DD and rejections from two unis in the space of an hour - any advice?

(30 Posts)
tartanbuggy Fri 17-Jan-14 07:31:54

DD is taking A-Levels and hoping to study architecture. She received her first rejections last night (from UCL and Oxford Brookes) after having submitted on-line portfolio. It has really knocked her for six and she just keeps crying that it was because her "portfolio was crap" and "she's crap". She had absolutely set her heart on UCL and although she knew it was hugely sought after, I think the outright, black and white, NO has hugely dented her confidence.

I have done the usual mum things of saying it's fine to have a feeling sorry for yourself period, not to make any rash decisions at this stage, that there are other universities to consider, that it's not a case of UCL or nothing, that neither she nor her portfolio are crap, keep concentrating on A-Levels, etc etc. She has a couple of interviews coming up, but she's now worried that her "crapness" will shine out and she'll be rejected from there too.

Anybody got any advice on helping DCs to deal with the rejection and move on? Or any stories of rejection actually turning out to be for the best? I think DD is more likely to listen to others' experiences rather than mum's spoutings ...

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zgaze Fri 17-Jan-14 08:07:17

I don't know anything about uni admissions really but I know that in the architecture world those particular degrees are two of the most respected, therefore I assume massively oversubscribed. So it might not be any problem at all with her application or portfolio, just the sheer weight of numbers.

Has she done any work experience in an architecture practice? We often took in 6th form or gap year students who were specifically trying to improve their application.

SpookedMackerel Fri 17-Jan-14 08:12:17

My friend had 5 rejections from vet science courses.

She got a place on the sixth just when she had pretty much lost hope.

All my friends applying for things like medicine and vet science and architecture had rejections, most of them had several, it's totally normal for those courses.

You only need one offer, after all you can only go to one university grin.


UptheChimney Fri 17-Jan-14 08:46:18

It's a tough one. But the Bartlett School (UCL) is one of the places in the country, if not Europe/world to study architecture. I don't teach in the field, but I have had quite intense professional collaboration with research staff in the Bartlett, and they are very focussed on developing world-leading & quite revolutionary conceptual architects. It may be that because of this, it would be a good idea for your daughter to take a gap year, & get some experience in the field. They may prefer more mature applicants.

There's not much else to do/say except to allow her to be gutted, and accept that severe disappointment is natural. BUT that it can't define her. The odds of applicants to places means that most applicants will be rejected. She can't let this define her: it's not a failure nor a rejection of her as a person. But it's hard impossible for a stressed 18 yo to realise this.

Would she be motivated by a kind of bloody-mindedness? A sort of "up yours" to those who've rejected her, by being accepted elsewhere? So she doesn't let 2 rejections spoil her chances of acceptance elsewhere?

leeloo1 Fri 17-Jan-14 09:06:14

Could she call to find out what she could do to strengthen her application? I used to work in Admissions at Cambridge and we often used to get calls from applicants who'd set their heart on studying with us asking what they could improve after a rejection.

The advice we gave was to get your A-Levels (so you're a known quantity with 4/5 As - instead of just predicted grades), get work (and life) experience in a very structured and planned gap year and apply again. I do remember a candidate who got a place this way (I think for Medicine?) and the interviewers commenting on how focused and driven she was towards achieving her goal and how realistic she was in her views after 'working in the field' during her gap year.

From recollection they liked to see a range of lengthy work placements (I'm not sure if this'd be the same for architecture - is there much variety?) - so e.g. for Vet Med - a month on a farm doing lambing, then time spent in small animals vet practice...

senua Fri 17-Jan-14 09:39:45

She has a couple of interviews coming up, but she's now worried that her "crapness" will shine out and she'll be rejected from there too.

Renzo Piano, the architect of The Shard, was selected by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He says:

"One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like starting all over again."

MrsBright Fri 17-Jan-14 09:44:51

Find out WHY she was rejected. She should phone the main Admissions Office at each Uni and ask. They may say something nebulous like 'Your application didnt meet our requirements' (Uni speak for a weak PS and/or reference) or they may be more helpful - low predicted A level grades, no relevant work experience, weak portfolio. All you can do is ask.

Architecture is VERY competitive. Vastly more good applications than places. Any application has to be spot on to get an Offer. Any slight weakness and it'll be a straight rejection.

If the problem this year is 'fixable' (retakes, a Gap Year doing relevant work etc), do it and reapply. If it isnt then rethink Architecture - look at connected vocational courses than professional architect - see http://www.whatuni.com/degrees/courses/degree-courses/architectural-degree-courses-united-kingdom/architectural/m/united+kingdom/united+kingdom/25/0/0/0/r/0/1/0/uc/0/0/page.html or look at subjects like Surveying or Civil Engineering.

If she does get 5 rejections - look at UCAS Extra. She can apply for another subject (one choice at a time) to get a place for a different subject, or at a lower Uni.

curlew Fri 17-Jan-14 09:48:56

My niece has just been rejected by the Bartlett and Bath for architecture- but has been offered a place at Cambridge (A*,A*,A shock), not sure if that'd helps or not- but it does illustrate the arbitrary nature of the decision making process in such a competitive field.

Oh, and if it might make her smile, tell her that when I typed competitive first it autocorrected to coma titmouse...............

UptheChimney Fri 17-Jan-14 12:19:08

Can I just say ... it may look arbitrary from the outside, and applicants probably feel it is so, but in specialised & highly competitive degrees, each department will have its own specific criteria for accepting/rejecting applicants. The achieved grades at A level are only art of the story.

UptheChimney Fri 17-Jan-14 12:20:37

I mean "part of the story" (although "art" is relevant in this case).

And those criteria won't be random, arbitrary or subjective: they'll be based on a strong ethos of the aims and "mission statement" of a department or School, like the Bartlett, developed over years of professional experience, judgement and knowledge.

curlew Fri 17-Jan-14 12:31:12

Sorry- when I said "arbitrary" what I mean was that at places like the Bartlett, there are just so many more fantastic applicants than places- so the decisions are made on the narrowest, almost imperceptible differences.

PeterParkerSays Fri 17-Jan-14 12:37:23

Try and stress to her that going to university is about more than the course. Living in London will be expensive and it can be a difficult city to live in if you don't have a lot of money.

Where else has she applied to? I'd start reviewing those places in terms of what the cities can offer her - atmosphere, markets, night life etc, as she's submitted her application so there's nothing you can do right now in terms of tweaking what she's submitted.

MamaDuckling Fri 17-Jan-14 12:42:04

Hello OP,

Understand how hard this must be for your daughter. BUT, important thing to remember is that great architects come from all over, and are the result of far more than simply getting into the Bartlett.

Hubby studied architecture at Bath (and got on the course via a civil engineering degree). He missed out on a place at Cambridge and was gutted but now works on far bigger and more interesting projects than his peers who went to Cambridge/UCL.

It's a long course; where she does her part 2/3, and the experience she can get in the meantime will impact her future career just as much if not more so than where she goes for undergrad.

Also, IMO, going to uni in London is overrated. No campus life, too expensive etc.

Hope she will be offered a place elsewhere that she is happy with!

wordfactory Fri 17-Jan-14 12:52:17

Last year a friend's daughter applied for medicine and got five quick rejections.

She needed a lot of TLC.

I gave the good advice which has been given upthread; get your grades, have a year off building your CV, reapply.

Having got A*A*A*A, she spent the summer working in a home for people with dementia and secured herself a placement with MSF in South America (she's out there now)

Off the back of this she has received four offers, including her place of first choice (Birmingham). Job done!

Needmoresleep Fri 17-Jan-14 13:47:40

Poor you. We are gong through the same with economics. One rejection and waiting to hear from three (hugely sought after) universities. I am hoping and praying, but it could be three more rejections despite A*A*A*AB predictions.

I am not sure we have the answer. In part it is a tough introduction to adult life. My guess is that a week or so of family nurturing, to reassure your child that they are loved and valued, and then when the upset has been processed a little, a constructive conversation about next steps, the aim being to help ensure that both interviews and A2 preparations go well.

Is there anyone else, eg at school who is well placed to have that constructive chat. I suspect it is not unusual for kids to offload negativity and despair on their parents.

tartanbuggy Fri 17-Jan-14 13:59:30

Oh, thank you all so much for such fantastic replies; you've given really good advice and, I'm pleased to note, all of it along the lines I was thinking. I'm going to let her know the gist of all this when she's feeling a bit more able to relinquish the tissues.

We've been thinking for a while that she would benefit greatly from a gap year and she has had placements with architects that I'm sure she could follow up and gain more experience. She's not a particularly confident person and I can't help but thinking that in a discipline like architecture you have to be able to deal with criticism (positive and negative) and rejection and to keep going.

I tried to speak to her again this morning, but she's still smarting so I'll let her have a sob session with her mates and then try again later. It's all so difficult at this stage; I used to think that once I'd got the DCs past the Chip, Kipper and Biff books that it would get so much easier - hah!

Here's a big thanks to you all for your help and advice and I'll post any updates. I just keep reminding myself of one of my dear old dad's favourite sayings "What's for you won't go by you".

OP’s posts: |
zgaze Fri 17-Jan-14 14:30:01

I typed something along these lines earlier in reply to you and deleted it for fear of sounding way too negative...but architecture as a career is way overrated. It's appallingly badly paid - I've worked in various architectural practices for over fifteen years and in every single one the admin staff are paid more than the bulk of the architects. Competition for employment at the big name practices is huge and only for the supremely talented. The non-name mid size practices often churn out nothing but cheap office blocks with barely any design merit. Once you graduate you generally won't do ANY more proper creative design work for many years - it's just pretty mindless computer stuff, floor plans and modelling staircases or door frames! The good work goes to the more senior architects, until they get to director level then it's all about winning new business and dealing with clients and and not very much architecture at all.

Many architects are EXTREMELY disillusioned with their jobs and it's generally recognised that the industry is in a state of flux. It usually takes an expensive 9 or 10 years to qualify fully which means graduating with an even higher level of debt than everyone else.

Anyway - what I am rambling on trying to say - there are many other creative disciplines (product design, interior design, graphic design...) which may not have as many pitfalls as a career in architecture. You do have to be confident and quite forceful, vocal, thick-skinned etc to put up with criticism and defend work you've done too.

Reading that back it does sound very negative, sorry! There ARE good points, honest! But I do think it's important to have some awareness of the reality of choosing this career.

zgaze Fri 17-Jan-14 14:33:30

Actually I probably shouldn't have posted that if she has already got her heart set on a career in architecture, it's not actually that helpful is it grin

Ehhn Fri 17-Jan-14 14:43:44

I was rejected by Oxford twice (BA and MA) even took a gap year and tried to apply again- so technically rejected 3 times... but have been at King's for many years, having received a funded phd there. All because of King's support.

Still slightly jealous when I hear of people going off to the dreaming spires, but also so thankful for what King's gave me. I also realise that I didn't "fit" the Oxford structure and wasn't really interested in their very traditional programmes. King's worked much better for me.

I hope your daughter can find a place that suits her and her style/interest in architecture!

NigellasDealer Fri 17-Jan-14 14:47:41

Bartlett is stuffed to the gills with Chinese students planning mega-infrastructure projects and paying full full fees btw.
please tell her not to be too disheartened.....

MrsBright Fri 17-Jan-14 15:40:11

Love that image Nigella.

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