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Do top unis prefer students who went to academic/independent schools?

(52 Posts)
questioner123 Tue 14-Feb-17 15:53:26

Hi all,

My DD is looking at sixth forms and colleges around the area. She is interested in eventually studying law, at a Russell Group Uni. From what I've read online/heard, it seems that top unis prefer people who went to academic/private schools. Is this true? Our local college our DD likes, and it achieves satisfactory results (got an 100% pass rate though!), but is on the list for underperforming schools for university applications, so applicants from these places could receive contextual offers. How does this affect her chances of getting into say Oxbridge/Russell Group unis?

BigGreenOlives Tue 14-Feb-17 15:56:30

If she's motivated & does well she might actually benefit from going her school. Universities are looking to improve social mobility & access for students who have overcome adversity. Have a look at contextual offers & bursaries for students from low progression schools. Good luck to her, I hope she has success in her applications.

RancidOldHag Tue 14-Feb-17 15:58:37

'Top' institutions prefer clever applicants, and care rather less where they came from. There comes a point where achievement is needed (not just potential) and thus is probably it.

So the key things are studying the right subject combinations (usually at least 2 facilitating subjects), and a good personal statement (Google for what admissions tutors are really looking for). Extracurricular - unless relevant or extremely high performing - is less likely to matter.

Some do make contextualised offers, so candidates coming from schools/postcodes which do not send many to university might just get a slightly lower offer.

Londonsburningahhhh Tue 14-Feb-17 15:58:48

It's more to do with affordability my partner went to a good university in London. He went to a state secondary school in Hackney. They were more concerned with how he was going to pay.

ProfessionalPirate Tue 14-Feb-17 16:00:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Triplesalco Tue 14-Feb-17 16:03:46

My DD went to the local comp, stayed on for her A levels and is now at a top three Russell Group uni.
It doesn't matter where you are from. If you DD is determined, ambitious and able to, she'll do great.

Godstopper Tue 14-Feb-17 16:03:48

Look out for uni's that participate in the 'Realizing Opportunities' scheme. Yes, contextual offers do get made, though long gone are the days of EE offers - one grade below the standard offer would not be terribly unusual.

I lecture at an RG, and I can tell you that people like your daughter often perform better than those from more expensive schools. Statistics back this up. I'm used to seeing disinterested private school students who don't seem to have a clue why they are there (not all, but a worrying number!). People like your daughter are refreshing, and certainly needed - I hope her applications go well smile

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Tue 14-Feb-17 16:05:40

If that college is underperforming, chances are that your dd, even if she is really bright and works hard, will still underperform slightly (about a grade is the estimate) compared with those at top schools, independent or grammar.

This will then be borne in mind when offers are made for university.

If they do the subjects she wants and she is self-motivated and a hard worker, it should work out fine. If she requires a lot of external motivation and/or the subjects aren't taught that she needs/is allowed to drop too many A levels/doesn't take facilitating subjects, then this place may not be good enough for her.

Keep an eye on 'facilitating subjects' which are ones that RG and Oxbridge prefer because they are academically rigorous, this matters wherever she studies at college/A level:

ActuallyThatsSUPREMECommander Tue 14-Feb-17 16:14:54

Pound for pound, 3A*s from a decent normal comp says more about a student's ability than 3A*s from Westminster or Tiffin ever can. And even 3As from a less hothouses background might indicate someone who is a better bet as an undergraduate. But the question is whether your DD would be able to get those 3As, or AAB, or whatever the contextual requirement is, at the sixth form college. What were their results last year? If they had a smattering of pupils getting really excellent results then the possibility is there.

TheEdgeofSeventeen Tue 14-Feb-17 16:15:42

The school doesn't matter - the grades and extracurricular achievements are what counts

Ta1kinPeace Tue 14-Feb-17 16:37:13

and extra curricular is often not looked at (DDs offers came through in a matter of hours so must have only been on grades)

questioner123 Tue 14-Feb-17 16:40:53

Thank you everyone! That is very reassuring to hear. There she would have to do English (lit and lang combined), history and geography, which hopefully if all goes well, she could get into the unis she wants to go to! Their results last year were 80% A* to C, 100% pass rate, and 43% A* to B...
We do have good sixth forms around, but she likes the fact that this college is small, offers the flexibility etc, small class sizes...

TreeTop7 Tue 14-Feb-17 16:45:08

I think that an academic child is better off at a state school/college (assuming said school is decent enough to help deliver top grades to the ablest students, which many are) not just because of quotas but because as PP said, a state student who's expected to get As is probably genuinely bright, whereas with independent schools it's more difficult to judge who's rich-but-dim like most of the royals, and who's clever.

I wonder whether careers advice is much better in the private sector sixth forms though? You don't really get private school alumni on those ripoff pseudo-subject courses at lower league universities.

Interesting thread, although my DCs aren't at that stage yet. It's particularly good to hear from people who work in the sector.

ProfessionalPirate Tue 14-Feb-17 17:14:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Tue 14-Feb-17 17:23:20

The thing is, I've seen academic children go to not that academic colleges and do quite badly, usually because they haven't got the drive/motivation to do it all by themselves. Everyone is right, a very clever, self-motivated, very academic well-organized child will do well anywhere, but not every young person is like this- that's why independent schools do well, because they provide the environment which pushes everyone to achieve, not just those who were self-starters anyway.

ActuallyThatsSUPREMECommander Tue 14-Feb-17 17:32:34

I'm sure that the personal statement can be important at the top end - but it's not so much the Grade 8 harpsichord and backpacking around Mongolia building orphanages - it's more about the explanation exactly why they have a driving need to study this particular degree and the evidence of the depth of their interest in the subject.

user7214743615 Tue 14-Feb-17 18:59:44

It does matter for oxbridge and certain high level entry courses, so ignore the personal statement at your peril. We have so many top grade students apply, we only invite for interview those who have the academic ability, so we need something to distinguish between them.

Do you actually interview for Oxbridge or a top course? Are you seriously saying that you use extra-curricular to distinguish between candidates? Rather than pretest results and academic profile.

Because I have never, ever seen extra-curricular used to distinguish candidates and to do so would strongly discriminate in favour of those who can afford extra-curricular.

Academic content of personal statement, perhaps, but it almost never plays a role in my own subject.

titchy Tue 14-Feb-17 19:08:54

Ok what list of underperforming schools/ colleges is it on - those results are better than most so I can't see how it could be described as such? If it's the Bristol list that's updated each year so you may be looking at old data.

But in answer to your question universities give not a shit about swanky independent school applicants. A level grades in the right subjects are what matters. Oxbridge and one or two others also want to see evidence of further engagement with the subject. No one cares about grade 8 clarinet or voluntary work unless they're relevant.

ProfessionalPirate Tue 14-Feb-17 19:42:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ProfessionalPirate Tue 14-Feb-17 19:44:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Allthebestnamesareused Tue 14-Feb-17 19:54:38


I am assuming from your comments that although it may be a top course its not Oxbridge though?

ProfessionalPirate Tue 14-Feb-17 19:58:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Allthebestnamesareused Tue 14-Feb-17 20:03:16

Again without wishing to say too much I have close links with 2 people that interview for Cambridge and at least there extra curricular is not important. They tend to focus on "super-curricular" instead.

WhiskyTangoFoxtrot Tue 14-Feb-17 20:09:46

What is 'super curricular'?

I'd heard extra curricular matters only for borderline candidates - and only really counts if the activities are either a) relevant to the course or b) very high level (like having a national ranking in a sport). Interested to know if that's broadly true or utter bollocks.

MedSchoolRat Tue 14-Feb-17 20:12:33

I have never, ever seen extra-curricular used to distinguish candidates

Pah, I see Pirate's 100 & raise her another 600 our institution invites to interview -- in MMIs, I will end up doing a 5 minute interview with close to 200 applicants.

Extracurriculars are useful because they give the kids something to talk about. If I ask "Tell me about a time when you..." they need to have had a time when they.... Revision & Work experience can only give you so many stories.

1 gal talked about daily picking her siblings up from nursery to describe how she dealt with distractions & difficult people. It didn't have to be an expensive activity.

ps: I read a story online where an interviewer was convinced that a candidate had made up a story in their university interview. shock

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