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To think you can't coach people to get into Oxbridge?

(115 Posts)
RangeTesKopeks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:11:45

I suppose I also mean this more generally for other universities, but in particular, for Oxbridge.

My feeling is that because, quite important parts of the admissions process come down to how you perform on the day (which may be unfortunate or fortunate) - the admissions tests, the interviews - this means that it's very, very difficult to coach someone to get into Oxford or Cambridge?

I also think that getting a place is down to the applicant's ability to think critically, how prepared he or she is for defending why they enjoy their subject and why they want to study it at university and how good they are at their subject. But it's still up to chance IMO.

PS I went to Cambridge - didn't get in when I first applied (had an interview from hell with a philosophy professor - wasn't even applying for philosophy!!) and had much more positive interview experiences the second time around when I re-applied.

Fluffysparks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:16:57

Of course you can! Interviews can be helped by reading newspapers, reading books, finding appropriate hobbies etc, and the admissions tests are based on knowledge? Of course part of it is the brain behind it all, but think about it OP hmm

Fluffysparks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:17:39

Managing stress can also be coached...

mummymeister Thu 26-Oct-17 00:18:10

I have very limited recent experience of this with my DC. but having been to look around and also read all the stuff in the papers recently I don't think you need coaching but I do think;

you need to live in the south east
you need to go to a private and not a state school
or you need to be a foreign student paying the fees
and you need all a's/a stars.

I have looked around with my DC's over the past few years. personally I am really glad that none of them chose to go there because they lacked empathy and did not come across as supportive to one of my DC's who has a disability.

I will only be persuaded that they are inclusive when they introduce blind applications - so they don't know the sex, where they live or what school they went to of the applicant.

BriechonCheese Thu 26-Oct-17 00:20:26

Of course you can. Why do you think people from rich backgrounds gain entry in such high numbers? Their parents can afford to send them to schools and coaches where they are taught the skills Oxbridge desire.

RangeTesKopeks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:20:58

Fluffy I see where you're coming from, and I do agree with parts of it, but you can't fake a love of a subject. If applicants really want to go to Oxbridge for the sake of it but don't really love their subject, no amount of coaching is going to help them, and I do still think that a lot of it is down to chance.

Thymeout Thu 26-Oct-17 00:23:19

I disagree. You can certainly coach for interviews. Eton and Westminster have a system whereby Eton boys have practice interviews with Westminster teachers and vv. UCAS personal statements are read by up to 5 teachers and revised accordingly. Parents pay a great deal of money to such schools with the precise goal of an Oxbridge place. They have enough applicants to lay on special general studies courses, geared to reading round the subject and discussion at a high level.

This hardly happens at all at a state school. It is by no means a level playing field.

Fluffysparks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:25:37

Erm, I’m sure that most people would do a subject they enjoy when faced with a university that offers pretty much all of the subjects confused And plenty of people get onto courses they hate anyway, so that’s not really an argument...

RemainOptimistic Thu 26-Oct-17 00:28:51

<hollow laugh>

RogerThatOver Thu 26-Oct-17 00:33:54

I was accepted into Cambridge despite having a poor upbringing and going to state school. I received no help or coaching and still can't quite believe I was accepted. There were actually people at the interviews that had flown in on their family's jet shock

ScipioAfricanus Thu 26-Oct-17 00:39:01

You can coach them to do better in interviews, certainly, and to approach the questions asked in an ‘Oxbridge’ way (i.e. exploratory and discursive, rather than ‘I don’t know’). A private education with its extra cultural experiences can be very helpful to this.

If coaching doesn’t work, why would it be used (in-house practice interviews and inter-school practice interviews in the last private school I worked at)?

There is an advantage in the sheer confidence often given by private education (of course a lot can be replicated in state and by parents but isn’t always), from extra experiences such as speech and drama, guest lecturers, debates. I’ve also worked in state and despite our best efforts Oxbridge was much less well dealt with, for various reasons (often including a lack of focus on it by SLT).

I’m also Cambridge, went to grammar and then private. Can’t say for sure why I got through but I had had practice interviews with deputy head and I feel my private school had equipped me for the questions asked and style of it all far better than many schools would have. I don’t think they always see the potential of less coached, state applicants as well as they might.

DownbutnotfullyOut Thu 26-Oct-17 00:42:21

Of course you can.

Coaching in any discipline does not = winning.

Because winning involves all kinds of factors in any area of life -in sport how you are feeling physically/whether you are injured; in a profession if you've had a run of bad outcomes and are feeling bruised - and in an interview situation the "chemistry", for want of a better word,you have with the interviewer.

A candidate with a passion for Catullus is more likely to have a better interview with an interviewer with a passion for Catullus than one with a passion for Virgil.

Coaching is not about coaching to win. It's about coaching to maximise the CHANCES of winning.

So yes of course you can coach to maximise the chances of winning based on less variable factors (type of questions asked, style of answer looked for , marking criteria )

ScipioAfricanus Thu 26-Oct-17 00:52:17

It can also be self-perpetuating:

Lots of private school kids get into Oxbridge.
Some of those kids then become teachers.
Many of those teachers go and work in private schools because they know them/connections/concerned about state.
Those private school teachers have a better understanding of what Oxbridge are looking for purely because they have been through the system.

I’ve found that some teachers who advise on personal statement don’t do so appropriately for Oxbridge (which requires a particular approach), because they don’t have experience of it. A school with a large percentage of Oxbridge/Russell Group teachers will have an advantage here and that will tend to be a private/grammar school.

RangeTesKopeks Thu 26-Oct-17 00:59:24

Thanks everyone - I stand corrected, clearly ;) what I perhaps didn't make very clear in my first post is that I think that coaching an applicant with their Oxbridge application doesn't mean that's it's a given that an applicant will get on. Yet some people (the people being coached) seem to be convinced it's a certainty that, with the coaching, they'll get in.

Peolealwaystalkabout Thu 26-Oct-17 01:03:08

‘you need to go to a private and not a state school’ not true.. my cousin studied medicine at Oxford, she went to state school. Kids from my school, admittedly a grammar school, also went to Oxbridge.

itshappening Thu 26-Oct-17 01:09:54

Of course it is not a given. It depends completely on the person being coached fitting a certain profile. They need to have the pre existing ability or potential but also be in need of some kind of technique or confidence. Most will get in without coaching and many who are coached will not get in, but there will be some individual cases where coaching tips the balance.

Also, there are many cases of people who get in as a result of their education and the general ethos of their schooling, who might not have done so well in another environment. Not sure that is really coaching, though it is a kind of preparation.

I think the admissions tutors are slightly more whimsical in their decisions than many like to admit. I certainly don't think any university is consistent in correctly choosing the most able and deserving applicants.

If you could be coached, then the admissions process would be failing.

hiddley Thu 26-Oct-17 01:12:14

My sister went to state school, an average uni to study medicine and is now a professor of medicine aged 40. It ain't all that.
I don't even know what being a professor is, but she basically did a fellowship. She is specialised in a specialist field. Don't know much really about what she does but she attends conferences worldwide in this speciality.
Oxford/Cambridge isn't the be all and end all.

hiddley Thu 26-Oct-17 01:13:42

But yes, just look at parliament to see what money can buy.....

itshappening Thu 26-Oct-17 01:15:22

The student population is hardly representative of the country obviously, but there are many state school educated students at Oxford. Given the comparatively small numbers attending private school the stats below are still pretty depressing, but it is not as bad as some think...

RavingRoo Thu 26-Oct-17 05:47:01

Oxbridge applications need to include specific things and only grammars and privates really have the time to coach pupils through every word to ensure they at least get an interview. Oxbridge applications also have different rules and timescales and if you don’t know about them in advance you’re stuffed. My brother comes from a state school where approximately 50 per cent of the pupils in his year were predicted at least 3 straight As at A Level - he himself got the highest percentage marks in the country if not the whole of the UK - but that school had nobody get into Oxbridge despite having 10 applicants. When you consider that some of those kids did end up going to Harvard / MIT / IAT and th Sorbonne. I think it just goes to show what a tick box exercise Oxbridge applications have become.

whatsthecomingoverthehill Thu 26-Oct-17 06:10:41

From what I can make out the main reason for the disproportionate numbers of private/south east is because that is where the applications come from. It isn't that someone in the southeast has a higher chance of getting in, just more apply.

Unfortunately the reputation and press coverage makes some people think they don't have a chance if they're applying from a state school. I've heard teachers say the same thing too. So it's a self defeating cycle. The universities should probably do more but in my experience they really don't care where you're from, they just want to see that you're good at the subject.

Depends what is meant by coaching but practice interviews are definitely helpful. If you haven't experienced it before I can see how they could flumox you.

sonjadog Thu 26-Oct-17 06:16:26

Of course coaching doesn´t guarantee a place. There are many more applicants than there are places. Everyone can´t get in.

You don´t have to live in the South East to get in. What a bizarre idea.

Pengggwn Thu 26-Oct-17 06:20:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OvertiredandConfused Thu 26-Oct-17 06:24:08

I went to Oxford in the late 1980s / early 1990s. State educated. A’levels at an FE college. No coaching but (now banned) entrance exam. I’d never have got in without that exam and wouldn’t stand a chance today.

Unquestionably, Oxford changed my life

TheLuminaries Thu 26-Oct-17 06:24:32

Of course you can - sending kids to Eton seems to massively increase their odds of getting a place, so plainly they are being coached in some way to get in. Unless just having 'went to Eton' on your application form is enough - which in fairness, may well be the case grin

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