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Looking for the helpful Cambridge admissions tutor who posted a while age..

(358 Posts)
seeker Mon 20-May-13 22:16:18

......if you're around, could I ask a couple of questions, please?

Yellowtip Tue 21-May-13 23:03:37

But Lexagon did you attend a high achieving school and if you did, did you have mitigating circumstances?

Those applying from a grammar should be aware that the bar is set relatively higher, which is as it should be.

Lexagon Tue 21-May-13 23:25:09

Just an average comprehensive - no mitigating circumstances. As I said, I know it's a bit of an anomaly.

PiratePanda Tue 21-May-13 23:28:23

We did make someone an EE offer once, and not that long ago. But it was very unusual.

seeker Wed 22-May-13 06:07:02

Thank you all. She's probably going to give it a go. As it says on the website "the only certain thing about admission to Cambridge is that if you don't apply you won't get a place", or words to that effect. And as dd says, if she gets an interview, if nothing else, it'll be an interesting experience!

PiratePanda Wed 22-May-13 07:25:10

Good on your DD! Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

WouldBeHarrietVane Wed 22-May-13 07:53:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

alreadytaken Wed 22-May-13 08:11:29

the interviews at Cambridge are an interesting process but if she found herself in the winter pool it can be quite stressful, although that matters less now there are no January exams. Her GSCEs are rather on the low side so she'll need stellar AS results, a good school reference and perhaps something in the summer that demonstrates commitment to the course. I'd suggest thinking about what can go in the personal statement but not taking a final decision until you see the AS results. The Student Room website has a personal statement library that can be helpful.

Yellowtip Wed 22-May-13 08:23:30

I know of an EE offer for Philosophy, five years ago. But the A Levels aren't the weak link, it seems to be only the GCSEs. The need for excellent ASs has already been mentioned. Personally I'd avoid looking at any other personal statement like the plague - just go to it fresh.

PiratePanda Wed 22-May-13 08:33:19

Second Yellowtip re personal statements; they are generally used to draw discussion points and interview questions out of, so they really do need to be individual. If you say Jane Eyre is your favourite book, woe betide you if that's not true, because ten to one you'll be asked all sorts of deep questions about it.

Other than that, the personal statement will never tip the balance. It's AS results that really count.

niminypiminy Wed 22-May-13 09:08:31

- just throwing this into the ring -

If your DD is really interested in Philosophy perhaps she should look at St Andrews or UCL, which are rated the top philosophy depts Britain for their research. There is a world outside Oxbridge -- and bits of that world are better than Oxbridge.

leeloo1 Wed 22-May-13 09:15:45

I haven't read the whole thread, but used to work in admissions in Cambridge. When I was there, pretty much everyone got an interview, as the tutors like to get a 'feel' for the candidate - how passionate about their subject they are and what reading around the subject etc they've done - which is less easy to blag in real life than in the application form!

There was also an interview test for Philosophy with a couple of essay type questions. So it gives your daughter a chance to impress there.

Its worth calling a few colleges and seeing what they say - I'd second the advice to apply to a women's college, although they will take candidates from the intercollege 'pool' rather than take a weak applicant.

WouldBeHarrietVane Wed 22-May-13 09:16:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Wed 22-May-13 09:26:37

I think she'd be really lucky to get in with those GCSEs. DN is probably going to apply, not Philosophy but similar. She got 11 A* at GCSE and is on track for similar at A level. She thinks you need 80% A* at GCSE to be considered and she was also told they are not looking for As (everybody gets those) but the actual marks. Anything below a certain mark isn't good enough apparently. They also told her they aren't interested in whether you have DoE etc. They are looking for the best of the best in her subject. She plays sport at international level and was hoping that would help her, but I don't think it will.

niminypiminy Wed 22-May-13 09:31:53

A friend of mine is an admissions tutor for a Cambridge college. She says DoEAward and extra-curricular gubbins carries no weight at all at her college.

wordfactory Wed 22-May-13 09:43:32

I think Oxford and Cambridge aren't remotely interested in DofE or playing cricket for your first team!

But these things are often in the PS, because other universities may well be interested.

Students have to hedge their bets.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Wed 22-May-13 10:34:29

I also wonder whether a student who isn't as academically able as the majority would be happy trying to keep up with the rest for three years. It's tough being the least smartest person in the room.

I say this from experience


alreadytaken Wed 22-May-13 11:32:26

perhaps I am being too subtle. Until the AS results are in its impossible to say what chance she has of admission. A student who has come into their own in the sixth form may not struggle at university. Peers who peaked early may find they are bypassed. Best not to be too committed to an application in case the AS results suggest it would be a waste. However if they are great she'll need to be ready for interview. The summer holidays are a good time to do things that would help.

Cambridge have said they aren't terribly interested in DofE or other extracurriculars, it may even be on the website somewhere. Sport at international level is a mixed blessing - shows some useful characteristics but may distract from study. They do want people interested in the subject. If your academic career hasn't been perfect then you need to pay a bit more attention to other ways to look like a great candidate. Reading other personal statements can suggest things you may not have considered/ give you an idea of the competition.

kalidasa Thu 23-May-13 08:09:37

She would (realistically) be a the lower end of the GCSE range for successful applicants, especially if she comes from a very good/selective school; but if her predictions are good and she is very keen on the subject she should certainly give it a go. Some colleges run essay competitions and things like that which would be a good thing to do to show enthusiasm. (Not sure what exists in philosophy specifically.)

I have interviewed for both Oxford and Cambridge in the recent past (though I'm not working at either now) and personally I always found the relentless procession of GCSE A*s a bit wearying. GCSEs are not very difficult and mostly what those grades demonstrate are hard work, good teaching and a willingness to play the game. All useful attributes but not the be-all and end-all. Also academics do realise that a lot of applicants mature and become more focused in the lower sixth as they find the work more interesting at that stage - certainly I would be more interested in stellar A predictions with good-but-not-fantastic GCSEs rather than the other way around.

The main thing she should do is to be reading around as widely as she can in her subject and also - v. important for philosophy - practicing talking about it, so she gets some experience in articulating her ideas and having them challenged. She needs to be able to respond to criticisms/comments intelligently and be able to regroup and move the argument forward.

Extracurricular stuff is irrelevant unless it is related to her subject.

kalidasa Thu 23-May-13 08:17:03

One other thing - the info on the cambridge website (linked above) is excellent these days, but do be aware that the applications/admissions graph can be a bit misleading. E.g. Fitzwilliam this year had 6 applicants for philosophy and admitted 4 but that doesn't mean you have a 2/3 chance of getting in to that college. It is likely that several of those they accepted applied initially to other colleges and they picked them up from second interviews or the pool.

Finally, when you're looking at stats for a particular college, make sure you look back over several years. A single college in a single subject is dealing with very small numbers so they can vary a lot year by year.

seeker Thu 23-May-13 10:08:39

Thank you all again!

She is very realistic. But she still thinks it's worth a try. Her head teacher, who is also, fortuitously, her philosophy teacher will, I am sure, writ her a very strong letter of support, so that'll help a bit. Shame about the extra curriculars- she's got good and interesting ones, but they might help her somewhere else!

Can't believe it was only 5 minutes ago I was mopping puréed sweet potato from the floor round her high chair!

wordfactory Thu 23-May-13 10:28:25

seeker I think getting into Oxbridge (and a couple of other highly selective unis) is a bit of a lottery. Some really great students don't get a place...because there aren't enough places for all the great students!

As long as young people accept this and are prepared to giev it a go, because why the hell not, then I think they should.

I do feel sad though, when some pupils really set their heart on it. It's never wise to stake ones happiness on somehting one has relatively little control over.

seeker Thu 23-May-13 10:32:08

Absolutely. Dd has a friend who has his heart set on Oxford- and he will be heartbroken if h doesn't get in. But there are sooooooooo many bright 18 year olds and soooooooo few places at Oxford........

wordfactory Thu 23-May-13 11:17:07

I think also some parents set their hearts on it.

The students can be quite pragmatic because they know they'll have a great time elsewhere. Young people are good at thinking short term wink...

But some parents are devestated for their DC when they don't get in. I know a few who really really pushed their DC to take a gap year and apply again, when the DC themselves were more than happy to pop off to Warwick or Bristol or wherever...

seeker Thu 23-May-13 11:30:53

Agree again. It is very easy to get over excited if you have a clever/talented child.

WouldBeHarrietVane Thu 23-May-13 12:22:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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