry pick.

Ultimately they didn't offer her a place, despite a great interview (from her perspective being the first proper interview she's ever had) mainly due to her disappointing AS results.

She was gutted for a while but used the opportunity to turn her grades around, has worked bloody hard & is now on course for 3 A*'s (please god) & Warwick Uni, which she loves & is so excited about.

DD2 wants to be an astronaut...we aim high in this house grin

Lastly I always remember my wise old Mum saying "It doesn't matter if you want to be a dustman, as long as you are happy & you are the BEST dustman there is"

Good luck to her she sounds a determined young lady !

Yellowtip Wed 05-Jun-13 08:32:56

word an applicant would look fairly arrogant if their personal statement was very obviously solely directed towards Oxford/ Cambridge. For that reason alone those extra currics should go in.

Yes I've seen a number of people setting their heart on it and being gutted when told no. Expectations do need to be managed and they can be managed without putting a damper on the idea.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 05-Jun-13 08:33:51

At 12, I'd be saying 'that'd be good, yeah. Better crack on with your maths homework then!'. And then probably not worrying about it too much for a while.

kelticwitch Wed 05-Jun-13 08:36:12

As Queenoftheholly says (more poetically), aiming high is good so encourage her and don't start saying things like "are you sure you're good enough because I hear Keele has a good gym".

I went there because I really wanted to go there (albeit not from 12, more like 15) and it was the desire to get in that made me work hard to get top grades.

If I had failed to do so I would have been v disappointed but I would still have had the grades to get in anywhere else. Without that aspiration I would have got the Bs and Cs that my equally gifted but much less motivated peers did.

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 08:37:09

nit that mad eme laugh out loud grin.

It is just the sort of thing I would say!!!

BeckAndCall Wed 05-Jun-13 08:37:27

yellow - if you pop back here - which is the uni that is giving credit for national level representation, as a matter of interest? I hadn't picked that up anywhere and it would be relevant for us, potentially.....

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 08:39:17

yellow I hadn't thought of it that way!

I've just seen a few as part of this widening access stuff. I tell you what though, I was bloody impressed by them!! I don't know if I could have put somehting like that together at 17.

Wishiwasanheiress Wed 05-Jun-13 08:43:01

I'd be trying to find out what it is she wants to study. Those are fab unis but they excel at certain subjects. For example if it turns out she loves art history, she won't be going there as others are better at that subject. Equally if its medicine, it will be elsewhere.

Does she know or is she just presently aiming for what she's heard of? That's fine, she's 12, plenty of time to work it out and reassess. I would however start saving. She will love it if she loves her subject.

UptheChimney Wed 05-Jun-13 09:23:17

So, to get to Oxbridge, she shouldn't concentrate on Oxbridge but on her academic aspirations. Getting to Oxbridge shouldn't be the aim; it should merely be a natural by-product of her drive, of her love for her subject

Brilliantly put! If you don't mind, I'll pinch that to say to my undergrads, who tell me that "they really want a First" -- not "I really want to learn a lot about this subject and read a lot and really think about my writing"

It's a tragedy that students are encouraged to be so instrumentalist nowadays. I could strangle the parent that told one of my personal tutees that if she got a First, he'd pay for her Masters degree.

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 09:27:29

upachimney I think that might be a very nice prospect, but one has to be relaistic too.

At the stage when Oxbridge appears on the radar, it's highly unlikely that the child will know what they want to do in life. It's highly unlikely that they will have yet developed a deep passion for a particular subject.

This comes in time, no?

UptheChimney Wed 05-Jun-13 09:34:26

Oh well, I knew what I wanted to do at the age of about 13 or 14. And I'm doing it. As did several of my siblings -- I guess we were a very serious family in some ways (but no, mine were not pushy parents, at all! Neither are we now as parents in the next generation).

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 09:38:50

Ah, you see I had no idea.

Oxbridge was simply suggested to my Mother. Eventually I settled on a subject. But frankly, it was one I'd never studied before and though I fancied it, I'd hesitate to say I had a grand passion for it!

Corygal Wed 05-Jun-13 09:40:53

I got into Oxford (the no-college pool) but went to St Andrews if that helps - lots of people prefer other places. Depends what subject you want to do, to be honest.

Artesia Wed 05-Jun-13 09:48:26

I decided I wanted to go to Cambridge to read law when I was about 15 (two of my older siblings had already got places there- all of us from a northern comp).

The one thing I think helped me most with the interview, and once I was there, was joining the school's debating society. Possibly not the coolest pastime for a 17 year old, but taught me how to form and articulate rational, reasoned arguments, and how to think and respond on the spot, even on subjects I might not know lots about. Also did a lot for my confidence. Might be worth looking into if your daughter's school has something similar.

spiderlight Wed 05-Jun-13 09:48:50

My DS has set his heart on Oxford as well. He's just turned 6. His reasoning is that there's a really big Eddie Stobart depot there grin

I think TheOriginalSteamingNit has it about right. She's got plenty of time, so don't let her obsess about it but don't dismiss it either.

impecuniousmarmoset Wed 05-Jun-13 10:02:06

if the uni is trying to decide on their last spot between two straight A candidates, surely the one with extra-curricular activities is going to get the place?

As someone who did admissions at both Oxford and Cambridge for years and years, I can say: categorically, no!

senua Wed 05-Jun-13 10:05:15

Thank you for your kind words upachimney.

I would be delighted to know your undergrads were benefiting from my words of wisdom makes a change from the DC totally ignoring them!

mummytime Wed 05-Jun-13 10:15:18

Encourage! 12 is the right kind of age. Do point out to her how much hard work it will take. See if the school will encourage her too. Go and visit (look at their websites for information). Get her to be passionate about a subject/study area. Encourage her to do things that are hard for her (whether Rock Climbing or Public speaking). Argue with her, and encourage her to argue back.

Lots of people do get to Oxbridge from State schools, and they want to encourage more.

Somethingyesterday Wed 05-Jun-13 10:15:44

OP Your daughter sounds wonderful and of course you must encourage her. In addition to all the spot-on advice above I would suggest that , if possible, you take her to visit both towns. No need for anything formal - just let her enjoy wandering around and getting a feel for what they mean as real places. (Assuming you haven't done so already...) The more familiar she and you become with the idea, the more motivated she may become to work really hard. Which can only be a good thing. By the time she has to apply to university she'll know for herself exactly what she should be aiming at. I would not, personally, be too concerned about seeking extra opinions on her current ability. (Too much like "dealing with a problem...) Let it be an adventure.

xylem8 Wed 05-Jun-13 10:30:20

It depends a heck of a lot on what subject you want to do there, on just how competitive it is to get in.

Somethingyesterday Wed 05-Jun-13 10:47:10

OP It's awfully easy to give advice from a distance - but I do feel excited for you. As you say, neither you nor your husband has experience of university, but your daughter wants to take you on that journey. Obviously we don't know where you are in the country, or what kind of holidays or trips you favour. It doesn't matter - but why not embrace university town visiting as a thing you do as a family? Whether it's Edinburgh or Bologna, wherever you go over the next few years - be sure to have a poke around the university area. Normalise the activity! I should imagine your daughter wants your approval and encouragement more than anyone else's.

StellaNova Wed 05-Jun-13 11:08:29

I went to Cambridge to read English in the late 90s from a council estate/ generally non-university going background (although I did go to a grammar school). For some reason I always just assumed that I would go to Cambridge from an early age, a bit like your daughter, so I am trying to think how people behaved towards me. I think I would have been a bit gutted if my mum had said "well you know you must work hard and you might not get in" because I would have interpreted that as "I don't think you are good enough to get in and you do not work hard enough". But I was very sensitive to criticism (still am!).

I always felt that my mum and dad were behind me and never felt they had any doubts about me getting in, they didn't "encourage" as such but they never discouraged either - however on the downside I think I would have felt guilt about letting them down as well as being pretty devastated if I hadn't got in, so the idea of bigging up other universities is good I think as long as it doesn't make your daughter feel you don't have confidence in her. Twelve is pretty early to decide if someone is Oxbridge material or not.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 12:45:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 13:39:43

Thanks for all the advice. I know it's early days and I'm sure that things will challenge her desires, be it boys or social activities or whatever else young teenage girls get distracted from school with. I will take on board all the different points that people have said though and will at least be secure in the knowledge that I'm not putting my size 8s in my size 7 parenting mouth as it were.

I had already started to use her desire to push her to widen her reading choices, to explore activities that will help her to build on her strengths and assist with weaknesses. I have talked to her already today about the fact that Oxbridge is a great goal to have, but only if it's right for her when she's older, ie if the courses are right and if they think she's a good fit. I've said that part of the selection process determines whether you're right for the school as well as the other way around, and being right or wrong for the school is no indication of how well you can do academically. You can achieve your goals no matter where you go, but aiming high is always the best plan. As a family we have been driven by positive thought, aiming high, setting goals and planning effectively. As a result, we ain't done too bad for two luddites and we've both tried to teach dd that she's got the whole world to learn from and a whole lifetime to learn in.

I love the advice that she should want to learn to the best of her ability rather than have her aim set at a specific destination. We have always tried to teach her that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more so, and with education, that's surely the case? She's very old-headed and fixed, so I usually have to sew seeds to get her to change her mind on anything, though she has always coped well with disappointment and change, so I think (based on her limited 12 years with us) she'll cope if she doesn't end up there. I think now is a good time to plant the idea that it's the quality of her work that counts and the enjoyment she gets from it and see where that takes us.

Thank you for the lovely compliments...and she is a wonderful girl. She's also a little hormonal, stroppy and argumentative, but as others have said, even that may be something we can turn to her advantage :D We often say that having a stance on something is only valid if you can back up what you believe with facts and empirical data. Learning about your opinions and reasoning why you hold them is fascinating and informative, and can help you out if you're having a heated discussion!

Posting on a forum like this can make it seem like an OP is obsessed about an issue that really shouldn't be on the radar right now, and I did 'um' and 'argh' about whether to post, but I really was so torn between going, 'you're 12 sweetheart...come back to me at 15 and tell me this and we'll work on it' and 'yay dd, good for you. Work hard and aim for the stars. If nowt else, you might reach the moon'. Your advice and information has helped me to know how to steer things when it becomes important and how to be encouraging of her ambitious, 12 year old thinking.

Oh...and 'trip wise' we have been to Durham, Lancaster, Birmingham, Bordeaux, Paris and our home is in Sheffield, so we've had a little experience of university towns. DD is totally convinced that no matter what happens, she's not going to study here! She wants her years of adventure, thank you very much smile

mummytime Wed 05-Jun-13 13:57:03

Do go to Oxford and/or Cambridge as they are quite different as places.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 14:11:30

Oh...and thanks for the advice on English. That's her favourite subject and the direction she wants to go in. I have told her she needs to join library groups, book clubs, debating forums, etc, and have told her to read classic literature, but confess I'm not totally sure what I should be steering her towards here. I did ask her English teacher to give us a list at the last parent's evening, as he said she needed to expand her reading but we never saw said list, so I'm guessing. She likes her post apocalyptic stories, so I'm thinking Oryx and Crake and Brave New World to get her out of the modern day writing, then maybe some of the lighter classics, like Jayne Eyre and The Hobbit. I think I'll hit google to see what books I need to add to that list.

Yellowtip Wed 05-Jun-13 14:11:33

She does sound very old and serious for her years OP.

And do you go on holiday anywhere other than uni towns?!

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 14:12:18

Thanks mummytime. I will put both on the 'hitlist' for trips in the summer, just for fun.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 14:15:25

Oh God, yes, Yellowtip. We holidayed last year in Florida. DD declared that she'd like to come back to see the coast, do some shopping and check out the Everglades, but she wasn't overly interested in doing Disney again! This year it's back to earth with a bump...we're heading for Northumberland. She loves the beaches and the castles.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 14:17:39

I do struggle with her old-headedness as I'm more like a 7 year old than she's ever been!!! I despair at times about how sensible she is and worry that she'll miss out on things because of her single-minded approach to things,but I guess we're all different. And DH can see her perspective and explains it to me, as I can't always relate to her that well.

mummytime Wed 05-Jun-13 14:36:30

If you do go to Oxford, do try to get to the Pitt Rivers museum, if only as it is my favourite one of all time.

You could talk to your local librarian for ideas too, in my experience librarians love to share their knowledge of books.

IKnowWhat Wed 05-Jun-13 15:29:25

mummytime. The Pitt Rivers Museum is my all time favourite museum too. I love it, it's exactly what a museum is meant to be. grin.

I love Oxford, I don't know how anyone can visit and NOT want to study at Oxford University. I get a buzz from eavesdropping on the students chatting inthe numerous coffee shops. It is a very inspiring and beautiful place.

I would love to apply myself wink but I don't think their widening access schemes are quite wide enough to include me hmm

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 16:14:30

Lol IKnowWhat. The Pitt Rivers Museum is now on the hit list.

LadyLech Wed 05-Jun-13 16:24:28

Angus - my DH works at an Oxford college, and the admissions tutor for his particular college has said that she has no interest whatsoever in the applicants extra curricular activities (unless it is at an exceptionally high level / relevant) All she wants to see is passion for the subject.

It may be different at other colleges though.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 16:47:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 16:59:17

I can see how the extra activities at this age, and over the next few years, can help a child to develop a passion for their subject, or dissuade them from their initial choice. It's something I'm hoping dd will take on board, but it's a case of seed-sewing at the moment.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 17:02:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TeWiSavesTheDay Wed 05-Jun-13 17:19:09

I know lots of people that went to Oxbridge fairly recently (most still there just starting PhDs - a few there doing PhDs now having failed to get in as undergrad's as well)

I will tell my kids that the passion for their subject is the most important thing - the friend I have who was offered a place even if she got less than perfect grades (fairly rare now) is the one who had spent years reading books and doing activities related to the subject she studies/is becoming an academic in.

My other friends were less extreme than that! But could all speak fluently and independently about their subjects, instead of just regurgitating other people's opinions. I have to be honest and say lots of my friends are children of academics themselves, so that kind of expectation or level of knowledge was probably more natural to them than it was to someone like me who is not from such an academic background, and was a bit lost and confused at that point in life! So that kind of attitude is one to encourage. A really good tip is to buy a left wing and a right wing broadsheet newspaper and have them around the house. That way if something catches her eye she can read about it from different points of view and learn how to decide what she believes for herself.

I got decent grades and went to a newer University - discovered that I could feel the same passion about academics, and met lots of other people just like my friends, they're all doing well and one of those is an academic now too, so I'm not going to make Oxbridge the be all and end all for my kids either. You haven't failed if you don't get in, and there are still lots of brilliant Universities in the UK.

MummyMastodon Wed 05-Jun-13 19:03:39

If nothing else, extracurriculars demonstrate time management, they can't hurt an application.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 19:21:39

This is where Mumsnet comes into its' own. I've managed to get advice from people who have been through this in their own teenaged lives, have experienced it through the lives of others or are have been in this position as a parent themselves. Even the dissenters have been useful in making me think, ah, that doubt I had was right too. smile Thank you all so much and if I'm still asking for university advice in 3 years time, I'll be a very happy bunny :D

senua Wed 05-Jun-13 23:30:23

have told her to read classic literature, but confess I'm not totally sure what I should be steering her towards here

TES top 100 books.
BBC Big Read.
Encourage her to write reviews.

StellaNova Thu 06-Jun-13 10:39:40

I want to write "you sound lovely OP" but I have seen it used sarcastically on here so many times that I can't. But you do sound very lovely and thoughtful.

I spent my teenage years working my way through the sci fi and detective back catalogue, so my only real touches with classic literature came where they met with sci fi (like Brave New World, 1984) or at school. When I got a bit older - 16/17 - I got into Keats, Byron, Shelley etc, but I think that was only because we did Keats at school, and Marlow, but again that was through doing Dr Faustus at school. So you DD may well find her own way into classic literature as you suggest. I know when I got the "reading list" that Cambridge sent over when I got accepted, I hadn't read much of it! (Luckily I had a year out to catch up).

Xenia Thu 06-Jun-13 11:39:48

English at Oxbridge is one of the most difficult subjects to get into Oxbridge to read. She might improve her chances a lot if she does a subject most people do not want to do, that's the trouble. On the other hand you need to do a subject you love.

Make sure her school knows about these kinds of things and can advise on which colleges are easier to get into too perhaps if that matters.

Encourage her to aim high, but to make sure she has some other places in mind in case intake is limited when she comes to apply.

I wasn't academically minded at school, but after a health scare I had a change of mind regarding my job, and returned to studies as a mature student a few years ago. I'm loving it!

(Incidentally I'm not a Oxford or Cambridge, but if I was young and single, that's where I'd be aiming).

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 06-Jun-13 11:50:58

My first 'broader reading' list on an Eng lit degree included things like Ovid and the bible! Knowing stuff like the Book of Job very useful in reading anything from King Lear to the Mayor of Casterbridge... Reading around ad acquiring some broader knowledge is perhaps as useful as just reading the 'canon'.

xylem8 Thu 06-Jun-13 13:25:44

being head or deputy head of their school seems to have lots of people get to Oxbridge IME

motherinferior Thu 06-Jun-13 13:30:15

If she wants to read English, encourage her to read English. Whether it's harder to get into Oxford or Cambridge to read English than other subject, I couldn't say.

It's certainly not impossible, as I and many other MNers can attest. (Whether an English degree, from Oxford or anyone else, is necessarily a Good Thing To Have is of course another question grin. IME it only leads to journalism and penury....)

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 06-Jun-13 16:46:50

Thank you Stella. That's very kind of you to say, but I'm really a bit of an old trout with a daughter (and dh) I don't really deserve. I have been fortunate in my life and have 'landed on my feet'. I try really hard not to take that for granted.

Lol about journalism and penury. Luckily dd is an only child (not planned, but ended up that way) and is an only grandchild on my husband's side and only niece to an ageing aunt. Though we're not wealthy, she is lucky enough to have a sound financial background behind her and she could possibly find that she has a bit more money coming her way at some point, which may save her from the penury! She's a lucky girl and I think she knows it.

Of course, right now dd hates Facebook, prefers going to the library to going to the park with her mates, refuses to shave her legs on the basis it will make her hairier and anyway, 'who's it for?' and has never pouted for a photo in her life. Between now and her later teens, I can see a lot changing. English and Oxford and Cambridge may be part of what changes, but if there's a chance that she'll chase the educational goods train, I'd like to think we've given her all the support and encouragement she could possibly need.

Thanks again, to everyone, for all the fantastic advice and viewpoints. Much, much, much appreciated.

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 06-Jun-13 16:49:07

And thanks for the list Senua. Am off to Amazon and am also going to start buying in newspapers (something I've always steered away from as I'm sure I'm part ostrich) so dd can be better informed on the ways of the world.

senua Thu 06-Jun-13 19:03:56

Don't forget the theatre, too.

Ilovemyrabbits Fri 07-Jun-13 20:11:52

Thanks again senua. Theatre trips added to the list :D

MoreBeta Fri 07-Jun-13 20:17:54


Far too many children get told that going to Oxford or Cambridge is not for them BY teachers believe it or not. Those two universities struggle to get applicants from state schools and if they spot a good one they do take them. Oxford and Cambridge struggle to overcome the inherent bias against elite universities that far too many teachers have and your DD is very lucky to have this early encouragement.

Outside interest dont count for a lot - you do have to be very bright but most of all you really have to show you want it and your DD does.

SoftSheen Fri 07-Jun-13 20:44:40

Definitely encourage!

If she is bright, hard-working and focussed there is no reason why she shouldn't get into Oxbridge. Why not?

There are plenty of very bright people who don't go to Oxbridge simply because they don't have enough self-belief to apply in the first place. Don't let your DD be one of these people.

Yellowtip Fri 07-Jun-13 21:10:17

OP is your DD a state schooler? Sorry if I've missed this, I rather got the impression from your comments that she might be an independent pupil instead.

MoreBeta far too many children who get fixed on the idea that Oxford/Cambridge and only Oxford/ Cambridge will do are disappointed. And the disappointment is that much greater if they aren't encouraged to keep an open mind from the start. I felt it was really important with my DC to plug the merits of other places and then to say A*s are great but it's meeting your offer that counts and then to say Firsts are overrated anyway and masses of brilliant people get much less than Firsts, you've had your three years of great education and that's what counts more than anything else. Perhaps my world view is too gloomy but I would never, ever want to set my DC up for a fall. Also, I believe all the stuff I've just said.

Yellowtip Fri 07-Jun-13 21:13:00

MoreBeta 'wanting it' is of no consequence at all , is it? confused.

Ilovemyrabbits Sat 08-Jun-13 03:17:44

She is state educated. Local primary followed by local comp. Her dad and I have no university degrees, so feel a bit out of our depth with the whole area.

Using common sense I would agree that just wanting it is folly. Desire alone is never enough to get what you want. Team up desire with focus and hard work though and you can achieve much, although even then not always your ultimate goal. If you don't shoot though, you don't score (apologies for the cliche but I'm not so well educated I can resist them smile).

Our local comp usually sends a handful of pupils to Oxbridge each year. I have told dd that her education is in her hands and she can achieve as much as she is willing to work for. For now I aim to encourage her in gaining as rounded an education as possible. Where that will lead her, I don't know but based on advice given here I certainly won't dismiss her dreams out of hand. I will just try to prepare her to see the work and results as the goal rather than the destination of Oxbridge. From what I can glean she should choose her destination based on the best course available for her and that probably won't be known for a few years yet.

Encouragement seems to be the dominant advice so we will be visiting both locations this year and talking about the plus points of aiming high and the beauty of being able to choose great alternatives if you are not one of the chosen few. I can't say how pleased I am at the amount of encouraging posts I've seen on this subject. As a working class girl it does restore my faith somewhat in education.

HoveringKestrel Sat 08-Jun-13 03:31:58

Encourage her to AIM HIGH!

But remind her how lovely Nottingham University and York University are, how inspirational London University and Manchester University are also. Just because you don't land in the stars, you should be looking in the sky!

Ilovemyrabbits Sat 08-Jun-13 14:41:47

Thanks hovering. I think Manchester, York and Nottingham are all a bit close to home, but maybe that's just because dd's 12 and hormonal right now smile I'd like her to check out London, Durham, Lancaster or Edinburgh but it will depend on her chosen subject. I'm saying this based on the lifestyles they provide cos I don't know about the courses they offer. I like to think she'll keep an open mind but we'll see.

I've even mentioned the possibility of studying abroad (in for a penny, in for a pound) and that seems to have hit a nerve. DD will probably choose Sheffield, then I'll never be rid of her and her laundrysmile

FrauMoose Sat 08-Jun-13 14:52:15

I think there's a balance to be struck between living in the present and thinking about the future. Focusing on doing well term by term across the range of subjects is common sense. I think it's only when starting on GCSE coursework, that it's more possible to tell when somebody has the sort of intelligence and drive that will appeal to the most selective universities. (And the way in which GCSEs are being structured is changing.) So much depends on what you eventually decide you want to study as to whether a particular 'elite' university is the right one. And it also depends on what sort of person you turn out to be - the teenage years bring lots of changes. I think some parents approach their children's future like a military campaign, driving towards objectives that are set years in advance. Generally I'm in favour of a more relaxed approach, which involves being affirming and encouraging - but is also very aware if there being a range of options and choices and priorities which will change over time.

SoftSheen Sat 08-Jun-13 14:52:16

The other universities you mention are all great and well worth getting a degree from. However, there is no denying that all universities are NOT equal and a degree from Oxbridge (in any subject) will open doors that wouldn't be open otherwise.

FrauMoose Sat 08-Jun-13 15:04:43

I think it is entirely possible that a graduate with a Pharmacy degree from Aston is much more employable - and will be employed more readily - than someone with a degree in Theology from Cambridge. Many of the newer universities do courses that are more closely connected to the needs of employers. If I was interviewing I might rate somebody with first class honours from University A, more highly than someone with second class honours from University B. A job applicant's personality (soft skills), their previous work experience are all going to be relevant. Major organisations have equal ops policies and make some sort of effort to implement them. I think the fields in which an 'old boys' network flourishes - and it is boys - are quite restricted. It depends whether (or not) it's somebody's aim in life to hang round with David Cameron....

NotDavidTennant Sat 08-Jun-13 15:28:03

I reckon at your DDs age a reasonably bright child who is hard working and motivated has a better chance of eventually getting in to Oxbridge than a 'top of the class' student who is lazy and unfocused.

Just make sure she doesn't get sucked into the mindset of 'Oxbridge or nothing', as that could lead to problems if she doesn't get in and doesn't have a back-up plan.

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 08-Jun-13 15:34:37

DH and I both went to Cambridge (where we met). Both of us had primary school teachers who encouraged our parents to consider Oxbridge as a realistic possibility. In both our cases, we were about 9 years old at the time.

In our cases, we also both had parents who had studied there, so we didn't suffer from "it's not for the likes of us" syndrome. But our primary schools were both bog-standard state community schools and I'm very grateful to the teachers who planted the seed of an idea very early on.

Having said which, definitely wider her horizons, make sure she knows about other fantastic options and whatever you do, don't spend the next 6 years stressing about her personal statement grin. Just avoiding dismissing the idea and keeping an open mind is probably enough at this stage!

Yellowtip Sat 08-Jun-13 18:19:18

What is your own educational background OP? At what age did you leave school and what did you do then?

It seems to me that you may be moving too fast in the university direction given that your DD has six years and several sizeable hurdles yet to go. I happen to think visiting Oxford and Cambridge as a prospective applicant aged 12 is over the top, although going to see the sights is somewhat different. But you're now moving on to your DD 'checking out' London/ Durham/ Lancaster/ Edinburgh. And you don't even yet know what course (not that she should have settled on a course at her age, but there comes a point where musing on different unis is pointless without having an idea of the course. If she wants to be a vet she can't study at Durham. Same with Medicine unless she doesn't mind a separate campus. Etc. etc.).

FrauMoose I think Oxford and Cambridge do still bring opportunities which in the old days would be put down to an 'old boys' network' but which in reality is about bright students with a sparkling track record being introduced to those who can help them get on and/ or want exactly that sort of graduate in their own organisation/ chambers whatever. 'Old boys' network' suggests no merit is involved. It most certainly is not just for the boys either - definitely not.

FrauMoose Sat 08-Jun-13 20:15:57

I would agree that there may be aspects of Oxford and Cambridge (perhaps this is partly about collegiate universities, one to one tutorials etc) that can offer a chance for people to form close connections/affiliations) that is a bit different from the situation at very big universities.

However of the people I know when I studied at one of these universities, there was a huge range of outcomes - which depended on the individual personalities and backgrounds and ambitions of the the students. I think what I object to is the 'Glittering Prizes' mythology around Oxford and Cambridge. There are ways in which both places offer a slightly different experience, which some people will enjoy and others may not. There's a tendency to assume if something is a) a bit harder to access and b) is associated with class/social prestige it is c) better.

And I am really, really not sure.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 08-Jun-13 20:35:37

To be fair though Yellowtip, university towns tend to be towns with lots of other interesting things and to be nice places to go for a mini break: I didn't read the fact that OP and daughter had been to them as a sort of open day-esque trailing about!

Bonsoir Sat 08-Jun-13 21:22:03

"I happen to think visiting Oxford and Cambridge as a prospective applicant aged 12 is over the top."

Yellowtip - I would probably have agree with you until this evening. Over supper, however, DD came out with the gem "Lilly [her BF] and I have been discussing living together. You know, later on."

If my 8 year old is discussing flat shares for when she leaves home with her BF, perhaps taking her round universities at 12 might be on the cards?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 08-Jun-13 21:56:16

I dunno, if you're going to have a weekend away, you get sparked by the places you have chatted about as a family, dont you? I don't think OP is doing anything wrong in using that as a starter for where they go and spend a weekend: if they're going into to the porters' lodge and asking for a special tour and to meet the admissions tutor, maybe.... But it doesn't sound like that!

Yellowtip Sat 08-Jun-13 22:18:57

I'm floored Bonsoir, also impressed - and good luck! smile

TOSN I think OP is marshalling her weekends away exactly with a view to her DD's potential uni destinations. It's too young and is just so intense.

OP you've said that you're WC and have had no tertiary education and of course DD is an only child. Are you sure that you're being fair to her on all this precocious university stuff?

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Sat 08-Jun-13 22:31:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UptheChimney Sat 08-Jun-13 22:59:51

Working class, I presume?

RainSunWind Sat 08-Jun-13 23:17:00

Definitely encourage but not to the degree (at impressionable age 12) that it becomes so set in stone that anything short is devastating, or disappointing or inferior.

Enthusiastic but cautious encouragement - a bit of a tall order really!

I would like to add that my dad always encouraged me to aim high but the reality was that my personality is better suited to working way up and being thoroughly and unshakeably confident in my abilities from the ground upwards. I wasted years applying for jobs (after uni) that were way out of my league to no avail whist working in the most low paid jobs.

My career break came from making a entry into a lower level into my career and at that point I felt like I'd disappointed my dad because I hadn't gone into a great top-paying job with a company car and a pension and private healthcare and this and that. Now, I have achieved those things. but I really felt like I'd failed him and myself at the time that I didn't get in on a higher level.

I guess what I'm saying is don't let your DD think (nor become it) that her dream is your dream too. You need to always be encouraging but not so much she's "failed" if she doesn't do it.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 08-Jun-13 23:29:58

Why is it unfair for a working class parent of one child to try to be mildly helpful in this matter, though?

Yellowtip Sat 08-Jun-13 23:39:34

RainSunWind I'm wondering where this 12yr old gets her dream from. Her parents are both self effacing working class with neither having experienced tertiary education and she went to a state primary and is now at an unexceptional state comp. The fact that she's anticipating a goodly sum from inheritance wouldn't alter her life view at this stage too much - even assuming she knew of the good fortune to come. Her Mum is well versed in the hierarchy of UK unis and appears to have though it all out. I'm having difficulties with my narrow minded view of stereotypes here, but that's my deficiency of course, no-one else's.

Yellowtip Sat 08-Jun-13 23:41:22

thought it, not though it.

duchesse Sat 08-Jun-13 23:41:40

Bonsoir, at 8 my third child extensively discussed the type of flat she was going to share with her brother when she left home, what type of car they would have (a pink Smart car) and how messy it was likely to be with the two of them sharing it. grin

Somethingyesterday Sun 09-Jun-13 07:18:11

OP Regarding theatre visiting - you're so lucky to have the Crucible on your doorstep and West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Royal Exchange and The Lowry just a short drive / train ride away. (You should find it relatively easy to ignore the worthy, boring, or "meant for children", there's always something world class, avant- garde and exciting happening at one of these.) Most of them have well organised young people's groups if your daughter is interested in being actively involved in drama. And if you happen to be in Edinburgh during the Festival it might be interesting to seek out some of the innumerable student productions.

Xenia Sun 09-Jun-13 11:31:38

I don't think there is anything wrong at all in having high aspirations for a working class child. If she aims for Oxbridge even if she does not get in she is less likely to leave school at 16 with no GCSEs. She might end up reading engineering at UCL or something and do really well. If her desire to go to Oxbridge is dampened she might consider instead leaving school at 16 to do hair dressing or have a baby.

One of my mine was going to live in Switzerland when she grew up (not part of her plans now she has graduated) but chidlren often plan things. As we know I planned to have a large family, high paid career and buy an island (on which with any luck the small building project starts this week) when I was a teenager and all that came to pass. Planning is not necessarily bad.

chenin Sun 09-Jun-13 11:47:42

Very similar story to the OP (neither OH nor I went to Uni...)
I think it's good to encourage but not to make this the be-all and end-all. My DD2 had English as her passion and ended up being interviewed at two colleges for Oxford over two days, and didn't get through. The interview procedures were really quite gruelling and looking back now, I am quite glad that she ended up where she did (Bristol Uni) as she has loved every minute of her time at Uni. She hasn't even graduated yet, but handed in her Dissertation on a Wednesday 3 weeks ago, and started a chance in a lifetime fantastic job 4 days later on the other side of the country......

I am not saying she shouldn't aim for Oxbridge but I do think that it doesn't suit everyone and seeing her develop like she has, has made me think that perhaps it wouldn't have suited my DD and her personality. She blossomed at Bristol and might have felt a bit out of her depth at Oxford as everyone at the interviews were private school educated, she wasn't and felt it.

As far as encouraging her love of English (great subject) at age 12, I would suggest you don't yet steer her towards the Classics... she will have YEARS of that if she takes English at Uni. Let her read what she wants, if she loves English, she will be a vociferous reader of anything and everything. I would encourage 'story writing'... my DD was always into writing stories and it stood her in good stead. Also, in time when she is older, encourage her to get some unpaid work experience at a publishers... that has been invaluable in helping my DD secure her fulltime job.

Your DD is young and there is nothing like encouragement but in my opinion, I think you should put it on the back burner for now.

wordyBird Sun 09-Jun-13 12:10:27

It's a lifetime away, age 12 to age 18. Too soon for realism and 'yes, but...' .... I would encourage her, tell her it's a great idea, and help her focus on schoolwork and self discipline.

I had similar thoughts at a similar age, bought a prospectus, etc, my parents encouraged me without going into it too deeply IYSWIM? I loved to research and they let me do that. Age 18 I was a young adult and very different in many ways from how I was at 12 (not necessarily in a bad way though!)

Your planned approach sounds great, keep it broad and encouraging as you would for any child.

Ilovemyrabbits Sun 09-Jun-13 13:52:11

Sorry I didn't get back before about the above posts. I did think this thread was at it's end, but clearly I misjudged that. I do understand that this could all look a little 'tiger-mother'-esque, with dd being 12 and miles away from tertiary education. She has this dream and, to some degree, to us, it's not much different from wanting to be a film star or a train driver.

It has been instilled by us, as parents, that she should go to university from a young age. I know it's not the right path for everyone, but she's always been an academically oriented child and I believe it's an experience she should be allowed to have. We never mentioned specific universities, other than saying, go oop north and your dad'll be able to pop in and buy you lunch when he's out on the road (said in a jovial way, rather than a serious, let's make lists now kind of way).

In terms of her educational achievements so far, she's always been academically focussed, generally top 4 or 5 in the class, so not top dog, but certainly a clever girl. I'd say she's not naturally gifted, but she is a grafter and that comes from a life time of tough, practical based, work ethic on the part of her maternal and paternal families. She doesn't get too disappointed when she fails at something, or doesn't get top marks, she just identifies where she's gone wrong and puts it right.

From DH and I, dd has always been told that she'll probably go to university. I feel that she should be given the opportunity her dad and I never had, even if it just allows her to have 3 years living away from home broadening her horizons and having fun. That doesn't mean we're living vicariously through her. DH never wanted to go to Uni, but he sees that it's a different start to life than we had and there can be no harm in it. Is it wrong to want better for our children? And what can be better than a good education? If we could afford it, I daresay we would have educated privately, but we prioritised our spending differently and we were lucky enough to have good schools on the doorstep to help us make that prioritisation.

To be fair, we do a lot of weekends in cities, and holiday trips too, as we often piggy back on DH's business trips. We've stayed in Durham loads of times, and we've pointed out the university because it's hard not to. We've done Birmingham, because of my family, and other university towns, just because they happened to be there. I mentioned going to Oxford/Cambridge settings because they're nice places to go and, as someone mentioned, we've talked about them so much lately, it'd be nice to see them.

Though this thread may make it seem like we're taking this all a bit too seriously, we haven't mentioned much to dd since it started. I've talked to DH about encouraging the earnest desire to learn more than specific destinations. I've mentioned to dd that university is a long way away and when it comes, she might find that her options/chosen path of study, will make other universities much more palatable. All this in a conversational way when she's raised the topic of universities.

As Xenia says, it's better to encourage her to Oxbridge and see her disappointed than discourage it and see her set her sights on a gangster boyfriend and a council flat. Thinking of dd, though, the latter seems an unlikely life plan for her as she has a real tendency to plan and calculate outcomes for everything, sometimes annoyingly so, and she wouldn't be happy with those outcomes right now. Of course at 18, who knows?

I am WC but I have aspirations for my only child. I myself got 10 O Levels at an awful, sink estate comprehensive and, with no parental encouragement and careers advice that was based on my scruffy appearance rather than the fact that I took several exams early, I ended up leaving school and going to college for 2 years. I went to study BTEC National Diploma in Business Studies and then I went out to earn some money and 'pay the rent' as my mother put it. I want the world to hold more than that for my girl but I would never push her into something she didn't want for herself.

Some people seem to think that I'm driving this poor 12 year old girl, regardless of her wants and needs, to some unattainable goal. That I'm pushing universities down her throat and focussing our whole lives around it. As we sit, reading junk novels together and looking forward to watching Chuck on tv this evening after supper, it seems insane I ever raised this subject. But, as I said in the beginning, ignore or encourage?? And as encouragement seems the preferred opinion on MN and at the back of my head, encouragement I think it will be.

Thank you everyone for your kind wishes and constructive criticism. We are indeed, lucky to live in a fabulous city with culture and outdoor activities aplenty on the doorstep and if dd decides to study here, or anywhere else for that matter, we will not be at all disappointed.

RainSunWind Sun 09-Jun-13 15:07:13

You sound really sensible OP and your DD is lucky to have you to support her whatever she chooses to do. Having aspirations is a good thing and you don't sound like you are living vicariously through her at all - just that you naturally want her to have aspirations, choices and options.

Ilovemyrabbits Sun 09-Jun-13 15:54:04

Thank you RainSunWind. I try really hard to do the best for dd and being the youngest of 6 kids, all raised on a sink estate, I know how badly things can work out if your children don't have aspirations. Fingers crossed she'll enjoy her time at Secondary school and will make it to some university, somewhere. And if she doesn't, we'll see what she wants to do and support that (as long as it's not getting married to some druggie boyfriend in a squat in the back of beyond or something!)

wordyBird Sun 09-Jun-13 16:39:08

You sound like lovely, supportive parents: combining this with your dd's ambition, and ability to plan and work, will give her the best chances whatever she chooses to do.

Her willingness to learn, rather than be fixated on results, is also a huge asset. I've heard this called the 'growth mindset', a cheesy sounding concept but it really helps people to achieve. She will go far. smile

Ilovemyrabbits Sun 09-Jun-13 17:43:45

Thanks wordybird. I suspect we're like a lot of parents out there but it is nice to think we're doing ok -parenting wise :D and I love the idea of a "growth mindset". DD is so much more focused than I ever was. Hopefully that will give her the resilience she'll need to overcome the exam challenges to come.

senua Sun 09-Jun-13 18:44:47

You sound like you have got it spot on rabbits. You have been given advice and taken it on board; hopefully your DD will do the same in time. It is a difficult juggling act because you want to plan for the future but life changes at such a rapid rate these days that no-one knows what the future is anymore. It is probably safe to say that Oxbridge will still hold kudos by the time your DD gets to Y13 but I wouldn't like to predict anything else. Many (clever, academic) boys in DS's year are turning against University because they don't see the sums adding up, and are going for Apprenticeships and the like instead.
The main thing you can do is support your DD. IIRC, irrespective of the school they go to, parental support adds about 15% to pupils' grades.
The other advice, which I don't think has been mentioned upthread, is don't specialise too soon; keep all doors open for as long as possible.

Ilovemyrabbits Sun 09-Jun-13 21:10:26

Thanks for that valuable piece of info senua. We always told dd, from being very young, that she'd have fun at uni, but if she wanted to be a plumber or a builder or a truck driver, she could have fun doing that too.

As she gains maturity she will undoubtedly change her view of the future and her goals will change.

I don't think uni is the be all and end all in terms of education and if dd was more practical I'd be wondering about a more apprentice type education for her. The builders we had on site recently all seemed to have amazing lifestyles. One had a house in France he lived in 3 months every year and visited at weekends whenever he got chance. Another had motorbiked all across Europe and was planning a trip from Croatia to Russia this summer. Made my week in Northumberland look a bit sick, I can tell you.

Xenia Mon 10-Jun-13 07:52:24

It sounds like the right things are being done for the daughter (and probably her mother, Ilove, is very clever and could have got to a great university with a different family quite easily). Even if it's not Oxbridge as someone else above said somewhere else can be good too (mine also went to Bristol and in career and earnings terms in the City I don't think her career is any different from those who went to Oxbridge - she wouldn't try for Oxbridge and that's fine - when they're 17 they make up their own minds).

When she does apply to look on line for tactical advice rather than just following what the school suggests. Some subjects are easier to get into than others. Some colleges (if there is still that system of applying to a college) have more demand than others. Be tactical about it. I agree though that pick a subject you adore as you'll be studying it for 3 years. I loved my subject. I still remember things I learned there all those years ago and use them still.

When she comes to pick GCSEs whatever the school suggest make sure she does the subjects the academic day and state schools do like English lit, eng lang, at least one foreign language like French, Geog, history, maths and 2 or 3 sciences. Then if she wants to do one extra of the softer type pick RS or music. Try to make sure she does them at the normal age and not earlier or one after the other at different times. In other words be involved and do not let the school push her to do things that will not help. Look at the websites of subjects for GCSE and A levels at leading high achieving academic day schools (grammar and private) to see their GCSE subjects.

(Most builders do not earn more than most, say, doctors and top lawyers though and I suspect there is more cash in hand tax evasion among the builders so they have a lot of cash floating around to spend on holidays. Also plenty of builders never get to own the firm and just work at minimum wage for other builders but I agree with the principle you can do well in many things if you work very hard and are clever about it).

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 09:49:44

Xenia this is not a working class child, she actually sounds fairly privileged: her parents could have afforded private education but chose not to go down that route, she has a tidy sounding inheritance to look forward to and she's certainly got all the family support she could need to do as well as she's able (not that the latter is class related at all). She's also remarkably fortunate that her state school offers Latin, as so few comprehensives do and she's already settled on that as choice.

OP do you mean you pointed out the castle in Durham as the university? The university departments are scattered all over the city - there's no single building to point to especially since they abandoned Old Shire Hall.

wordfactory Mon 10-Jun-13 10:41:27

I think if it's handled well, you can keep aspirations high while avoiding disappointment.

When I was about ten, my Mum wangled a day trip to London. In those days you were allowed right up to ten Downing Street and she took a picture of me with the copper out front. I still have it grin.

I'm not devestated that I'm not Prime Minister. Well only a little ...

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 10-Jun-13 11:16:31

Yellowtip I am surprised and confused at how hostile your posts seem to be on this subject. You may not mean it to come across this way, but you seem to be criticising everything the OP says and does - yes, because there are lots of University buildings in Durham, they are probably easier to point out than somewhere with a separate and discreet campus, I would have thought!

Her child has expressed an interest and she is asking for opinions on how to field it - I can't see why this is anything but thoughtful and good parenting.

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 11:28:37

Ok TOSN, I guess I have my reasons.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 10-Jun-13 11:39:19

I guess so, yes - I just wouldn't want the OP to feel she can't do right for doing wrong because of them.

Ilovemyrabbits Mon 10-Jun-13 21:51:52

Dd is priveliged in as much as she's an only child of older parents, only grandchild of even older, sole surviving grandparent (now 82) and only niece of a not too ancient aunt who has no children. Each owns a property that's mortgage free. Aunty is moving in with grandma in the near future and half the money from her very modest 2 up 2 down will go to dd at that point to be held in an account for her. For some people it would be enough to buy a nice car but we are not rich, so to us it's a fair amount.

We could have privately educated but it would have been a squash and a squeeze financially and we decided instead to pay off our modest mortgage, 3 bed semi oop north, so we wouldn't be rich by many people's standards. To us, though, having worked for everything we have, we see that dd's well sorted for the future and we will probably downsize when she goes to uni, hopefully getting her onto the property ladder, plans willing.

I can see I've said something to ruffle yellowtip's feathers but I'm not sure what. She may be thinking that we've pleaded working class but clearly aren't. We are, in terms of DH and myself. His dad worked in a timber yard and mine was a miner. He was better off than me cos his dad had two kids and his mum ruled with a rod of iron. My dad had 6 kids and was a mysogynist who kept my mum barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink, having lost his own mum to another man at a very young age (truly scandalous in his day).

We are both non graduates. I had clawed my way up the ladder but gave up work when my daughter was young, probably because I lacked confidence in my career, despite doing well in it. DH has done brilliantly and is a technical consultant in the construction industry. He's well paid and loves his job. I want that for dd and I want her to have the confidence to believe in herself, something which seems to be working out ok for her right now.

Xenia, your practical advice is much appreciated. Having taken exams early myself at secondary school, I always thought that was a good thing. I never thought of the ramifications of this on a university application as I never applied to UCAS myself. I will go find the better schools from various threads from mumsnet and check out their sites for exams to take.

There's no harm in being prepared, as far as I can see. Thanks again for the support and encouragement. I think balance is the key and I'm sure, like word factory, dd won't lose sleep if she doesn't hit the giddiest of heights right now. Mind you, prime minister sounds like a close escape word factory rather than a source of disappointment.

senua Mon 10-Jun-13 22:10:14

I will go find the better schools from various threads from mumsnet and check out their sites for exams to take.

Simples. You are going the high-flier route so
for GCSE it's the EBacc and
for A Levels it's "informed choices"

Your DD might want to do other subjects (which is perfectly acceptable if she has a good argument to back her reasoning) but, as a rule of thumb, she won't go far wrong if she has a solid base of old skoolwink subjects.

Ilovemyrabbits Mon 10-Jun-13 22:17:33

senua I could kiss you. Thanks. Have bookmarked the links. You are a star x

fiveraday Mon 10-Jun-13 22:24:55

In short, encourage, encourage, and then encourage some more. Your DD has Oxbridge in her sights, and if you try to steer her elsewhere who knows how she might feel towards you later on. Despite what some posters have said, you don't by any means have to be privately educated to get in, particularly if a candidate doesn't limit their options by picking a particular college. Oxford and Cambridge are at the top of the university charts for very good reason, and in my view someone who wants to go there should be given all the encouragement in the world.

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 22:54:41

Your dad was a miner and twice on this thread you've said 'Oop North' ? hmm. OP there are a number of people on these MN threads who had working class roots or very poor immigrant roots and don't resort to the sort of clichés that you do but have nevertheless done exceptionally well. The cliché to beat all clichés is to say that you're so ill educated that you can't resist clichés. word grew up with not much in material terms it seems but look where she is and where her children are. My dad arrived in England with only a suitcase and I've sent four kids to Oxford. And look at Russians too, not just an unmoneyed background but very serious illness and early bereavement to deal with too. The worst thing you can do for your DD is to land her with emotional guilt about your own regrets or feelings of hardship and to make her feel that there is an imperative to 'achieve'. I've seen lots of DC set their heart on Oxford or Cambridge and not get a place even on reapplication and that's hard for them and made harder by the intense attitude of some parents. You asked the question: encourage or ignore? Somewhere inbetween I'd say, and loosen up on the whole underprivileged background thing - this child is privileged, no question.

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 22:57:40

And yes indeed, half of a modest two up two down, even oop north, would buy a very, very nice car.

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 22:58:42

Sorry, sorry: three oop norths!

quip Mon 10-Jun-13 23:02:53

On the question of extracurricular activities, my tutor atOxford told all the candidates "I don't give a stuff about grade 8 violin or DofE or being captain of rugby. The candidates who are best at maths will be offered places. End of story."

williaminajetfighter Mon 10-Jun-13 23:06:09

If it's going to be Oxbridge, I'd definitely go for Cambridge not Oxford - and that's saying as someone who's working at the latter. To say the students here are precocious bordering on smug is an understatement. There's education but then there's also molding personalities into something you may not recognize or want...

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Mon 10-Jun-13 23:06:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

williaminajetfighter Mon 10-Jun-13 23:06:35

sorry 'moulding..'

teacherwith2kids Mon 10-Jun-13 23:07:43

Apologies for not reading the whole thread.

M parents took us on 'causal tourist' visits to Oxford from the age of c. 8. Indoctrination of the gentlest sort - this is a nice place, it's a university, this is what a university is.

Continued at about the same level - we were always just 'passing through' - for several years every couple of years, just seeding the idea.

No heavy pressure from then on in.

All of us went to Oxbridge.

I am sure that had we not been the spotty, nerdy types we all were, it wouldn't have seemed a sensible thing to do with us and my parents wouldn't have done it - but I have always been grateful for that very low-key nudge.

I don't know if anyone's mentioned the Russell group of Universities - Oxford and Cambridge are in this group, but so are lots of other good universities, including two I went to, Bristol and Exeter (both great places to be a student)
I think I'd encourage her, especially by visiting these cities/ universities and looking around (Oxford and Cambridge), but to include some of the other good uni's too.

Yellowtip Mon 10-Jun-13 23:20:57

angus I have absolutely no chip whatsoever. None. That's very simplistic. My dad, if the question ever arose, which it almost never did until he died, insisted he was incredibly lucky. I just find the OP annoying with all her working class poor me stuff when so many others have done so well from the same sort of background. I also think she's remarkably well informed already, given what she says of her ill educated background. The main point is that all the evidence suggests that OP will overload he DD emotionally to achieve Oxbridge wise but shouldn't, since there's so long to go before it's all in the bag.

harbinger Mon 10-Jun-13 23:41:00

WJet Are you finding this across all subjects?

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Mon 10-Jun-13 23:44:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

funnyperson Tue 11-Jun-13 00:39:16

Havent read through the whole thread but I would say plan and encourage ie yes to planning for a good school etc.
I dont know about the wisdom of talking about specific universities at a very young age. I remember that programme 7 up where they had a clutch of prep school 7 year olds who knew they were going to go to Oxford and then be lawyers and thats what they did. For the rest of the world life isn't so certain. But the shortage of childhood is certain. The best schools do give children fantastic opportunities and aren't just all grind. The best homes are where parents have made a comfortable safe happy secure warm place thats full of laughter and joy and nice food and stuff and the security of knowing that your family love and support you no matter what. Creating that secure memory is as essential to Oxbridge entry as any good school is. But you know this.
There is nothing wrong with ambition of course. I think at 12 I wanted to be prime minister. I cant remember when I gave that up but I had all sorts of happy plans for running the country. So do encourage the child to dream. Dreams and aspirations are important.

funnyperson Tue 11-Jun-13 00:45:43

Oxford do a 'unique' summer school which she can go to when 15 yrs, not too far away, you could look it up and apply, school will need to write a report for it. Cambridge and the Sutton trust do a similar one. They are both residential and free.

Take her to lots of museums and concerts and theatre and poetry readings etc if you can, to widen her horizons and talk about what you see, and take a newspaper in, such as the Times or Guardian and discuss current affairs together so she gets in the way of articulating her thoughts on subjects. The Times do a student subscription very cheaply. And lots of country walks of course so she grows up healthy!

funnyperson Tue 11-Jun-13 00:50:41
Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 08:21:50

angus I've scanned over the thread and I can't see anywhere that I've asked the questions you say I've asked other than asking the OP about her own career since school, since she seems very articulate (but I didn't want to patronise). I've certainly not 'demanded' financial details or made any comments whatsoever either way about the DD being an only. It's not a big deal but I'd prefer it if you got your facts correct, at least in relation to me.

Quite an odd observation from william. Do they all emerge as clones then william and what would you say are the distinguishing features? I don't think I fully understand the connection between precocity and smugness either ....

Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 08:35:42

In answer to your own question of me, and ignoring the point about my opinion of this child going to Oxford or Cambridge (something on which I'm of course utterly neutral), I would say that none of my children bear the faintest resemblance to this child as she's described to us by the OP.

wordfactory Tue 11-Jun-13 08:37:57

williamjet I think that must be a gross generalisation!

You can't possibly have even met and got to know that many students, can you?

Xenia Tue 11-Jun-13 11:49:20

Doing exams early - well all mine were a year early as I was a year young at school and went to university at 17 but what I was advising against was picking off exams bit by bit as it can look more impressive if you have your string of As from one sitting at the end of GCSE 2 year courses all in one go. Also I think doing about 8 - 10 is enough and any school pushing for more should be resisted as it is better to do better in the 8 core ones than not so well in more particularly in less academic subjects. Check on the relevant universities' websites as to what A levels to do (eg law which no good private school does is a soft often and is not going to help you get into university to do law and obviously it helps to have 3 science A levels for medicine etc). In other words it does no harm for the parent to do research rather than leaving it to the school particularly if the school does not have many going to Oxbridge or other good universities.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 11-Jun-13 14:42:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ValentineWiggins Tue 11-Jun-13 15:00:16

Back to the subject...from what I have heard about English at Cambridge you have to cover an awful lot of very early literature - and you are not allowed to specialise in a particular period. I could be wrong - but my point is that the contents of the degree syllabus matter too!

When it gets nearer the time you will want to ask your DD to look very carefully into what is covered in the syllabus for where she is applying - and to make sure that she really wants to spend 3 years reading it. If she has a love for modern literature, a uni that makes you do a full year of Beowulf might not be the right one for her - even if it is Oxbridge. Or vice versa! Being at Cambridge just because it's Cambridge but getting a 3rd because she hates the course contents would be stupid.

Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 15:03:55

Of course I can form a view all of my own, I often do.

Commenting on facts volunteered by the OP is not in any way the same as 'demanding' financial details though, is it angus? Which is why I asked you to smarten up your act in terms of accuracy. The reference to the child being an only child is not in any way negative. I would never make a negative comment about that but it is fair to say that only child dynamics can be very different to those in families with several siblings, no doubt both positively and negatively. Obviously.

FrauMoose Tue 11-Jun-13 15:07:49

The comment re a year of Beowulf is complete or ***


angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 11-Jun-13 15:12:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 15:38:18

angus read back what you said I'd asked: 'demanding financial information'! That's not just wide of the mark, it's wholly ficticious, so yes - next time please get it right.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 11-Jun-13 15:48:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ilovemyrabbits Tue 11-Jun-13 19:08:28

Oop north is a joke term I share with my Sheffield born and bred husband. It is used in a light hearted way with me and my family who all come for Birmingham. It may have become a habitual turn of phrase but its said with affection as I adore where I live and the people I've met since I moved up here.

I do not feel sorry for myself at all. In fact I feel truly blessed to have my life as it is and my lovely daughter, all the more so as I had 4 miscarriages before she arrived and one after. Forgive me if I am a little precious about her.

I am not in a competition to see who's come the furthest, had the hardest past,or is the most self congratulatory. I came on here asking for advice and that's just what I've got. As with any thread you get advice you value and comments that are less welcome and, at times unnecessarily aggressive and confrontational. I was bought up on a council estate....I've dealt with worse!

This week dd and I are both reading junk novels. Michael Grant's 'Lost' series. She recommended it so we are both racing through our 6 novels so we compare notes. Not literary notes, just normal, conversational discussion about shared reading material. University is a long way off but I feel like I have a better understanding now of the process, the options she needs to look at for next year and the things we may need to consider going forwards.

I'm not sure Oxbridge will be an option for dd. I'm not sure she's clever enough, but there are a few years before we get there and where my dd is concerned I'd never say never as she's a tenacious little bleeder. I will, however, tell her straight when we get to selection time what her best options will be, with the help from her teachers. Til then, it'll be fun and encouragement all the way. Thank you all for your time and comments.

wordfactory Tue 11-Jun-13 19:15:03

Ilove I say oop north too!

I also say nowt and mithering regularly grin.

Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 19:53:17

It's possible that I've read you entirely wrong OP but whether or not you're as you seem to be on the face of your posts I think my message was useful too, in it's way. It was not to not encourage and it was not to ignore but it was most definitely to tread carefully, not to ramp up hopes and not to over invest emotionally. I think this must be more of a risk with only children. That's a quite natural by-product and may be one of the negative ones. My kids assure me that there are lots of negatives in having siblings and I've seen it first hand myself. I've also seen the upset felt by kids who've decided prematurely that only Oxford and Cambridge will do; it's a dangerous path to tread.

Miscarriages are wretched, I agree and all children are equally precious.

ValentineWiggins Tue 11-Jun-13 19:59:46

FrauMoose I'm so sorry that I accidentally got something wrong - but I'm pretty sure you didn't need to be quite so rude. If you had bothered to read my post I did say it was just what I remembered - and my point was not that it does or doesn't contain a year of Beowulf but that the OPs daughter should consider the course content as well as the university.

FrauMoose Tue 11-Jun-13 20:54:42

I studied English at Cambridge. While there are obviously a range of views and experiences, I think, to say that 'doing English at Cambridge you have to cover an awful lot of very early literature....and you are not allowed to specialise' is inaccurate and unhelpful. It's up there with saying, 'Oh they're all from public schools' or 'They don't let you in with a regional accent'. It's one of those partial truths which is quite damaging. (I took a specialist paper in James Joyce in my final year.)

The syllabus is easily available online. Students look at medieval literature - e.g. Chaucer - during their first term. Anglo-Saxon literature (e.g. Beowulf is part of a separate degree course - Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and is not studied as part of an English BA.

Ilovemyrabbits Tue 11-Jun-13 22:13:29

I have 14 nieces and nephews and have seen what over parenting and under parenting can achieve within my own family yellowtip. All the kids in our family have left school at 16. Some have gone off the rails; one has been in and out of prison for most of his adult life; a few have relied entirely on their parents, even after having children of their own and some have turned out to be hard workers and have some success in life.

We live away from the rest of my family and the age gap between me having dd and my siblings having their children means we are not close either geograophically or socially. My brother and sisters are all currently engaged with grandchildren so we tend not to see each other outside of high days and holidays.

Your advice is as valid as the rest yellowtips and would have been ingested sooner had it been a little sweeter. I am aspirational for dd in as much as I am providing her with encouragement and support, but road sweeper or author, civil servant (a career for which frighteningly she shows some natural proclivity for) or plumber, I will always love her with all my heart, and she knows that. We are quite laid back, most of the time, though I do worry about her single child status from time to time and hope that it will do no harm.

I said in my earlier post to forgive me for being precious. My child may feel more precious to me because of the road taken to get her, but I'm not foolish enough to think that she'd be less precious if she'd been preceded by her 3 brothers or sisters. As you rightly say yellowtip, all children are precious.

Thanks FrauMoose. We will, after seeing advice on here, check out all syllabuses (syllabi?) before we choose any course and I appreciate the personal viewpoint of people who have been to Oxbridge so much.

Oh...and thanks for the support angus and Xenia, again, great advice. I really don't understand about GCSEs yet, being an old gimmer, so some food for thought there and again, the best perspective I can be given.

Ilovemyrabbits Tue 11-Jun-13 22:18:14

Ooh...and thanks valentine too. I thought you were advising re the syllabus content. I confess the thought of studying Chaucer makes me feel woozy and I loved English lit back in the day. Mind you, that was just John Wyndham and The Chrysalids, Merchant of Venice and the poetry of Robert Frost for o level, so not in the same league as degree stuff. Strange how some things never leave you though. I can still quote bits of all three now.

Takver Tue 11-Jun-13 22:41:57

I wouldn't say 'think of other places because you might not get in', but I would say 'think of other places too because you might find when you look at the courses they are better.

I'm a Cambridge grad (and married to another), despite studying completely different subjects I think in retrospect both of us would have been better suited academically at Warwick.

DH not so much, but my parents both left school at 16, as a family knew nothing about unis, or the fact that courses vary so much in content so when one teacher said 'why not try for Cambridge', it was very much 'ok, that must be the best option then'.

Yellowtip Tue 11-Jun-13 22:51:11

O levels OP .... smile

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 11-Jun-13 23:10:23

Ilovemyrabbits before we choose any course

No. No no no no no. Before she chooses a course. Seriously. It's her life. You can't choose her degree for her. It's just wrong on so very many levels.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 00:06:45

Quite right Russians. I also have a lot of growing up to do in the next few years. Unfortunately I currently have my 12 year old child/mother head on so probably have more influence on dd than I will have when she's older. I do think she'll take on board any advice she gets but I rather hope it will not come just from me. i also know she will go her own way no matter what i say. shes strong but, so far, quite sensible too. I will make sure she has some of the feedback from this thread on hand though as I do think it will be invaluable. I also think it will help me to ask her and her teachers the right questions to ensure she thinks through her choices and doesn't get pushed down the wrong route.

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 07:17:29

This is more about the nature of English literature courses than about parenting children and nurturing ambition.

I think it is quite easy for people who enjoy reading to access 20th and 21st century English and American novels, to discuss them and argue about them. GCSE and A-level syllabuses will often pick modern fiction because students may be able to enjoy them on an immediate level, even if they've just picked English because they have to (or because they are not natural physicists.) You don't need a university, just a public library, a reading group and internet access so you can check up on book reviews.

But there is something to be said for a course which takes you back to other centuries - so you read sonnets, epic poems, tragedies, where everything is saturated in the language of the King James Bible, and the novel didn't really exist. It's an adventure and it makes you look at literature in a different ways. But there are also opportunities to look at distinctively modern writing too. I chose the course I did because I wasn't sure that left to my own devices I would read Piers Plowman or Paradise Lost. But I am hugely glad that I read both these works.

UptheChimney Wed 12-Jun-13 08:01:52

Ah, but did you read Paradise Regained?

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 08:03:38

Yes, but I confess the memory of it has faded slightly.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 08:13:44

Iloveyour DD is still quite young, so it's entirely normal that you still feel one unit.

It probably seems unimaginable that soon, very soon, she will start making her own choices, entirely independently grin.

By the time she comes to choosing such things as university courses, you will probably wonder how on earth you ever thought you'd be involved to such a level and you'll probably be rather glad!!!

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 09:33:49

A sad day if the only reason for choosing particular books to read is to encourage a child to read English at Cambridge. Actually...I'm not sure whether it is sad or happy: does it matter what the reason is, perhaps not. Ithaka, journeys vs destination and all that.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 09:34:45
wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 09:36:01

funny I don't think the motivation matters.

It's the doing it that's important!

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 09:53:42

I tend to agree with wordfactory. Once I decided to apply for Cambridge - there was a separate entrance exam then - it was clear that I would need to read more widely than I was already doing. So I read Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, some eighteenth century poetry - plus some 19th century French novels. (For a translation paper). This definitely opened up new horizons for me.

For anyone thinking about doing an English degree, it's probably worth reading some English literature from earlier eras just to get a sense of whether there are particular times and/or countries - so much modern literature in English now comes from Australia, Canada, the Caribbean etc- that you find especially interesting.

But I wouldn't put this on a 'must do' list for a 12 year old!

chenin Wed 12-Jun-13 13:02:23

Having had a DD take English at Bristol Uni (and loved every minute of her course) I have to say I sort of knew at age 12 that English would be her thing. She was a vociferous reader, a writer of stories (I have kept them all and they make absolutely hilarious reading now!) and I never ever pushed her to read anything - she just came to it naturally.

She was obsessed with the Beano comic when she was little (yes really!) and then slowly devoured anything and everything and at her instigation slowly moved on to some of the classics at a later age.

Her English degree involved genres she hates and ones she loved and now she has just finished Uni she said to me the other day that she is so much loving being able to read for pleasure as she hasn't really been able to do that for the last three years. Now she can read what she wants, when she wants. (and she is such a speed reader through necessity with the huge amount of books she had to read every week, week in week out)

What I'm trying to say here is... I don't think you should push any sort of literature her way because Rabbits, your DD will find her own way with it. She might well change direction ... but I wish you best of luck with it.

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 13:38:01

On the other hand if somebody thinks they want to study English at a particularly competitive University, but hasn't read any more than 'Of Mice and Men', 'The Crucible', 'To Kill a Mockingbird' the Shakespeare set texts etc and some popular teen fiction - it's not really giving them a good preparation/or enhancing their chances.

If they are genuinely interested in literature, they will relish the exploration of some less familiar novels/plays/poetry. If they hate it - well, then they've found out something which should inform their choices.

I do agree about the pleasure of reading for pleasure after doing lots of set texts!

Floggingmolly Wed 12-Jun-13 13:44:07

Why the hell would you ignore??? That's really sad, actually...
Poor kid, with parents who have to be told it's ok to encourage her.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 18:05:14

Reading books doesn't = place at Cambridge.
At 12, I would say Charles Dickens, A Ransome, E Waugh, PG Wodehouse, G Eliott, Maupassant, Saki, Dostoevsky, Kafka, T Hardy, DH Lawrence, Beowulf, Orwell, Stephenson (original), Dumas (original) etc all for fun: I wouldn't be forcing it down anyone's throat.

Also can I just point out that in public libraries these days it is actually quite difficult to find books of 'classical' fiction. When I pointed this out in our local library, they said it is because there isn't the demand, even though there is a large state secondary school just next door. I read as a child because the books were on my parents bookshelves, but OP wont have those books on the shelves.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 18:36:42

There was an ironic story in an Aldous Huxley book which mentioned a person who read all the books on a classical bookshelf starting with authors beginning with A and going onto Z. In Edwardian times it was clear what one had to have read to be 'well read' . It is not so clear now. Benjamin Zephaniah is as important as any in my opinion.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 18:39:16

I do have some Dickens on my shelves and Bronte novels and A Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovitch. I have Mill on the Floss, an anthology of Pushkin's poems,Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and a few Margaret Attwood novels. I am not well read by any means but I like to try different genres and eras from time to time. Having no degree doesn't automatically make one disinterested in different kinds of literature. And despite no formal education I like to think that I can still expand my world with good quality reading (as well as trashy teen fiction grin).

In terms of the thread title, it does over-simplify my question somewhat. I suppose I didn't want to over-encourage dd now in terms of university. It's not that I needed other people to tell me to encourage her in a general sense. It was more about how to balance 12 year old aspirations with reality and to assess whether now was too early to encourage destination thinking. Also, I have little knowledge of when to start thinking about university. This will be the first child in my family or dh's to go to university (if she does go in the end). And it seems that building some habits should start now and options next year need to be right for dd's aspirations.

I am shocked at the 'poor child, terrible parents' sentiment. Blimey...I'm not talking about squashing her aspirations or pushing her out to get a job and pay rent! I am just trying to get the balance right.

I have picked up lots of advice from this thread, so thanks for all constructive advice. One mum has even been kind enough to PM me, so thank you so much for that.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 18:41:45

oooh...I love Benjamin Zephania. What an amazing man. They are serialising a story of his on Radio 4 Extra, I believe. That's on my own hit list for the next week or two smile

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 18:42:53

Sorry for wrong spelling of name....back on small phone keyboard!blush blush

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 18:49:29

I'm currently working in a community library. There are classics shelves in both the adult and children's sections. Also librarians will get books from other (bigger) libraries that are part of the same authority. Most librarians are incredibly supportive of borrowers. They are keen to get people in/increase borrowing figures so they can fight against councils who see them as a soft target for cuts.

I think the sought-after universities are looking for evidence of a real curiosity - and/or 'passion' to use a rather stale term - for the subject. So just having read school set texts and the most widely read contemporary authors wouldn't show that curiosity/passion Some libraries now have teenage reading groups, which weren't around in my day. Again this can be a good way for young people who might be a bit more interested in a particular subject than some of their classmates, to take things a bit further...

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 19:30:56

I find you can pretty much order anyhting online from your library. I think they charge 70p.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 19:49:56

O levels are formal education rabbits. Did any of your elder siblings sit CSEs? Was your school a grammar or ex grammar? I think you may have had a better education than you think; lots of people did far worse.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 19:51:55

Gosh I really hope you're joking funny (for fun, aged 12? shock).

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 19:53:52

None of my siblings took exams at all. I was the first. I am not saying I didn't have any formal education. I said I didn't have a degree. I don't.

FrauMoose Wed 12-Jun-13 19:54:27

DH Lawrence is not fun! And I think at 12 it might be positively harmful....

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 19:55:01

I apologise...I meant no formal further education.

Wuldric Wed 12-Jun-13 19:56:22

I really think that you should just make mild encouraging noises and forget about it. There is far to far to go right now and too many bridges to cross.

FWIW for a child to be aiming at Oxbridge they need to have a genuine passion for their subject. So I don't mean doing stuff diligently at school, but really being halfway possessed by it.

stickortwist Wed 12-Jun-13 20:01:56

I just wanted to let OP know she isnt alone in that ds1 wants to go to cambridge and do archeology and anthropology. We went to the museum a few yrs ago and he still raves about it. He is nearly 10 !!
He is doing ok at school but not a genius by any stretch. I kind of said.... Yes yhat woulf be cool but a long time until you get there and you might change you're mind. he does however love national geographic and any bbc 4 programme about archeology so you never know!!

defineme Wed 12-Jun-13 20:04:08

Funnyperson has mentioned the kind of things my cousin was reading at 12 and it was always clear that books were her absolute passion. She read every book in her school library when she was at middle school. She's been offered places at Durham and Nottingham(which now has more applications than any other in the country). She will be the first child in her immediate family to go to university and they have supported her love of literature, but she'd have been going to the library every other day even if they hadn't.

defineme Wed 12-Jun-13 20:10:26

I'm certainly not Oxford standard, but I was reading Lawrence at 12 too! It was on the shelves and so I read it because I can find something to love in most books and 8 books a week from the library sometimes wasn't enough.
Dh is the same (he did English at Durham), tbh there's not much he hasn't read (well some of the dire stuff on those lists aside!) and I am jealous of the amazing way his degree took him through the history of literature.

LittleBearPad Wed 12-Jun-13 20:16:18

OP encourage her by taking her seriously. Her goals may change over the next few years and they will be equally important to her and as valid. So as long as its ok for her to choose her goals freely and work for them then go for it.

Yellow you are being very persnickety. It's none of your business what qualifications OP's siblings have nor is it relevant.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 20:30:13

rabbits you did say 'despite no formal education' earlier this evening (6.39pm) and so, given that you have O Levels, I picked you up on that. O Levels were not taken by the whole school population, they were for the upper tier only. CSEs were taken by the majority until GCSEs became the universal qualification.

LittleBearPad I'm entirely free to ask questions. It may be none of my business and OP is not required to answer of course, but this is someone pleading no decent education and who castigates her mother for discouraging her educational ambitions (as distinct from merely not encouraging her). I'm intrigued with the apparent contradictions and it's certainly not your business to tell me that I shouldn't be. I'm always interested in apparent contradictions. I find it quite often in the CVs I'm required to read.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 20:36:21

'Halfway possessed' Wuldric? Boy, there must be a shedload of frauds studying a those unis in that case. Really, you just need to be seriously clever and genuinely interested not halfway possessed - that sounds completely exhausting.

FrauMoose I agree aout Lawrence. All these idiotic orgasms every few pages. Not really for 12 yr old 'fun'.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 20:38:21

at those, not a those. No odd dialect intended, sorry.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 20:38:38

We did sons and lovers at school when I was 13. I wished we hadn't. It put me off Lawrence for life.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 20:39:44

about, not aout. I really do need not an ancient computer.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 20:41:47

I was most certainly never halfway possessed by either maths or history and politics (the subjects I did at Part I and Part II of my tripos). I was more than halfway possessed by many things at ages 12, ages 18-22 and well, now (and they have mainly been the same things. Why yes I am listening to a Big Finish audio as I type grin ) but maths, history or politics? Nah.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 20:43:45

Oh FFS yellowtip, OP alluded to 'no formal education' immediately after referencing the fact that she didn't do a degree. I don't think anyone thought she was saying she hadn't been to school.

What on earth is your problem here? Are you doubting she is who she says she is? Or do you think only your children should have a shot at Oxbridge? Because I really don't get your attitude on this thread and I think it is completely uncalled for.

OP, I think you're doing all the right things and you have had great advice on this thread from the majority of posters. I wish you and your DD luck.

FamiliesShareGerms Wed 12-Jun-13 20:44:17

OP, I would say to be encouraging, rather than encourage her, IYKWIM.

The subject choice will be really important (my degree is one of those that is better studied outside Oxbridge, for example). She has lots of time to decide yet, though it sounds like she is being sensible in her exam choices so far.

But don't let this become the be all and end all - it really isn't the end of the world if she doesn't end up at Oxbridge, though it might feel that way to her if she has spent six years planning to go there.

And of course at some point she needs to decide which one she wants to go to, and why

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 20:47:22

Yellowtip, I was naturally bright. I took o levels because I got 82% in my French exam in my first year at secondary school. I had a natural aptitude for language, apparently. It put me in the top set for English and Maths and Consequently I ended up taking o levels, as did the top 2 classes in my sink estate comp. I didn't think that was so unusual, but clearly you know better.

My mother told me, when I said I wanted to go to college at 16, that I had ideas above my station and I had to go out and get a job and bring some money in for the rent, just like my siblings had. I fought it for as long as I could but eventually gave in and got an office job.

What bugs you about my education or this thread I don't even want to understand, but whatever issues you have here, I'm glad they're not mine.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 20:51:00

I'm not getting yellowtips's problem either OP. I think you're probably best to ignore.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 20:54:39

And by the way, thanks for starting the thread, there's been some really useful stuff posted for anyone who has a DC considering Oxford or Cambridge as an option

Wuldric Wed 12-Jun-13 20:54:59

yellowtip I acknowledge that perhaps halfway possessed is an exaggeration but I don't think that many people understand that there is a difference between having an interest in something and a passion for something (and IME, Oxbridge prefer the latter)

The seriously clever point is relevant as well. It's not enough to be top of your year. In most schools, you have to be top of your year for your subject (and others) by a country mile to be aiming for Oxbridge - unless that is you are fortunate enough to be at the sort of school that sends pupils to Oxbridge by the dozen.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 20:55:33

I wanted to go to Cambridge when I was 12. And it was clearly a realistic ambition at that point. I wanted to go when I was 7 too and it was clearly realistic even then. But at no point, ever, not even after O levels, did my parents start asking round about the best way to get me there. They were always supportive, they always told me I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard, but they didn't try and steer me anywhere. And, most importantly, they didn't try to live their lives through me. That would have been an unwelcome pressure, I think. There's nothing wrong with having dreams at 12. There's a lot wrong with being a Stage Mother.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 20:56:54

Thanks marni and families. I know on a thread like this it can look like you're obsessing, but dd hasn't mentioned uni in days and neither have I. Although this thread has carried on, I haven't in real life., I'm just bookmarking the bits I like and ignoring the bits that seem less relevant.

DD's now on book 5 of the Gone series and I've asked her if she wants to borrow my copy of the Chrysalids or Brave New World next as she's clearly in a dystopian frame of mind. We often read the same books as we like to talk about them together. I dare say when she's older that'll stop completely for a while at least but for now, I'm filling my boots, as they say, if you'll excuse the vernacular.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 20:58:57

The OP wasn't asking how best to get her DD there though. She was asking whether to encourage or ignore the child's own stated aim. Because she didn't want to do the wrong thing. There's a world of difference.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 21:00:58

Don't worry about it rabbits. You're not obsessing.

LittleBearPad Wed 12-Jun-13 21:03:13

Yellowtip you clearly think you're appearing in the penultimate episode of the Apprentice picking apart the OP's 'CV' of statements but your comments seem pretty mean spirited

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 21:05:09

Particularly when they come from someone who already has 4 DC at Oxford...

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 21:06:07

Ooh - thanks LittleBear. I'd lost track of the time (one hour time difference doesn't help). Thank heavens for Brussels getting BBC 1!

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 21:06:28

I'm not steering anyone anywhere Russians and I'd make a lousy stage mother as dd would only have to say 'I don't want to do that' and I'd say 'fair enough'.. I was merely asking advice on what I should for dd right now. Said advice was proffered.

I have quite plainly said I'm not at all convinced dd has the necessary level of brightness to get to Oxbridge, but I am not going to crush her dreams now, when she has nothing concrete to hang them on. All I can do for now is ensure that she does what's best for her education in general. That might mean talking to her about options, though she already has hers in mind. It might mean encouraging her to read different materials by making sure they are available to her. She's not hothoused. She's not being forced into a path of study or toward a goal she can't reach. I've taken the bits I think dd will find useful from here as anyone would. The rest will possibly never apply, but as I said initial thread asked how to deal with this, not how do I get my girl into Oxbridge at any cost.

LittleBearPad Wed 12-Jun-13 21:07:26

No problem although I'm jealous - Athens is too far south for BBC1, enjoy!

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 21:08:00

As, clearly, mAny others have noticed. Thanks for the support.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 21:08:40

LittleBear - weather might be better in Athens though! I skipped a formal dinner on the pretext of work to do. Really - my appointment with Lord Sugar king of comedy take precedence!

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 21:10:55

And my point is that you don't have to, and nor should you, 'deal with it'. This seems to be the bit you are not getting. She needs to be able to explore ideas and dreams without having everything she looks at pounced on.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 21:11:38

That should have said, I'm just trying to do my best for dd, as some of you have noticed. These posts came in whilst I was trying to write a rational response to the people who think I am obsessed with Oxbridge and trying to push dd there at all costs.

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 12-Jun-13 21:22:05

Ok Russians. A chat forum - where one talks endlessly about a topic because its there and you are responding to questions and statements vs real life where said posts have entered the consciousness and been filed away and not necessarily acted upon.

In terms of dealing with it, I was just looking for advice. I will deal with the advice I have been given and let some of it inform how I best help dd. she's my child. She's 12. IF she comes to me for advice I now feel more equipped to help her. IF I have to talk to school I now know more about the university process than I did. IF dd asks for advice on how to get to university, I can now guide her more effectively than I could have before this thread. That's what I meant by deal with it.

Marni23 Wed 12-Jun-13 21:26:44

Am I reading a different thread or something? The OP isn't 'pouncing' on anything. She acknowledged that her DD isn't top of the class. She acknowledged that she's only 12 and there's a long way to go. Her DD has expressed a lofty ambition which she may, or may not, be able to achieve. If she spends the next 6 years thinking that's where she'll go and fails to get in that could be a real problem for her. So does the OP encourage her? Encourage her but try to suggest that other universities may suit her better? Or, if it looks unlikely as time goes on that she'll achieve her ambitions, try to manage her expectations? It's a perfectly reasonable question expressed in perfectly reasonable terms.

Elquota Wed 12-Jun-13 21:30:54

Encourage in a non-committal sort of way, saying you'll support her in whatever further/higher education she eventually chooses. If you jump in too far with the Oxbridge stuff at this stage, it will be harder for her to back out if she feels Oxbridge is what you really approve of most, and she "ought" to continue in that direction. Support her in getting the best out of her education, as well as all other aspects of life, and wait and see where this takes her in a few years time.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 21:43:04

Russians me too (S&L at school aged 13).

Marni this has got everything to do with me being a cynic and has bugger all to do with my DC, though you mention them twice in succession, which is more than I've done. But they're ok with competition actually, so am I. I think there are several thousand places to fill between the two unis anyhow and sadly/ mercifully I haven't been quite that prolific.

LittleBear I make no apologies for enjoying picking holes in CVs or with enjoying The Apprentice. And now I need to pay full attention to The Boardroom smile

FairPhyllis Wed 12-Jun-13 21:45:12

Yes, encourage her. Why ever not? Otherwise you'd basically be saying to her that you don't think she's good enough confused.

The very best thing you can do for her is to encourage her to read very widely in lots of genres - both good literary stuff AND fun books. Having a love of reading is mind expanding, helps your writing and critical skills no end, and is fun. It will stand her in good stead whatever she does. And that's the one thing that all the non-science people I knew at Oxford had in common (and lots of the scientists too actually) - we had all been voracious readers from an early age. And not just fiction - give her a poetry anthology or a book of Greek myths or something.

Get her a library card if she doesn't have one and encourage her to take books out of the school library.

And don't fall for the thing of 'classic literature can wait for GCSE'. She should be able to read quite a lot of classic literature - try things like the Moonstone, or Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Room with a View, A Christmas Carol, The Lord of the Rings etc. I think the fiction that is generally marketed at teens and tweens is quite patronising. Now is the time to start reading that sort of stuff.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 22:05:01

Yellow There was obviously a croydonwide decree that the girls of Croydon needed to be squicked out at 13.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 22:13:13

Sharing interests is Good. I would massively agree with that. Whatever the shared interest is. DH had no shared interests with his parents or siblings and he really thinks that impoverished his life as a teen. I think my life was enriched beyond measure by the fact that my parents between them shared my interests, I hope that my kids will feel the same way.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 22:21:59

I wasn't joking actually I just mentioned some of the things I (and friends too!) read- DH Lawrence actually was of course on the list being a) forbidden and b) me being 12. Lots of laughter with friends about how he kept on about stirrings in the loins.
But of course you are right, 12 year olds won't get all the nuances and a lot of the depth- which is why these books get re-read sometimes.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 22:24:52

I found (and still find) the 70p reservation charge in libraries off-putting. Also it is nice to be able to browse through a shelf of books and choose.Those interminable catalogues they have just dont do it for me.

funnyperson Wed 12-Jun-13 22:27:10

And the 'teen fiction' shelves really irritate me, as if libraries are encouraging teens to read rubbish.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 12-Jun-13 22:40:14

Not all fiction now labeled 'teen' is rubbish. A lot of very good speculative fiction is now labeled teen on the basis that teens might like it, not because it's in some way deficient. I have several friends who write books that are sometimes marketed to the teen market. They don't write rubbish.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 22:43:42

Yes funny there was all the stirring loins stuff which was a bit hard for a 12yr old girl to head her head around and then there was the oop north bacon supper for t' workers stuff and on top of that there was dreary Miriam. Nothing was ever so difficult for anyone as it was for poor beleaguered Miriam. She really, really pissed me off. No-one ever was so dreary as Miriam.

Yellowtip Wed 12-Jun-13 22:48:02

I do think some teen stuff is good too. I'm dead against this idea that young people have to do the equivalent of a Grand Tour in whatever their chosen subject. So much new stuff is good, they shouldn't do it by rote, they should simply explore.

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 03:02:57

Of course Miriam was irritating, that was the whole point of Miriam, and that one might grow into her was the secret/not so secret fear of every neurotic or half-depressive 12 year old. Incidentally it isn't always a great idea for a 12 year old to have their head in a book.
I knew someone who wrote a very very good book which the publishers thought would be good for the teen market because it didn't have any major violence or swearing. This current idea that adults nowadays only read books with violence and swearing pisses me off. My computer parental controls are permanently set at 11 years as it saves me a lot of bother and unpleasantness, I suppose that is why they need a teen fiction section these days. That said, some children's books, notably those of Anne Fine, have dreadful scenes of distressing violence and she was banned from my household. The Booker prize or Pullitzer prize shortlists are usually 'safe' to read.
All the boys seem to play Call of Duty and Halo these days, perhaps this means the girls will end up reading more: it will be interesting to see.

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 13-Jun-13 07:31:35

Marni Thank you for summing up what I thought I had been saying. I did start to question whether I was coming across as an utter loon but your summary says exactly what was in my head grin.

FrauMoose Thu 13-Jun-13 07:36:33

I'd agree about not automatically dismissing teen fiction. I think some of it is just very much a (constructive) way of exploring teenagers anxieties - or adult anxieties about teenagers. But there's always stuff that transcends those limitations. Ditto with genre fiction. There are wonderful historical stories, thrillers, excellent sci-fi. A diet of approved classics and contemporary literary fiction might be a bit deadly. I'd also point out that material on a degree course will contain a great deal of sex and violence. (There is plenty of this in Othello.) So going for a sanitised approach is not something I'd recommend. It's more that Lawrence seems very old-fashioned now - and his attitudes towards sexuality are 'interesting' to say the least. (Teen fiction is probably rather sounder on this topic!)

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 10:58:21

OP silly question but have you and your DD read His Dark Materials?
My DD and I still talk together about Lyra's Oxford when we wander down its very beautiful back ways.

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 13-Jun-13 11:05:37

We haven't yet. I've read Pullman and the three books are on her bookshelf but she hasn't discussed them at all. From that, I think she might not have read them, but she doesn't tell me everything she reads. I'd half forgotten about those books and the Oxford Pullman painted was alluring in so many ways. I might read them myslef again!

FrauMoose Thu 13-Jun-13 11:16:40

Quite apart from the Oxford connection, I was thinking about Philip Pullman, when saying that some authors who appeal to teenagers are very good indeed...

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 11:20:32

Yes, the thing is if you/DD fall in love with the place you both have to be prepared for heartache if she doesn't get in when older, thats the thing.

GooseyLoosey Thu 13-Jun-13 11:31:04

Encourage her to the very best of your ability, but make sure she is aware of other options. Pursuit of dreams is a good thing.

My mother was from a similar background to you (as indeed was the rest of my family). I decided I wanted to go to Oxford to read law when I was 11. I never revisited that decision and that is exactly what I did.

The problem is, I never considered any other options and I don't know that the road I went down was the one I was best suited for, I simply didn't think about it.

I would encourage her to aim for whatever she wants to do but to make sure she keeps her options open and considers other avenues. I think this is a healthier approach than mine was.

Final comment is that DH is head of department at the leading uni in his field and occasionally does undergrad admissions. He is always stunned when the candidates are unable to say clearly why they want to do his subject, why they want to go to his uni and what they want to achieve.

ShoeWhore Thu 13-Jun-13 11:42:08

I agree with Goosey.

I'd also say I was a bit like your daughter. My parents took me to Cambridge when we were holidaying nearby when I was about 11 and my Dad stood me in the middle of the lawn of one of the most picturesque colleges and said "you could come here for university". I was so inspired!

I was certainly bright enough (I'm not boasting) but woefully underprepared for my interview (my school didn't have a clue tbh) and I didn't get in. Initially I was devastated but you know I got over it and I still think my parents were right to encourage me. I went to another uni instead (the one full of all the other Oxbridge rejects grin ) had a great time, got a good degree, made some amazing friends and I don't regret any of it.

So maybe encourage but open her eyes to all the possibilities at the same time...

MissHC Thu 13-Jun-13 11:54:39

I'd say encourage her, but as others have said keep an open mind as there are other great universities that might be better suited, depending on the subject she chooses. My DP is from a poor area, working class family. However he worked his ass off and got asked to go to Cambridge. They went through quite a lot of trouble. However he wanted to study chemistry. Visited Cambridge and was not impressed by their facilities for that subject. He got offers from quite a few other unis and in the end went to Manchester Uni as he felt that had the best facilities and would push him hard enough (e.g. Newcastle told him he could just skip the first year with his knowledge which didn't give him the most confidence in the difficulty of the course).

GraduateofPoorComp Thu 13-Jun-13 12:07:44

My sink comp had two classes doing some "O" levels.

Ilovemyrabbits : I believe you! grin

(Interesting thread in a couple of ways.)

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 13-Jun-13 16:01:29

Graduate I'd say google Manor High School Wednesbury, but it's no longer a school. It turned into an academy and I think it closed down recently after many, many OFSTED failures. My primary school, Fir Tree Infant School was also closed down due to OFSTED. I loved my primary school, but the area I came from changed dramatically from a rough and ready area to a place where lots of the socially disadvantaged were sent.
Figures inevitably went downhill and there was another primary school in the area, so no surprise there. The area I went to school was called Friar Park. It has been gentrified a little of late, as have a lot of areas, but it's still less privileged than the area I live in now, by about a country mile!

I may be confused about the number of entrants there were for O Levels. I never thought I was anything special, so assumed the class below us got entered for them as well. Maybe it was just the one class thinking back. Lordy, my brain hurts when I try to think that far back. I am 48 now, so it was a long time ago.

I find it so funny that people think I'm lying about my background. I don't know if it's because I can write fairly cogently, have read more widely than some people might think or because we are now doing alright. Whatever it is, doesn't matter to me. If people on a forum don't believe where I've come from, or what I'm saying, I won't lose any sleep about it. Why would a 'tiger mother' or 'stage mother' lie about background? Guess it's a Mumsnet thing.

DD is a great one for planning but she's also a realist. I am sure that if she believes she's not going to make it to Oxbridge, she'll take it in her stride. I am also fairly sure she'll try her best to make it though, at least until I see signs that she won't :D. Just off to brush off Debretts to see what kind of bloke I can get for her when she gets to Oxford (ha ha!).

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 17:18:44

I don't think you're lying about your background rabbits you're simply flogging it and then flogging it some more. Your DD is clearly privileged in many ways and far more so than many very able students who've managed to get to Oxford despite really, really, really difficult backgrounds. At the very least she's attention rich with an ultra supportive and cohesive family so frankly she's got little excuse not to do well.

My advice is sound and clearly shared by others on the thread, though obviously not all. I'd say take a rain check during the GCSE years and then again at results and go light on university destinations up until then, except in the most oblique of ways and with an occasional nudge in a positive direction. But then what would I know.

FrauMoose Thu 13-Jun-13 17:25:10

What an extraordinarily arrogant, offensive and patronising post.

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 17:54:41

ilovemyrabbits the engagement ring issue is a whole other story not helped by David Starkey's programme on universities as marriage markets when covering the royal engagement. I was stunned at how many grumpy mothers (of rejects) asked me outright (and very rudely) if I had encouraged my DD to go to Oxford for social climbing or marriage reasons. Oddly, the thoughts had not even entered my head (coming from an era when people, esp if brainy, married late). However there is a significant body of motherhood which regards coming out of Oxford/Cambridge/LSE etc without an engagement ring or long term partner as a failure so beware. Colleges with richer students are those with a greater intake from private schools, but trust me, the boys are not thinking of future wives at university! I would put Debretts firmly away.

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 18:07:03

btw I think it is Queens College at Oxford which has a Northern connection.

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 18:15:07

No it isn't, not in context Moose but my posts here are pretty irrelevant.

Marni23 Thu 13-Jun-13 20:05:27


'Marni this has got everything to do with me being a cynic and has bugger all to do with my DC, though you mention them twice in succession, which is more than I've done.'

Just in the interests of accuracy (which I know you feel strongly about) you'd actually mentioned your DC 5 times in the thread up to that point. Including a reference to having 'sent' 4 of them to Oxford.

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 21:32:10

Ok Marni in the interests of accuracy (which yes is something I like) I'll trawl back through the thread. I expect I'll find you're correct about five mentions but I also expect I'll find nothing outrageously boasty, since I tend not to big my kids up. I did once but it was reasonable in the context, but it's not a habit at all.

Don't parents send their kids to a particular school? What then is the correct terminology for university? Do I/ did I drive them to Oxford? Do I/ did I stand on the sidelines disinterestedly and refuse to acknowledge success? I can't see that it's a particularly emotive or loaded term, sending. I expect I did actually play some peripheral part in their getting places at Oxford, or at least the SFE would suggest that I had a marginal hand. Whatever, I've given the OP the benefit of what I've learned in these past few years and she's been pretty dismissive, so fair's fair.

funnyperson Thu 13-Jun-13 21:41:50

Well it is impressive to have 4 children in a family going to Oxford in this lottery day and age. I'm not convinced I've heard enough detail on how this came about actually yellowtip because you generally always sound very laid back about it. On reflection the school must have had a lot to do with it. And the DC themselves. But did they decide when they were 12? And how did they themselves approach the process?

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 21:46:20

I have been laid back funny, is completely the point! And yes definitely to school - they've been incredibly lucky. Still, no-one wants to hear that and I'm still only scanning p7. Must plod on!

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 22:00:15

As I assumed Marni, given how specific you were, you're absolutely correct. But then so am I:

1) June 4th: tried to show DC good alternative choices.
2) June 7th: tried to plug the merits of alternative choices.
3) June 10th: have sent 4 DC to Oxford despite lacking a vastly privileged background.
4) June 11th: (directly responding to angus). No I believe my DC are very different to OP's DD and finally
5) June 11th: my DC complain about having siblings.

Not exactly bigging them up Marni is it? And look at the absurd number of other posts I've made on this very long thread!

Marni23 Thu 13-Jun-13 22:06:21

I didn't say you'd been boasty yellow. I was simply refuting the accusation you levelled at me about mentioning your DC when you hadn't.

FWIW I don't think for one moment that you've been pushy with your DC but that's because I genuinely take your posts at face value. That's all we can do on an anonymous online forum. And that's why I am so puzzled about your attitude to the OP on this thread.

Ilovemyrabbits Thu 13-Jun-13 22:06:47

'What is your own educational background OP? At what age did you leave school and what did you do then? ' is how the interrogation started Yellowtip.

After slating me for wanting to take dd to open days (which I'd never said was even a whisper of a thought) you then started asking for all sorts of details about whether she was state or grammar, what qualifications my siblings had taken, insisting how highly educated I was, despite my protests.

I gave information Yellowtips and I answered threads as they came in. If I've flogged my background to death, it's cos I feel like I'm under attack.

Read my comments. At no point have I said, DD wants to go to Oxford, how do I get her there. At no point have I said, DD will be crushed if she doesn't get there, what do I do. At no point have I said, I think DD is really sensible to set her heart on this at 12 years old. Now do take a biscuit or a glass of wine and just back off. I've had enough of you making personal comments about me, my family and my background.

Liara Thu 13-Jun-13 22:13:51

Please don't discourage her, whether directly or subtly.

I decided I wanted to go to Oxford when I was 5. Everyone laughed.

I still wanted to go to Oxford when I was 16. Given that I was nowhere near straight As at O level (and didn't do 10 of them either, it was 7 or 8 I think) no-one thought I had a shot.

My parents were mostly non-committal, and I realise now that they were just worried about my being disappointed.

But at the time I experienced it as being unsupportive, and felt very, very alone as I struggled through my A levels (not straight As either). My school were mostly unsupportive, apart from two wonderful teachers who made it possible for me to live through that year, and helped me every step of the way.

In the end I did get to go to Oxford, and it was 3 absolutely wonderful years of my life. I loved it, and am so happy to have had the experience. I was the first person from my school ever to get in.

But if I hadn't got in, I would always have wondered if I could have made it if only my parents had been more supportive. Whereas I think if I felt that I had had every chance and I still hadn't made it I would have just gone 'oh, well, such is life'.

RussiansOnTheSpree Thu 13-Jun-13 22:18:44

Ilove If it was me asking (and it never would be) I'd take the advice from the one person on the thread best qualified to give it. But that's just me. You seem determined to ignore Yellow and anybody else who doesnt immediately agree with what is clearly your position. It seems to me that every time someone advises you to back off and stop being so precious, you get all blustery about your background - I certainly don't doubt that you background is as you say it is, I do maintain that your background is hardly unusual especially given your age. It is, therefore, irrelevant.

Your initial question was framed as 'encourage or ignore'. For the avoidance of doubt, and speaking only for now, not for when your DD is say in Y11...ignore. Or, better yet, be neutral. This is not your life, it's hers. It's very easy to read some of the threads on mumsnet from some of the more pushy micromanagingmums and start to worry that this level of obsession is normal and healthy. It isn't. You will be much much more helpful to your DD if you don't fall into the trap of becoming mumzilla. You may not be happier yourself, you may never lose the itch to micromanage, but she will be happier. And better prepared for the real world.

Yellowtip Thu 13-Jun-13 22:33:44

Thank you Russians, again.

rabbits there's a lot to be said for not blaming the past and what could have been, since it hasn't been and now never will be. Moaning never helped anyone do anything other than feel worse.

FrauMoose Fri 14-Jun-13 07:20:51

On a forum like this there is not one expert. There are some self-appointed ones actually. There are contributions from those who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities reflecting on their time and experiences there some positive, some a little less so. There are contributions from other people who attended the universities which were the most highly ranked from their particular course of study. Many people have talked about the way in which their parents influenced - again, for better or worse - their educational choices. We've talked about the influence of schools and the way in which teenagers develop. There's been some debate on teenage reading and the study of English literature.

A point that hasn't been made explicitly - but which I was reflecting on - when I read some of the earlier contributions, was that when a young person goes further and is more successful than one of their peers it is often because one person has played a significant role in encouraging and enabling them. Sometimes it is a teacher, sometimes a parent, sometimes another adult.

Arguably a child from a middle-class professional background attending a school where it is expected that many/most/all students will go on to Russell Group universities and career success does not need this sort of individual mentoring. It is just everywhere. In the air.

However if your parents are - for example skilled manual workers or doing white collar job and you attend a school where many people go on to do vocational courses, rather than further academic study, you will need one or two people giving significant encouragement if you want to prioritise university eduation.

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 07:58:04

I agree Frau. I really don't think anyone should listen in totality to one poster's 'advice'however much expertise they say they have. MN works best for garnering a host of different opions which one can consider.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 14-Jun-13 08:22:30

Frau I expect you noticed I participated in most of those elements of this thread? In particular the 'person who went to Cambridge from a disadvantaged working class background' element, and the 'books/value thereof' element.

I don't actually need you to tell me (through guessing?) what a kid from a disadvantaged working class background needs to help her get to Oxbridge. It's also not relevant in the case of this thread since that description doesn't fit OPs child. What is relevant is the fact that carrying the weight of living someone else's dream as well as your own isn't good for anyone from any background. I have seen so many kids/young people burdened in this way. The OP certainly doesn't give the impression of being beyond the point of no return in that respect yet - but she does give the impression of being looking at that path. And my advice is to take the other one. The sensible one.

Yellowtip Fri 14-Jun-13 08:35:36

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

wordfactory Fri 14-Jun-13 08:39:45

yellow I think one should treat all advice given on t'internet with a degree of caution!

Even if an 'expert' has genuine credentials (which of course we can't verify) they only know what they know. None of us know everyhting about specialist subjects! There are bound to be aspects we've never come across.

For example, people ask me all the time in RL about getting an agent and a publisher. I can tell them what I know. I can tell them how it worked for me and lots of writers I know. But is the sum of all knowledge? Couldn't possibly be.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 14-Jun-13 08:40:33

Especially the advice that talks about department ratings. ;)

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.

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 08:53:41

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!

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

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.

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.

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?

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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

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) 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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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 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. 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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