is relevant work experience essential? And a grrrrrrrrrrr

(76 Posts)
LettyAshton Mon 12-Nov-12 13:44:12

Ds can't find any work experience for the start of Year 11. He has sent about 20 letters, made as many phone calls, but so far has drawn a blank. Apparently all the kids are really struggling this year and many schools have canned the scheme because so many employers refuse to participate now.

Anyway, onto my grrrrrrrrr: I was speaking to someone yesterday whose dd is applying to top universities but with less than brilliant grades. She has work experience coming out of her ears - but it's all through dint of her parents' connections. She has shadowed a judge at the Old Bailey, spent time at the Inns of Court, covered the court cases for the local paper. It's not fair! Most kids could never get that kind of leg up.

Do universities look favourably on applicants with that kind of stellar work experience? Do they understand that the average student, albeit with excellent academic credentials, can't get into these places without personal contacts?

Yes, even in year 11 it's who you know. Sadly.
When DS1 did his WE those who had parental contacts got good placements and those who were placed by school ended up with seemingly random allocations.
Our local hospital had a work experience programme. DS applied for it and was lucky enough to get a place. Unfortunately they don't do it any more, it was cancelled to save money.

However, his friends who swept up and made tea in local shops ended up with Saturday jobs out of it and DS was envy.

DS2 now at that stage and I'm tempted to point him towards Greggs or similar grin

Kez100 Mon 12-Nov-12 15:40:13

My son has just got relevant experience after 10 rejections (and most of those were because they have a policy of 18+ only). We know no one in the industry, so it wasn't easy at all.

At 15/16 though I do think all experience is relevant. Even a shop or hotel - working with the public, handling money or stock. It is all good stuff. I don't think it hurts to realise that sometimes you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 12-Nov-12 15:42:11

I imagine it's evident to admissions tutors is an applicant has had WE handed to them on a plate <hopeful>

What is he looking to do? Might the Power of MN be able to assist?

Nothingtosay Mon 12-Nov-12 15:46:13

Some of the less obvious employers round here seemed to take on placements when our school ventured out and about last month... the library, the local primary schools, local nurseries, hairdressers, the insurance brokers, taxi company. The most exciting one was shadowing a 'brain surgeon' but all 200 eventually got places. Asda took the last 20 who were struggling so good for them!

creamteas Mon 12-Nov-12 16:04:38

For university admissions it does depend on the subject. For medicine or vet studies it is compulsory of course, but it is unnecessary for many others.

I am an admission tutor for social sciences, and for me work experience does not matter at all. Applicants can say relevant things about sociology and politics from watching TV or reading good newspapers! Law applicants can made interesting comments on observations in a courtroom etc. You don't need WE to have a good application.

At my DC's school now children need to stay in education until 18, they are scrapping WE for Year 10/11 and only having it in Year 12. They are hoping that this will mean there will be more worthwhile places.

lambbone Mon 12-Nov-12 16:05:54

You mention the law quite a bit, OP - is that what your DS wants to do?

webwiz Mon 12-Nov-12 16:15:26

For a "top" university the most important thing is an interest in the subject you want to study and excellent grades. I imagine work experience comes well down the list (unless of course it is something that requires work experience such as vet/medicine) along with expensive trips to rebuild african orphanages.

DS spent his work experience in a scuba shop and the highlight was cleaning the van that they use to transport the scuba gear. It was useful as a (rather chaotic) introduction to the world of work but it has no relevance whatsoever to what he wants to do at university.

Merrylegs Mon 12-Nov-12 16:17:03

No. Don't worry about it, honestly. If he wants to get into a good university, his A levels are the most important thing. He needs to get good AS level results to be predicted good A grades. Obviously he needs to show in his personal statement that he has a passion for his subject. He can show that by the reading he has done around his subject.

WE IS really useful though if he wants to get a Saturday job (which he may well want to do by Year 11). In which case choose a cafe, bakers, restaurant or pub where his work experience may lead on to casual employment. Useful for being gainfully employed in the LONG summer holidays after GCSEs! (How else is he going to earn his V festival ticket money? wink)

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 12-Nov-12 16:20:45

It's quite time consuming having a WE person. I imagine a lot of organisations just don't have the time to devote to it these days.

DilysPrice Mon 12-Nov-12 16:26:07

If interested in law a teen can just go and watch a case off their own bat - magistrates' court probably easiest. Strongly recommended if you want to study law but haven't had relevant work experience because if you admit to never having entered a court room it does indicate "no real interest in subject"/"fatal lack of initiative".

Floralnomad Mon 12-Nov-12 16:26:19

Don't know what your son wants to do but mine did his work experience in a primary school. We'd left it quite late applying and then applied to a few and all but one offered to take him. He may well go into teaching but if he does it won't be at primary level.

LettyAshton Mon 12-Nov-12 17:00:11

I was quite cool about ds's lack of WE replies until this woman started on about how university admissions tutors she had spoken to were so impressed with her dd's placements. Then I felt a bit sad that ds is always going to struggle in that regard.

Ds is 14 so one minute he thinks he might be interested in Law, the next he wants to be Tim Vine confused Perhaps Asda might be a good one to try next.

creamteas Mon 12-Nov-12 17:56:23

Letty as an admission's tutor I might also appear to be impressed by this sort of information given out by pushy parents at Open Days. It is a duty to be polite even when you really want to say something else!

That doesn't mean it has any bearing on the applications grin.

happygardening Mon 12-Nov-12 18:06:39

My DS1 did work experience I contacted about 40 local companies none were interested I eventually realised that you need to go to a very large company with time, people and resources to cope with work experience students. He applied to a very large famous multi national who run three weeks a year work experience programme for school children. Apparently its highly sought after as it does look good on your personal statement/CV. Anyway he got a place along with 8 others and participated in a fabulously organised programme for 1 week he experienced many parts of the company ( he had a fab time but I must say in bore no resemblance to work) and still talks about it even though it was nearly a year ago. At the end he was expected to give a presentation to senior members of the company about what he learnt and best of all they gave him a "reference" that was personal to him not some generic reference that he's since used. We drove 120 miles every day to get him there. It was definitely worth the agro.

eatyourveg Mon 12-Nov-12 18:30:55

We don't have any connections with anyone but ds had a brilliant time working at the CPS in London. He shadowed a barrister for part of the week at Southwark crown court and also went to Westminster magistrates court and said it was like being part of an NCIS team as they had real case studies to discuss. He just looked on the CPS website and the careers woman sorted it. The applications were first come first serve and opened Jan 1st so he had it all filled out and pressed "send" at 9.00 Jan 1st. His school does work experience at odd times so they are not in competition with others vying for the same placements.

Don't give up - the civil service may sound dull but if you can get a relevant department it could prove useful. (ds did his second placement in the forensics dept of the county constabulary again just going on websites and filling in the form the careers woman gave him)

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 18:35:18

120 miles happy!!!! Good for you but frankly I don't have it in me smile.

I don't see a great divide between super dooper placements which issue from parental connections and tedious workaday scraping the barrel type of ones. A DC with a bit of initiative and perhaps parental input ought to be able to think about what work experience will relate to his likely course of study. The point is to demonstrate tangibly an interest in that course rather than just banging on in a personal statement about 'passion'.

DS did find medical placements difficult to find when he was under 16 in Y11 but applied for an access course at the local hospital once he was 16 and a few things flowed from that. We're not a medical family. The DDs all did interesting things for Law/ History/ Law and each was asked quite extensively about aspects of these placements at interview.

I myself don't underestimate the importance of work experience. Or rather, if you're applying for a competitive course, you can make it important, in demonstrating precisely that interest in the subject that the tutors want to see.

vixsatis Mon 12-Nov-12 18:38:58

Universities need to be convinced of academic interest, not practical work experience (except medicine and vet). I do a lot of graduate trainee interviewing for a big law firm. We think work experience at 16 is pretty meaningless; and we can also spot whose later work experience has been arranged through contacts. We like to see people use their initiative to find experience; and we're quite keen on people who have proved by doing unglamourous placements that they have a bit of grit. Don't worry about the competition; just make sure that he spends his time as constructively as he can and can demonstrate a genuine interest in whatever subject he chooses: reading is good for this, very cheap and almost universally accessible.

vixsatis Mon 12-Nov-12 18:40:47

yellow I couldn't agree more about "passion". Also "relish" and "captivate"

happygardening Mon 12-Nov-12 18:45:47

Yellow it was either that or working at the local garden centre/arable farm/stables none of which would have interested him him the slightest. I would recommend it to anybody in south east/south of UK. We had plenty of notice as to when it was going to be and organised our lives around it as it was only for 1 week they commented in his reference about the fact that he was never late (apparently unlike other who lived up the road) despite coming a very long way.
It really was a fab experience quite fancied myself.

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 18:47:42

The practical can feed into the academic vixsatis. Having done work experience doesn't preclude reading of course. Mine actually did extra placements each, since interesting opportunities were offered. Not quite sure about this but I think some of the placements DD1 did did may have also come up for discussion at her vac scheme interviews.

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 18:48:38

'captivate'? grin. Love it.

bigbluebus Mon 12-Nov-12 19:21:17

We didn't have any 'contacts' when looking for a place for DS last year on WE and the school had dithered over whether or not they were carrying on with the scheme or not - so by the time they said they were going ahead, most of the other local schools had already got their letters out.
DS wanted to do something science based - but no laboratories would take him as he was only 15. He eventually (after lots of ignored letters and e-mails) got something with a small family run firm (about 5 staff) who did some product testing. He thoroughly enjoyed it and learned from it. It did involve me ferrying him there and back though as it was not on a public transport route.
Am hoping it will be easier to get a placement in yr 12 as he will be older.

racingheart Mon 12-Nov-12 20:17:26

TBH, I've never known anyone get a great work placement without help. I'm very impressed that your DS has sent his own letters. At our school it was teachers who set up the contacts, and these days it seems to be parents too. But are you really sure you have no contacts? Do you not know any one in the law? The solicitor who sold you your house perhaps? Or anyone who has done legal work for you? Or you best friend's sister's boyfriend's dad? Contacts don't have to be close ones. Any neighbours with contacts?

We've just helped someone get a great placement because DS had done some contract work at two very prestigious places. He doesn't work there and we don't know the WE girl very well, but it was worth a shot. People are so glad to help out, usually. If you really think about it, you will have a network.

Old Bailey contact need not be a judge or QC. It could be a clerk of court or jury bailiff.

babytrasher Mon 12-Nov-12 21:21:08

OP don't worry about pushy parent's DD with all the flashy work experience: shadowing a judge at the OB, spending time in one of the Inns ets reeks of connections and will in reality prob do more harm than good.

Covering court cases for the local paper, on the other hand, is really good - it's low-level, unglamorous and can show real interest & dedication. Most local papers are struggling so would be grateful for regular, reliable copy.

I have experience in this field and would suggest:

Offer to supply a 500 word report once a week for 8 weeks. You will need to negotiate with the school for time for your DC to attend court.

Agree that the paper will not publish the 1st 4 weeks unless they are exceptional; that period establishes the quality and the relaibility of the reporter and their copy.

After 4 weeks the paper either terminates the agreement or agrees to publish unless there is a specific reason not to (which they will explain). The reports should have your DC's byline, as "Student Reporter".

The paper agrees to provide a comprehensive reference.

Not only does your DC then have a constructive and original period of WE, with reference, but it also covers a number of professions. Also, by attending regularly at Court and reporting in the paper under their own byline, your DC will very likely make useful connections in the local legal and press establishment, leading to further WE / references.

I think most Uni Law Depts will be more impressed by a good reference from a local editor or solicitor observing work done than by any number of senior judges or eminent QCs observing bags carried.

LettyAshton Tue 13-Nov-12 13:37:13

Thanks for all the advice.

So many organisations have apparently just this year axed work experience because of 'elf n safety or client confidentiality. The CPS and the magistrates' court both said no WE students. So has one of the big accountancy firms who previously offered a structured programme. I think really it's a case of time and money. I don't think many 15-year-olds will be surreptitiously photographing client files with a view to blackmail...

That's a good idea about offering copy to the local paper. The local paper wouldn't take any school WE people, but the Editor is the aunt of the woman I was speaking to so guess where her dd was? Hrmmph.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 13:55:16

Letty don't get too hung up on nepotism. It really isn't rife at all levels. Is it law that he's interested in? DD3 also 'spent time at the Inns of Court' but did so through applying to an access scheme open to all run by one of the very top sets of its sort. But it required thinking ahead, filling in a form with a personal statement and her selection was probably helped by her having 11 A* and having won the National final of the Magistrates' Mock Trial as the defence solicitor in Y9. She's very game and got stuck into photocopying, making coffee etc. as well as going to the High and Supreme Courts. It's the difference between doing and saying.

ISingSoprano Tue 13-Nov-12 14:12:24

In my view school work experience schemes are very variable in terms of their relevance and usefulness to potential university applications. However, I do think to have had a job is a really good idea. To be able to demonstrate a work ethic and commitment to what is probably a fairly menial job always looks good. My ds is currently applying to university and we were told by several admissions tutors that the key to a good application is to show a real interest in the subject. Attending lectures or talks or arranging visits can be equally valid to WE.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 14:38:21

Agree with that Soprano. My DC have all worked continuously for money since Y9. There's a separate section on the UCAS form for that.

Copthallresident Tue 13-Nov-12 15:45:23

Letty Yes Admissions tutors do live in the real world and can spot someone who has accessed this sort of experience easily. Our course studies a culture you are unlikely to have studied in any depth at school so evidence that you have pursued an interest is valued BUT our admissions officer levels the playing field in the sense that what you learn and the interests you develop from reading, research and watching films etc can be just as useful as what you learnt when Mummy and Daddy took / sent you around the world.

DD gained Year 11 experience with a Barrister fairly easily just by writing to a lot of Barristers Chambers, quite a few had connections blind policies. It put her off Law completely, spent a week on a case which was examining the evidence of a log of literally '000s of mobile phone calls. Wonderful antidote to Ally McBeal!!

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 16:06:38

@Yellow the working thing is something that slightly bothers me, since it's extremely unlikely that DD1 will do any work for money (other than possibly busking) until she is old enough to do playing in pubs and clubs. On the other hand she helps out teachers already in various music-y things, outside school, but it's for free. I just can't see her ever getting a weekend retail style job because so much of her stuff goes on at weekends. sad

ISingSoprano Tue 13-Nov-12 16:53:50

Does she want to study music Mordion? If so, any helping out at 'music-y type things' will still look good. What sort thing does she do?

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 16:59:02

Yes she does. smile She currently helps out with the younger ones at some In Harmony things, and she also helps with a choir. And the church music group.

lastSplash Tue 13-Nov-12 17:07:45

Excellent legal work placement here - - no connections involved, just apply.

ISingSoprano Tue 13-Nov-12 17:27:13

Sounds great Mordion - my dd does lots of music too. It sounds like your dd is really motivated.

LettyAshton Tue 13-Nov-12 17:37:05

The matrix place looks good, but it is in London which (sob sob) is not a realistic location. A few of the big solicitors firms near here subscribe to a widening access scheme but only take pupils from the two most deprived schools in the area. Very worthy, but a bit annoying! A couple of other big employers also have relationships with specific schools.

Ds got a no thanks e-mail from the National Trust today. Very polite, but said they had been inundated and had already taken 5 students on for the two weeks in question.

Kez100 Tue 13-Nov-12 17:55:09

It can be very difficult to find experience.

basildonbond Tue 13-Nov-12 18:27:20

Erm ... If I were editing a local paper I'd be exceedingly wary of letting an untrained schoolchild turn in copy from court cases - when I was training we spent hours studying McNae's Essential Law for Journalists as it is a potential minefield and the consequences of a newspaper getting it wrong could be catastrophic

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 19:01:11

Yes it was Matrix! She had a great time. It's a fabulous scheme.

Mordion for someone such as your DD it couldn't matter two hoots. Not even one hoot in fact. She clearly hasn't got time. My DC each have a really good job going at the same place which is 'menial' work but hard work yet also pretty good fun - the group who work there get on really well. The money gives them independence. Great lunches too! DDs 1, 2 and 3 and DSs 1, 2 and 3 are all on the books. About four minutes walk from home - ideal.

DS1 was very reluctant to give up the paid work in order to do the care home thing for Medicine even though it does seem to have become something that almost every applicant does. It was one or the other for him and he was quite clear which he wanted to do. He'd spent a week at a care home for his own Y11 work experience and didn't feel he should feel under pressure to tick a box. As it happened the interviewing tutors simply reworked the questions about team work/ grubby work/ long hours/ team work/ social skills/ team work to fit the cafe scenario rather than the care home scenario so it was all fine. He also managed to absorb about half of an Oxford interview extolling the virtues of the coffee cake and its singular advantage over the lemon drizzle cake (this was in answer to a question mind you, not randomly imposed on the tutors). And by the time he'd repeated the phrase 'team work' enough times (about ten he thinks), there was just time for one tricky sciency question and the whole thing was over.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 13-Nov-12 20:04:22

The purpose of work experience is to show passion for the subject. If a student can shoe passion in other ways, eg by reading about then subject, then great.

Persevering to get work experience against the odds is particularly good, though.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 20:40:23

Oh please, not passion again. Passion is a hideous descriptor. Surely no normal student is 'passionate' at the age of eighteen? Very odd if he is.

Work experience in a related field can serve to show a genuine interest which really should be as much as is needed.

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 20:44:43

@yellow You sound like St John Rivers grin

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 13-Nov-12 20:45:15

Plenty of students are passionate about what they want to do. Thankfully.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 20:48:07

Ok Mordion but I promise you that UCAS applications to worthwhile unis don't want applicants to come over all Rochester.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 20:48:30


Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 20:48:56

Bloody fakes.

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 20:55:40

I love Mr Rochester. As does DD1. And I think for music they probably do expect you to have and demonstrate passion. But DD1 would be more of a demonstrator than a claimer, if you see what I mean. grin

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 20:59:41

Music is an exception as an inherently passionate thing though Mordion. I'll give you Music.

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 21:03:04

It's actually Jane who is constantly berated for her passionate nature. grin But she's more of an artist than a musician although she can plink plonk at the piano a bit.

DD1 is usually praised for her focus and commitment and to be honest I think those are the traits, along with talent, that matter - you can be passionate as you want about music, but if you're crap at playing then that's the ballgame. Same if you can't be arsed to practice.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 21:09:23

what about something dull but challenging? My siter had no idea what she wanted to do so when to work with the admin dept at a local telecomms company. She got there and got sent round all the departments, and got loads of experience in lots of different areas and given lots of good advice. Sat down for a whole day and told how to research a company so you can impress at interview.

Better than Gregs.

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 21:09:29

My piano teacher detonated any passion I might have had in my soul, aged 10. Just because to her mind I plink plonked. And couldn't be arsed to practice.

Copthallresident Tue 13-Nov-12 21:14:29

Yellowtip Maybe this is a definition thing since if anyone came over all Rochester on me I would probably refer them to a Psychiatrist, or possibly the Police, but I do encounter 18 year old students who have a passionate interest and curiosity about their subject, or perhaps I should say are inspired? I did myself and still have and tried to communicate it to my DDs. It was counter effective in one case since she went running for the Sciences and is allergic to all museums save the Wellcome but she really does care deeply about Science, feels really inspired by current Scientific work at the frontiers and her heroes are Scientists. When I took DD2 to the British Library exhibition on the literature inspired by British Landscape she was in there for six hours completely enraptured by the manuscripts and recordings ....

No academic is under the illusion that some students aren't there for the job prospects, name, beer etc but to get in they do have to have been inspired enough to make some effort!

Maybe though my problem is having grown up roaming those damn moors that spawned Rochester wink

Yellowtip Tue 13-Nov-12 21:37:38

Ok Copthall well equally my problem could be traced to having been born in Coulsdon and educated in Croydon, with a daily commute through Purley for my trouble. It was very limiting really, I can see that.

Most normal kids are finding their way at eighteen. I'd say it was fine to be still exploring what you might want to do and that it shows an openess of mind not to have settled. I just loathe this idea that all students should know, and insist they know, and know that they want nothing else except for a particular subject. It's not real life. I think many tutors prefer honesty and real life.

That said, DS1 has been clear that he wanted to be a medic since about aged 8. No idea why. But the others have been floating voters. In my own small sphere I found many, many lawyers who were novelists manque or musicians manque or something else manque. I understand it's the same with medics very often.

Copthallresident Wed 14-Nov-12 00:02:16

Yellowtip I think all tutors appreciate that the three years at university are a chance for you to pursue your interests and study something you are good at before the realities of the real world hit. It's a lucky few who make up their minds what they want to do and very lucky even fewer who get to do it.

Doesn't end with uni applications. I remember interviewing a graduate for our management training programme. The only bit of the process he scored points in was when he was challenged to use his intellect and in the OccPsych tests and team tasks. Of course the form/game was for the applicant to give us lots of evidence they had the qualities, motivation and skills we were looking for, and of course "passionately" wanted to join our organisation but he admitted he had never had positions of responsibility unless you counted working behind a bar, he had gone to a lacklustre comp but because he was amongst the brightest had had lots of support, he all but admitted he had got a good degree whilst partying away his three years and was applying because we paid best. However he did all that with such manifest interpersonal skill that we short circuited the usual template and took him on. Last I knew he was Director level, although I took some stick from the line managers of all his fellow female graduate entrants who were distracted / had their hearts broken by him!!

Obviously work experience prepares them a little better for the intervention of the real world......

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 00:32:32

@yellow but it all worked out magnificently didn't it so that's ok. grin Being rude about their future wife's piano skills is just one of the things mr Rochester and mr Darcy have in common. IME you can make a child practice but you can't make them benefit in any way from that practice. So best not to do the coercion thing since it's ultimately worthless.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 00:40:11

@yellow I think people can reasonably claim to be passionate about, say, history or English or art or drama or, I don't know, archaeology - things which might be their hobbies as well as their academic strength. But I agree with you most 18 year olds won't be passionate about what they study. When I was 18 I was passionate about many many things none of which were maths. At my college interview, I was asked why I wanted to do maths and I replied to the effect that since I couldn't do what I wanted - music - because it was far too precarious a career and I couldn't play the piano well enough, I might as well do the thing I was best at. They thought that was a fair enough answer, I assume, since they offered me a place.

Croydon is clearly the most fabulous place in the world to be educated, please don't diss it or I shall be very sad. A school friend of mine collected an OBE the other day, I was just looking at the photos on Facebook, she took our old music teacher with her. That's what Croydon is like, that is. Well, what it was like. Possibly not so much any more. sad

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 00:45:14

@yellow you are incidentally right about lots of traditional professionals doing stuff on the side. As you know I do a lot of music (if you're near the cathedral in the run up to Xmas I can recommend a good concert.......;) ). I know several other people in law and finance and regulation who are also musicians on the side. I know at least two published novelists, and I know other full time writers who either didn't give up their day job for a while or still keep on their day job to this day despite being involved in something quite well known (my Warwick chums, as it happens). Some people live to work, most of us work to live and the same must surely be true of students at uni - most are pursuing a means to an end not the end itself.

Yellowtip Wed 14-Nov-12 08:37:46

DD2 is an artist manque but decided against it for the reasons you gave to the Maths dons Mordion. She's quite extraordinarily talented though. But what I find interesting with the three girls is that each has come to really love their subject as they go through uni. DD2 is taking madly esoteric options that the tutors are crazy about and that enthusiasm is getting passed on. So mine seem pretty enthused by the time they've got properly stuck into their course, it would just be an exaggeration to attribute it to them when they're filling out the UCAS ps. Their tutors say they want passion by the end of the course; they expect it only rarely at the start.

No I don't really diss Croydon, I'm quite defensive of it in fact. Mind you Monty P didn't do Purley many favours smile

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 08:55:08

I can quite understand anyone regarding claims of passion about the law with a pinch of salt from someone who really won't have much of an idea about it at that age. I can understand people claiming passion for history though. I wouldn't dismiss DD1 if she claimed a passion for history - she reads history voraciously, not just the (not terribly interesting) stuff she is doing for GCSE but all sorts of other stuff too. She really loves it.

People rarely challenge a claimed passion for hobbies/special interests such as Sci Fi or musical theatre or footy, I don't get why it's not feasible to be passionate about other stuff too at a young age. I know I was. Not maths, obviously. But other stuff.

Mind you, I think 'enthusiast' is a particular personality type (I have a friend who refers to it as the 'fan gene'). So maybe it's just people like that (people like me) who buy into the idea of passion for a subject (although it's such an embarrassing word to use I probably wouldn't, myself). However since my academic hubby and academic friends are all like that too maybe that's where the received wisdom has come from? Or maybe I'm just friends with similar personality type people and there are shed loads of other academics who aren't particularly enthusiastic about stuff.

I think that growing up in Waddon was quite a big driver in taking the 'everything is beautiful at the ballet' approach to life, despite my never wavering love for Croydon in general. grin

Yellowtip Wed 14-Nov-12 10:11:55

In fact I'm being quite a hypocrite here because I was massively keen on history by the time I completed my UCCA form but for various reasons (lack of O level latin/ second MFL) couldn't apply to read it, so fell into law as a poor second best.

Perhaps the word passion has just become devalued by its over-use recently on UCAS forms. 'Relish' has got to be worse , by a whisker - all oleaginous - and 'captivate' is just way too Fotherington-Thomas - utterly dreadful.

cory Wed 14-Nov-12 10:14:01

I think what most universities are looking for is any evidence that your commitment (let's call it that rather than passion) is strong enough for you to be willing to go the extra mile. They don't want students who would prefer spending as little time as they can on the subject.

So when it comes to interview at the English department the student who claims to be passionately interested in literature will be asked what she likes reading- and then maybe one or two gently probing questions to establish whether she has actually read those books. It's as much about attitude as about feelings. A fluffy "fan" enthusiast will go around feeling vaguely good about books without necessarily reading that many; a committed person will read extensively and think about what they are reading.

The stage schools will want some evidence that you have taken the trouble to join your local drama club, gone to the theatre when you were able, read more plays than the one you did for your GCSE. Because if you couldn't even be bothered to do that, you are unlikely to cope with the demands of the course.

I don't know what the law courses are like, but I assume it is similar: when people talk about passion, what they really mean is commitment. Are you ready for this level of commitment?

(and if you're not, would you kindly start getting ready now rather than expect the academic staff to spoon fed you every step of the way and make up for your own deficiencies in attitude?)

Yellowtip Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:29

Absolutely cory.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 10:22:24

@yellow you should have done it at Cambridge. My friend (they sat us next to each other on our first day at secondary school - I don't know if they did that on purpose or if it was a happy coincidence) did history there, and she didn't do latin O level, much to her disgust (her parents listened to the teachers and made her do 3 sciences at O level, mine didn't and let me do what I wanted) or a second MFL (she didn't even do French at A level - she did hist, maths, eng and ....can't remember, it was either economics or G&P). Mind you, she ended up working in the city for a MC firm. grin (well, I say ended, she's jacked it in now)

Relish is what people who eat meat put on burgers. Captivate is twee and eny fule kno that Fotherington Thomas is wet and a weed HOWEVER if I was an admissions tutor I would definitely be biased towards any candidate that showed a working knowledge of N. Molesworth and his ouevre. Chizz chizz.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 10:24:38

Cory yup. Commitment, focus and basic arsedness. Those are always IME the ingredients for success. Talent is good but it won't get you very far without the other three things. grin

Yellowtip Wed 14-Nov-12 10:41:30

My UCCA application was a model of How Not To Do It Mordion smile. Never mind; no real regrets. Next on the agenda is to go back and actually do the degree, if they'll have me. Which they very probably won't.

Several of my DC spell naturally like Moleworth. So far the admissions guys appear to have been fuled grin.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Wed 14-Nov-12 10:47:05

We would love to do work insurance in our little company with y11s. Unfortunately we can't get any insurance for them which doesn't cost a fortune sad

Yellowtip Wed 14-Nov-12 11:02:21

Does the school insurance not cover the students Ariel? Seems such a shame to have someone so willing but not able because of cost.

Copthallresident Wed 14-Nov-12 11:08:51

I can only comment on our admissions officer who occasionally asks my opinion because I sit on both sides of the fence. In a set of applications there will be people who are clearly in because their academic results and predictions and choice of subjects clearly exceed our requirements, which should in turn predict they can succeed on our course better than the rest of our applicants, and they have a good enough reference. Frankly their PS will probably get a cursory read to make sure they have pursued an interest in the subject, which they may not have studied at school. For those applicants the reference and PS can only sink an application if it is positively bad, which references almost never are and PS's rarely, and even then there would be some cynicism about whether that was actually the applicant rather than bad advice etc. It gets more difficult at the borderline and that is where contextual information gets looked at more closely together with the reference and the PS. (There is also a process to separately review the applications of all those with contextual information that shows they have dealt with a disadvantage to decide whether access should be widened). Then they are looking for who has demonstrated the motivation to succeed, and be an asset to the course above and beyond the rest of the candidates. That is demonstrated by overcoming the odds to achieve what they have academically, a manifest work ethic, evidence they are contributors / participators, and what they have done to pursue their interest in the subject. Sometimes a pupils enthusiasm/ passion, whatever you want to call it, actually does come through in the PS, but in what they have read, seen, done and their responses to it, specific, credible and consistent with the reference.

In some ways it can be sad when undergraduates arrive with such idealistic ideas about what they are going to do in the context of their enthusiasm for our subject because the reality is that by the time the third year is ending the vast majority are going off to more prosaic futures as bankers, lawyers, managers, civil servants, in unglamorous NGOs etc. though I am glad and proud to say my institution do have a few alumnae on the world stage making a big difference and a lot more making a little difference.

Copthallresident Wed 14-Nov-12 11:21:57

Our school sent a form we had to sign that said we had made sure the company our child was working for had insurance. DD2 managed to get herself work experience shadowing / bag carrying for a freelance copywriter/ journalist and there was no way that I was going to bother him with that so I was totally irresponsible and didn't even consult a lawyer There must be ways around this though?

LettyAshton Wed 14-Nov-12 11:41:20

Ds's school WE coordinators physically visit every work placement. I'm not entirely sure what they are looking for. People wearing an "I'm a Paedo on the look-out for 15-year-old work experience students" sweatshirt? They decree, therefore, that work experience must be within the county.

Thanks for the replies indicating that admissions tutors aren't bowled over by glamorous work placements. I heard a Woman's Hour piece a while back on this subject and one girl had made the effort to learn shorthand and had spent her university vacations working as a legal secretary, which had gone down a storm with recruiters.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Wed 14-Nov-12 12:01:41

No the schools don't cover it.

It's not what you'd call a typical business though! There is a lot of physical activity involved and a degree of risk.

cory Wed 14-Nov-12 12:11:13

Letty, ours do the same. I don't think it's really about paedophilia: more about making sure that the young person is actually spending those two weeks in a meaningful way. Mine did hers with the local archaeology unit. She said the school visit was hilarious: she was balancing a bucket of muddy water across a floor piled high with old bricks and human bone when her immaculate French teacher walked in- the poor woman looked absolutely terrified! Some grubby archaeologist jumped up and insisted on giving her a full tour of the premises. Dd loved it! grin

Not read the thread but my DS1s experience was he did work experience in a hotel (not his first choice) was offered to comemback for a trial at 16 and then worked most weekends and holidays from then on until part of the 1st year at Uni. He got a glowing reference showed real dedication and ability to turn to whatever was asked - this possibly also helped in getting two other summer jobs, one local and one this year as a tennis coach in USA.

Is now applying for graduate positions - having ability to say you have a rovedn work record, irrespective of what it is I've heard from employers is considered valuable. Persoanlly I'd prefer to take on someone like that rather than those that just do a gap year of seemingly one long holiday (ok if you do voluntary type work).

DS2 did his placement there too - and so could possibly 3&4!! So it helps them too and keeps them in employment reducing our finances (even if we have to take them inthe car, the point is they get to know what real work is).

LettyAshton Wed 14-Nov-12 13:04:23

That sounds interesting, Cory.

Ds wrote a good (for him!) letter to the County Archaeologist but weeks later, no reply sad

ssaw2012 Wed 14-Nov-12 13:12:51

Some universities have work experience programmes. Perhaps, you need to check the websites of colleges and universities in your area and see whether they have got any programmes suitable for your DS. I would even advise to send each one a letter.
Learn Direct might have some information too. There should be someone from LD in the town's central library.

dapplegrey Wed 14-Nov-12 15:51:02

My ds did his work experience with bailiffs in London. It was hard work as they started at 6am and finished at 6pm.
He says after that he is determined not to get into debt.

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