Oxbridge and State Schools

(209 Posts)
RiversideMum Wed 27-Mar-13 05:49:02

Feeling a bit cross about a presentation DD attended at a local school for all the secondaries in the area. It didn't seem hugely encouraging given that the DCs there had been invited to attend by their schools and therefore had the potential to be applicants. Now in my heart of hearts I'm not sure that DD is Oxbridge material, but for her to come away for the presentation saying "I don't think I would fit in" is somewhat disappointing.

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 13:28:08

I am afraid I do think what I feel for my subject is what I define as passion as in endlessly fascinating, a joy to discuss and explore, hugely exciting when I uncover some new truth or evidence.... I was at an evening discussing my subject with lots of bright clever people last night, best evening for a long time (and I am married wink) I know my DD feels the same, had a very bouncy excited 20 year old discussing the contents of a museum full of stuffed animals the other day hmm and watching the film about Richard Feynman's involvement in the Challenger enquiry (well worth watching, should still be on iplayer) I suddenly got it too (if only I could add up, and didn't faint at the sight of blood)

Arsedness doesn't do it, no romance, too much doggedness, I don't need doggedness, just to make the time I need.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 29-Mar-13 13:39:35

If all you care about is the thing you are studying, or your work, then that's a real shame. I'm delighted my kids have wide ranging interests and the better students and staff I have seen through the years are the ones who care (and, crucially, know) about more than just their field.

Arsedness isn't doggedness at all. Quite the reverse. Doggedness is necessary when you don't have sufficient appropriate arse. grin

If I read an application stating that the writer has a passion for their field (as opposed to their hobby) then I assume they have a limited vocabulary and poor written communication skills. And also that they are no stranger to cliche. I know I'm not alone in this. smile

Yellowtip Fri 29-Mar-13 13:44:50

My father used to put those who applied for a job in his department with Firsts at the bottom of the maybe pile, on the grounds that they may be too limited in other spheres (this was Firsts dating back to the Fifties and Sixties mind you).

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 13:54:05

Russians wasn't that the point I made, better to use the words in the PS to demonstrate passion, arsedness, whatever, by what you have achieved and learned through it than waste them on an empty word.

I make no apology for carving out time from all the other demands on my life, wife, mother, daughter, friend, carer, counsellor, entertainments officer, chauffeur, cook, dogwalker and trainer, hiker, decorator, art appreciator, knitter, patient, gym bunny etc etc etc for this one bit of personal indulgence wink which hopefully will add to the world's store of knowledge and understanding.......

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 13:55:03

Traveller, mustn't forget traveller...

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 13:55:23

and local campaigner

lainiekazan Fri 29-Mar-13 17:26:50

Feel sorry for kids writing personal statements. Must have sore fingers leafing through the thesaurus looking for synonyms for "passion". And where does this need for fervent appreciation leave the very clever student who is merely very interested in a subject and would like to explore it further? I mean, I don't believe Oxbridge are looking for the prodigy who has already published three papers on Richard II's body hair. Isn't a fine mind better than a mind which has already firmly decided at the age of 18 what its "passion" is?

GoLadyEdith Fri 29-Mar-13 17:34:23

The word 'passion' appeared nowhere on ds's statement. Nor did 'enthusiasm' or any other synonym. He got into his first choice college.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 29-Mar-13 17:34:40

I was always told, and see no reason to disbelieve, that most interviewers at Cambridge are looking for students who they will find it interesting to teach. So I guess some of them might go for presumed passion. And others (like the director of studies who interviewed me) will be more interested in an encyclopaedic knowledge of Sci Fi. grin

Yellowtip Fri 29-Mar-13 17:50:48

Edith that's not remarkable.

GoLadyEdith Fri 29-Mar-13 17:56:18

I know...just saying there are numerous ways to show the cliché P word without writing it.

So,for the benefit of those of us without Oxbridge backgrounds, but with DCs who yearn to go there, they must under no circumstances use the P word in their PS?
You see it's hidden rules like this that perpetuate the elitist nature of Oxbridge for those without public school education.

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 19:17:39

secret It will depend on the academic who interviews them, they may think passion is indispensable. or they may think it entirely dispensable, as the views on here show. However the Oxbridge admissions process is fraught with the unknowable, best to just be themselves, that is one thing that sometimes shines out of a personal statement, making it stand out from all the ones that have been written based on websites, parental advice etc. The best schools know that, DDs' school sent back any that sounded as if they had not written it themselves, thwarts many parents wink

Yellowtip Fri 29-Mar-13 19:20:34

secret it's not a hidden rule. It's called common sense and not being a creep. How do tutors know a student is genuine if they just declare something is so: they want substance. But that's easy for someone if they're genuine.

Yellowtip Fri 29-Mar-13 19:35:01

Absolutely completely right: they should be themselves (hence not claiming a 'passion', like the rest of the herd).

I was asked to comment on someone's History ps for entry 2013, clearly written by Dad. I didn't have the heart to savage it. 8A*/3A at GCSE but still the outcome hasn't been good. I was amazed that the (indie) school didn't see the issues. Moral: don't do clichés and just be yourself.

GoLadyEdith Fri 29-Mar-13 19:43:21

Yes, they should absolutely be themselves and the P should speak for itself - my ds's statement wasn't IMO notably elegant but it was all 'his' and did the job...

Copthrall they don't all go to "the best schools" though. That's my point. DS's secondary was in special measures while he was there and his sixth form is also under OFSTED scrutiny.
They will be guided by the advice given by the school good or bad unless their parents know better.
I do my best by haunting lurking on threads like this on MN.
To be fair I have over the last 3 or 4 years had fantastic advice from many posters.
This thread has been a bit demoralising though.

snowballschanceineaster Fri 29-Mar-13 19:55:46

Friend of mine has a son at state school who has a clutch of A*s from last year and is sitting more this year. He got an invite to Cambridge but didn't get through the interview. He was downhearted, but is heading for a London school instead?? Not sure which one. He is one of the brightest, most well rounded boys of his age I know! So I'm not completely sure what they're looking for there!

Yellowtip Fri 29-Mar-13 19:57:42

Why demoralising? It's surely good that the winning formula appears to be students being themselves, with no magic formula and no hidden rules. That's a system based on merit, and it's right that it should out. I've watched certain MNers agonise over ever last aspect of their DCs app and mastermind it from start to finish (albeit offering masses of advice to the plebs all the while) - and then get seriously bitter about a rejection. Really, really nasty and bitter. They'd invested too much and been overly smug. Maybe they should have left off with the heavy duty research on TSR and left the DC to speak for himself; that might have produced the desired result.

Demoralising because, as I said early in the thread, DS had been persuaded that his love of his subject, together with his huge knowledge of it outside curriculum, would be the most important thing in his PS and interview. That his background wasn't a handicap, that, as you say the winning formula appears to be students being themselves, with no magic formula and no hidden rules.
Maybe I have misunderstood here but there seems to be some sneering at the idea that passion enthusiasm is as important as grades.That others don't agree with you Yellowtip.
I won't be writing his PS for him either, he's much more capable than me of doing that.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 29-Mar-13 20:31:53

I haven't detected any suggestion that enthusiasm for a subject isn't as important as grades. I've detected - and made - suggestions that being too narrow in outlook is unlikely to win friends and influence people, and that inappropriate use of cliche is unlikely to go down well either. That's all. A student saying 'I have a passion for my subject' is the same as a miss world competitor saying she loves children and animals and wants world peace. That's all.

I hope your DS retains his enthusiasm, secret, and that he follows, and achieves, his dream. It sounds like he deserves to do that.

Welovegrapes Fri 29-Mar-13 20:55:10

I said passion and I got in, from a state comp.

Someone here said just let them write it themselves - I think do that and then proof read it for them as a second pair of eyes. If they want to say passion, I would let them.

Copthallresident Fri 29-Mar-13 21:47:46

secret Sorry "best" was a throwaway term but I am (another "passion"wink) involved in a mentoring charity and we find Oxbridge more than eager to find good candidates from poorly performing schools. Forgive me , if you haunt these threads and have seen this before, but I think this is great for counteracting all the wishful thinking Chinese whispers www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/10/how-cambridge-admissions-really-work I am sure your DS will get more than a fair crack at the whip.

However at the end of the day Oxbridge can not take all of the very bright students who would be of a standard to go there, Cambridge admit as much in having a formal pool of students who do not get their choice of college but are judged of Cambridge standard. snowball lots of pupils like your friend's son come into that category but there are other elite unis where they will do equally well. DD hated her Cambridge interview because she found one of the interviewer's (one of the academics from the college she applied for, who would teach her) dismissive, arrogant and rude. When the feedback came back it was only negative in that area of interviewing, ironically since it was her "passion" and, it was the interview testing her thought processes on the unfamiliar, yet the co -interviewer whose specialism was not her passion raved. She was adamant she did not want to go near a college where she would be taught by that person, it was never tested because the feeling was mutual and DD was pooled. I don't know the reality but I know from my institution that there are members of our academia who I admire tremendously, who are internationally recognised but I would never submit to being a graduate, let alone undergraduate on one of their courses. Sadly our undergraduates never have a chance to learn that before signing up sad. Universities have no more access to perfection in terms of selection methods, personnel, etc etc etc than the rest of us humans

Crucially DD was absolutely won over by her interview at a London school, absolutely loves it, is doing well and is off this summer on brilliant internships alongside Cambridge graduates.

Cream rises....

Welovegrapes Sat 30-Mar-13 07:05:19

If my dc want to apply to Cambridge I will say something like this (mine will be at a state comp):

So proud of you that you really enjoy your subject and have done so well and put in so much hard work that you want to try to apply. It is a great Uni and it would be lovely if you got in. But please always keep in sight that every year they reject countless very talented DS and it's important not to take it personally. You can always go there to do a masters if you don't get in at undergrad and still want to go later.

I used to have a lot of students at my rg Uni really disappointed they hadn't got in. I used to say it is like going to the Olympics and coming 4th. Those people are still amazing athletes, but on the day someone pipped them to it.

Another thing I would always emphasise to dc right from the application stage is the quality of the other alternative unis - eg my sister studied an arts degree (joint honours) at Edinburgh. She had an amazing time and the lecturing and teaching was outstanding. She had a bit less work than I did so more time to have fun and has gone on to have a great career.

nkf Sat 30-Mar-13 08:25:00

I think it's probably how that passion and enthusiasm is demonstrated. Not just stated but shown. Wide reading, self teaching, seeking out people to discuss your subject with. It's when the subject is your hobby as well as something to study. It's when it's what you do in your free time. It's the difference between doing all your homework and reading a chemistry book in bed. For fun.

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