Advice for an ambitious Year 9?

(58 Posts)
OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 13-Jan-14 14:04:49

If you could give a very ambitious Year 9 who has their eyes on Oxbridge or similar some advice on options, activities etc over the next few years what would it be?

dd is very ambitious, academic and a hard worker. She knows where she wants to go in life and is very focussed. The choices she makes will be her own, but I'd like to be able to give her the guidance she needs.

As I've said on another thread, her headteacher wants her to do things like DoE to help, but I'm not sure that is good advice. I've told her that if she wants to for enjoyment and thinks she can comfortably fit it in then she is welcome to do it, but she doesnt need to. She wants to go to summer school for her favourite subject and we are going to try and arrange that for her. Am I on the right sort of track?


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secretscwirrels Mon 13-Jan-14 16:16:38

DS1 was a very ambitious year 9 and has just received an offer for oxbridge..
I found a number of summer residentials through mumsnet, though not until year 10.

Good threadhere about extra curricular.

I'd say a lot depends on her chosen subject, but DSs followed the advice that it was grades that counted and not a clutch of extra curricular so he didn't do anything unless he was doing it just for enjoyment. He would have done DoE if he thought it was necessary but was relieved not to have to do it.

senua Mon 13-Jan-14 20:31:32

Can you say which subject? - you might get more specific help. For example ss mentioned summer schools but if we knew you were talking about, say, Engineering then we could mention Smallpeice Trust etc.

OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 13-Jan-14 20:39:05

It is probably helpful of me to say which subject - its maths.

scwirrels, thats good to know it is doable. Its that thread that has prompted my extra questions.

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senua Mon 13-Jan-14 20:46:03

Has she done UKMT Junior Maths Challenge etc? If she progresses that route to its ultimate then that is a very good way of getting on Cambridge's radar.

Intermediate is on Feb 6th! Is it too late for this year?

OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 13-Jan-14 20:54:42

She's going to be doing the intermediate. Well I hope so, school have been giving her ukmt questions as part of her class work. She thinks they are fun!

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senua Mon 13-Jan-14 21:06:51

Has she heard about IGGY?


OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 13-Jan-14 21:11:53

She hasn't, that looks great, thank you!

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Spottybra Mon 13-Jan-14 21:14:32

That, also, Oxbridge isn't the be all and end all for every course. I believe oxfords medical programme was recently discussed sometime last year and the op was told other universities are better as they spend too long on theory.

OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 13-Jan-14 21:23:05

That's true spotty, which is why I said 'and similar'. She has a while to choose yet, at the moment it's about not closing doors.

I hoe I'm not coming across as 'one of those parents'! I just want her to be happy.

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MrsBright Tue 14-Jan-14 07:52:40

For any 'top' Uni (especially if she applies for anything very competitive like English, History, Law, Economics, Medicine etc) she needs evidence for her UCAS Personal Statement that she is thinking outside the A level syllabus.

DoE - probably a waste of time. Its never ever going to be a deal breaker on a University application. The fact that she might have attended Science Fairs or exhibitions, relevant public lectures at local Universities, Summer Schools, read outside the syllabus etc, and can explain clearly what her interest in studying a particular subject is - that WILL be the deal breaker.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 14-Jan-14 08:01:46

Thanks MrsB, that approach we can certainly enable. smile I think I will suggest to her that she starts keeping a note of any activities like that that she does.

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Merrylegs Tue 14-Jan-14 08:13:46

Yes, wot MrsBright said. Evidence of interest (above and beyond) in her subject and good AS results (after the first year of sixth form) are most likely to get you offers.

That said, if you choose the WE part of your D of E wisely it may lead to a useful part time job. For eg DS did his work exp at the local library. A relief post came up, he was asked to apply and now he has a lovely job he can come back to during long uni holidays and earn some money.

senua Tue 14-Jan-14 09:04:10

I don't know where you are starting from OYBBK so sorry if I am telling you stuff you already know ...

Maths is a funny subject. (1)It is linear - topics build on previous knowledge - so you can't dip in and out like, say, History. (2)It also works on a 'use it or lose it' basis - if you don't do it for a while then it is easy to get rusty.

The corollary of this is that (1) it is best to work at it at a steady pace. It is tempting for bright students to rush through the topics but then they run out of syllabus and don't know what to do in the intervening period (Finsh GCSE too early - what do you do until A Level? Finish A Level too early - what do you do until University?) If you are going for enrichment try to go 'sideways' instead of 'faster' (if that makes sense!)
(2) Universities don't like Maths students to take a Gap Year so if she is going to do any adventuring it is best to do it in the long holidays at school.

Another point about summer schools and the like: if you are doing them for their own sake, fine. But if you are doing it for something to drop into the Personal Statement, then be careful. DD did a summer school after Y9 but she was told to merely mention it in passing because it was old news; Admissions staff wanted evidence of more recent, more grown-up interests. So activities done at this age will be evidence of a long-held interest and you can say what she took from the experience, but it's only baby steps.

secretscwirrels Tue 14-Jan-14 09:40:53

Agree with everything senua says. DS is doing Maths.
The summer schools he did were purely for his own interest and were not even mentioned on his UCAS application. For Maths in particular it's all about grades.
He also loves his subject beyond anything else. Lives sleeps and bores the pants off me dreams about it. Reading around the subject gives background and depth.
Try something like Alex's Adventures in Numberland which is probably about right for your DDs age.
Who knows what makes the difference between one high achiever getting an offer and another one who doesn't?

Oxbridge isn't the only good university for Maths.
Warwick comes a close second and has a very open admissions policy for maths. There course is exciting, according to DS and he hasn't yet decided which offers to accept.They make an offer to all applicants predicted A* in Maths /FM. (Wonder whether they even read the PS?).

senua Tue 14-Jan-14 10:18:13

Warwick comes a close second

And by happy happenstance they run IGGY ... wink

secretscwirrels Tue 14-Jan-14 11:23:40


OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 14-Jan-14 13:02:31

Thats useful for your ds merrylegs smile

senua - it does make sense and we've been very on board with schools approach of extending her sideways rather than accelerating her. They have her off curriculum doing extension work in class but doing the same homework as everyone else, which is fab as it means shes getting a reminder twice a week of the curriculum maths but still being really stimulated without being 'punished' with extra work that she wouldnt have chosen herself.

I hadnt thought about the gap year - which shows it was very worth asking the question smile It would be sad to jeopardise a good place without really making that a conscious choice.

With the summer school I guess the main reason she should do it is because she wants to rather than how it looks. She does read a lot of maths books for pleasure and really thinks about them.

I had no idea Warwick was good for maths, one to bear in mind further down the line!! Especially if their admissions policy is less of a black art!

I think the main thing I'm taking from this is just to keep heading in the same direction and if it remains her all consuming interest then shes got a good a chance as any - no exam acceleration, no gap year and only do activities if she wants to/has the time.

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senua Tue 14-Jan-14 21:30:51

Link to IGGY upthread, ss. It is the follow-on from NAGTY.
Neither were actually a 'happy happenstance', I'm sure they are part of the Grand Scheme in Warwick's ambitions to become next-in-the-pecking-order after Oxbridge.

secretscwirrels Wed 15-Jan-14 14:45:20

Ah thanks senua, sorry I missed that before. It looks like a useful site. I knew NAGTY had died but didn't know about this. Not that there is any chance of DS's college paying for it. They were reluctant to sign up to FMSP and that's free!

curlew Wed 15-Jan-14 14:49:20

Make sure she knows that, for Oxbridge, and particularly Oxford, she needs all As at GCSE. Technically, of course, she doesn't- but in practice she does.

OhYouBadBadKitten Wed 15-Jan-14 15:40:32

I think that will be a question we ask at parents evening before she chooses her options - how likely is she to reach her target grade in each subject she is considering? I'm hoping for honest answers!

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georgettemagritte Wed 15-Jan-14 16:00:24

DoE is fun and a good experience, and she shouldn't not allow herself to do enjoyable things and have good experiences. However, from the purely academic perspective, I can tell you that for Oxbridge admissions we are not interested in DoE or extracurricular activities unless they are, unusually, very closely vocationally related to the subject. For purely academic subjects like maths, interviewers will simply not notice or be interested in extracurricular achievements.

I think schools still remember the days of the "general" interview and advising candidates to read the papers in case they were asked about current affairs and so on. The reality is that nearly all interviewers now are purely and only interested in the applicant's academic ability, achievement and potential in the chosen subject - we are no longer interested in the idea of the "all-rounder" and so on.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean your DD should give up all non-academic pursuits - other universities (who don't interview or assess additional written work or use additional tests) may still be interested in an applicant's outside interests, and it is good for students to strike a balance between academic and nonacademic interests in their own lives.

senua Wed 15-Jan-14 18:45:47

Can I put in a defence of DofE. For some reason MN is very sniffy about it. Is it because some DC are forced by their schools to do Silver when, perhaps, they don't want (or aren't ready yet) to do it? I think that to get through all three stages shows dedication, perseverance, organisation, self-reliance, team-work and time-management; the ability to plan, to prioritise, to complete tasks and to do well simultaneously in many different arenas.

It surprised me to discover that the DC who stay the course and actually get to sign off their Gold each year are fairly small in number - about the same as those going to Oxbridge!

I have heard that employers-who-are-Gold-themselves look favourably on interviewees-with-Gold because they appreciate the personal qualities involved.

OhYouBadBadKitten Wed 15-Jan-14 19:31:07

I think DoE can be great and really worthwhile for personal development, but if you have a child who already does voluntary work and lots of extra-curricular stuff, then it is worth being armoured against schools who push it.

This thread is also taking some pressure off dd as we'd been led to believe that it was important that she progresses through her music exams rapidly, because getting grade 8s was important to stand out for uni whereas it sounds like actually, she can just enjoy her music and do things at her own pace.

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