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Oxbridge Entry 2015

(1000 Posts)
Roisin Mon 01-Sep-14 17:45:49

Do we have a thread already?
ds1 has decided to definitely apply to Oxford to do Biochemistry. He will probably apply to St John's.

webwiz Mon 01-Sep-14 20:42:32

DS is applying to Cambridge for English - his first choice college is St Johns.

MadameJosephine Wed 03-Sep-14 22:15:50

DS is applying for Computer Science at Christ's College, Cambridge. It's going to be a very stressful year!

Leeds2 Thu 04-Sep-14 13:50:47

Can I ask what A Levels your DS is doing roisin? Am interested to know if you can realistically do biochemistry without maths.

Roisin Thu 04-Sep-14 21:55:03

Leeds2: ds2 says there is a lot of maths required in all his science subjects.

In yr12 he did AS chemistry, biology and physics (and General Studies), plus a full A level Maths.
in yr13 he is taking A Level further maths, plus A2 (ie A Level) Biology and Chemistry. (He has dropped Physics.). Plus he will re-sit one Maths module as he narrowly missed the A* and wants another shot at it.

mrsrhodgilbert Fri 05-Sep-14 17:46:29

I came onto education to try to find an Oxbridge thread and ask for some advice. Dd2 has started year 13 this week, has 3 A good grades at AS for her chosen subjects and today her teachers have predicted A* grades at A2. Her head of sixth form, who she was previously unknown to, has picked up on this today and has asked if she is considering Oxbridge. He wants to have a meeting with her next week to discuss it further.

It's a state school and they usually send a handful each year, I believe that in year 12 there may have been some meetings for those interested. Dd wasn't and didn't attend any of these. She is interested in Durham.

So my question, given that applications are imminent, is there any point pursuing this or are we just way too far behind? We know absolutely nothing about either place or the selection process. We obviously want her to go to the place she will be happiest at and flourish.

So as not to drip feed, I have breast cancer and am expecting biopsy results next week to see if it has returned. Next week could turn out to be horrendous, or it could all be ok. I just wanted to throw that into the mix as its something else that is very much occupying our minds at the moment and could throw the household into turmoil and distract us from this. Dd doesn't know about this latest set of tests and we have three open days planned in the next couple of weeks, just hadn't considered Oxbridge. Any words of wisdom?

secretsquirrels Fri 05-Sep-14 18:11:11

Sorry about your illness mrsrhod
Not too late no. Especially if your DD is truly interested in her subject over and above the A level curriculum. Has she visited either place before? What is her subject? Has she started work on her Personal Statement yet? There is an earlier deadline for Oxbridge and most schools want them in by the end of September.

mrsrhodgilbert Fri 05-Sep-14 18:21:40

Thank you, to answer your questions, we have visited Oxford but never Cambridge. Her subject is English. She has started her ps but it's in it's very early stages, I'm sure school would offer lots of help next week, particularly if my circumstances mean that we couldn't. She has mentioned 15 September as the date school wants the applications, is this not the official date?

She does love her subject but I have no idea how extensive her reading should have been outside school texts. If she wants to pursue this we will help all we can of course, but I get the feeling that people prepare for this for years and it seems arrogant/foolhardy to attempt it in a week.

secretsquirrels Fri 05-Sep-14 18:36:02

I think the official date is around 15th October (went through this last year with DS).
School need it much sooner as they have work to do and usually find an error that needs correcting.
I get the feeling that people prepare for this for years and it seems arrogant/foolhardy to attempt it in a week. Nothing ventured. It's only one choice of 5 on the UCAS application. It is, however, a very stressful process. That shouldn't normally put anyone off but in view of your impending biopsy results I don't know.

Saltasaurus Fri 05-Sep-14 18:45:20

My DS is at St Johns, Roisin - good choice ; )

CatherineofMumbles Fri 05-Sep-14 18:52:12

marking place grin

webwiz Fri 05-Sep-14 19:10:12

Sorry to hear about your illness mrsrhod but just to reassure you DS is applying for English and he certainly hasn't been preparing for years. Oxbridge has just been something in the background if he did well enough in his exams. He does read a lot but I have no idea whether its "enough" I think its more about what you get out of what you read rather than the quantity.

DS is a laid back sort but he was very stressed before his AS results because he wanted to do well enough to apply to Cambridge so I know that the application process will be stressful but he wants to give it a go.

KittiesInsane Fri 05-Sep-14 19:16:59

Have a good hard look at the UCAS website, MrsRhod, if you can stand it: I rather think there's a way you can apply to just one university and hold off on the other applications till after they've made their decision. In other words, she could wait to see whether Cambridge say yes before she had to decide on her other four applications

I could be wrong with this!

upyourninja Fri 05-Sep-14 19:27:12

Mrs rhodgilbert - just popped on to say that I'm a Cambridge English graduate. From a grammar school which had almost no history of Oxbridge application or success. I applied to Clare but was pooled to Newnham and had a glorious three years - it really is the most wonderful and supportive college. I highly recommend it!

secretsquirrels Fri 05-Sep-14 19:57:35

KittiesInsaneou are quite correct in that you don't have to make all 5 choices at once. You can add the other 4 up to January. They do all get the same application form though. So one Personal statement fits all. I don't quite see the advantage of awaiting the decision on Oxbridge before putting the others down?
DS also applied to Durham and held that one back until (just) after the Oxbridge deadline. By the time he went for his Cambridge interview he had his four other offers.

KittiesInsane Fri 05-Sep-14 20:56:53

Just that it makes it less of a rush to decide on the other four (and indeed gives her a chance to go and visit them if she hasn't yet). DS wishes he'd done that last year as the early Oxbridge deadline caught him out rather.

boys3 Fri 05-Sep-14 23:32:18

MrsRhod fingers crossed for good news for you next week.

Certainly not too late, plus as others have said there are five choices, of which, presumably Cambridge, if your DD is considering English, would just be one. Durham is extremely well regarded for English as is UCL.

The initial pressure point is likely to be getting the PS done. School are likely to be flexible for their internal deadline, and not having the PS should not stop them getting their reference done. From memory having been through this last year your DD would also have to select a specific college at Cambridge to apply to rather than just the university - UCAS or the university website should be able to confirm that either way. DS1 visited a bit earlier (in the July at end of Y12) but his college selection seemed based around which of the dozen or so visited he liked best from an architectural point of view. hmm

Cambridge interview a high percentage of applicants. Each college will differ slightly in its approach. However expect another set of forms to complete after the UCAS one, and essays to be submitted- for DS1, in a humanities subject, although not English, it was two already written so not additional work to do. They'll also want the detailed UMS scores for each AS subject and module.

From a stress point of view on the positive side if interviewed your DD would know if she was successful by first week January. Moreover for subjects like English whilst Durham will make three / four times more offers than it has intended places, the Cambridge college will make pretty much just offers to those it really wants and in whom it has high confidence will achieve the conditional offer grades - most likely A*AA. The same incidentally as the standard Durham offer for English.

Best of luck to her whatever she decides to do application wise.

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Sat 06-Sep-14 12:33:59

mrsrhodgilbert, good luck for your test results. My son is at Oxford (not doing English) so I have a bit of secondhand knowledge to pass on which I hope will help.

To state the blindingly obvious, your daughter should look at the websites for both Oxford and Cambridge to see if she likes the look of the courses. There's a lot there and she will have a good deal to think about before she decides whether to apply. A few obvious points:

1. Does she like the idea of studying in a town rather than a city or a campus university? The universities are major employers and tourist attractions in both towns and that has downsides. OTOH, they are so compact that you can get about entirely on foot or by bike.

2. It's not as expensive as you might think. Both places have generous support for students from lower income families, if this is relevant, and the terms are so short that the accommodation costs are a lot lower than in many other places. (See also point below about libraries.)

3. It's strongly discouraged to have a part-time job during term-time. Most people would not have time as the workload is very heavy. This is a marked difference from other universities.

4. The college system is completely different from every other university in the UK (including Durham) because (a) admissions decisions are made at college level and (b) teaching is organised at college level except for lectures. At Oxford students will often go to other colleges for tutorials/seminars, depending on the modules being studies, but in the last analysis responsibility for the student's progress rests with his/her own college. The student has the college library (often excellent) to draw on as well as the university/faculty library (for both universities, just about the best in the UK - huge cost saving that so much is available free and doesn't have to be bought by the student). Accommodation is provided by the college, and many colleges are able to provide it for the entire course. It's cheaper than private renting and there's also subsidised catering in college.

5. The single biggest difference though, is the huge importance of the tutorial/supervision. (I believe supervision is the word used at Cambridge.) Students have to be prepared to spend an hour a week in an intensive tutorial with an academic, either 1:1 or 2:1. For each tutorial there will be an essay to write and this will be picked apart during the tutorial. This would not suit everyone.

There are a lot of similarities between the Oxford and Cambridge admissions processes, but also some significant differences.

- They both look closely at the academic record to date and the predicted A level results, but Cambridge pay far more attention to AS results than GCSE results, and Oxford do it the other way round. My son had excellent GCSEs. His AS results were very good but not stratospheric and this was for him the main reason he applied to Oxford rather than Cambridge, as he was equally attracted to both places and courses. (He loves Oxford, btw, so fortunately that worked out OK!)

Oxford also use aptitude tests for a lot of subjects. The tests are taken in school in early November. Details here for English.

Both places will want to see an example piece of schoolwork.

Both will then invite some applicants to interview. Cambridge interview a higher proportion of applicants but that feeds through into a higher rejection rate after interview because they have a similar amount of places to offer. Oxford interviews are residential. Applicants are there for at least two days, usually, staying in the college they've applied to.

The interview is designed to be like a tutorial - ie very stretching indeed, lots of questioning, seeing if the applicant can react quickly, construct a good argument on the spot - and if applicants hate it and struggle with the approach, that may be a sign that they are better off elsewhere. This can apply even to super-bright students.

Pooling: if the college applied to doesn't want to offer to an applicant, they can pass them onto another college. At Oxford this happens during the residential period, so when the final decision comes through it could be yes from the original college, yes from another college or no. At Cambridge pooling is a second stage and involves going back for a second round of interviews.

That's a huge amount of information to get your head round! I hope it's correct, it's been three years since my son applied.

Good luck with the decision-making. Durham is a vg university and if your daughter decides she'd rather stick with Plan A that is a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Roisin Sat 06-Sep-14 13:34:23

Saltasaurus - do you have any feedback or advice about St John's, Oxford? ds1 likes it because he likes the gardens/space, he likes the fact that students live on site for all 4 years, he likes the location (for Science) and the fact that it's not on one of the busiest/tourist streets in Oxford.

We've heard/read that there's little accommodation flexibility at St John's, unlike other colleges, and that because of conference business, students have to clear out/move in very promptly at the end of week 8/start of week 1 and that if you want to stay extra days in noughth week or nineth week, you have to pay extra and you won't necessarily be able to. Have you found this to be a problem?

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Sat 06-Sep-14 13:41:15

Roisin, I'm not Saltasaurus and my son isn't at St John's, but yes, generally you have to pay extra to stay in your room out of term-time, and yes, you usually have to clear everything out for the Christmas and Easter vacations. This is a bit of a pain, but on the other hand it does keep the accommodation costs right down as students are only paying for term-time, not the vacations.

Can't comment on how easy it is to go back early. My son at a different, smaller college has always been able to get a few days before start of term, but I expect it varies a lot.

We don't have a car, so at the start and end of term one or more additional members of the family go with our son to help carry his stuff back to London on the Oxford Tube. He doesn't take all that much, fortunately. He isn't self-catering, which helps considerably. We normally pass cars where student and parent(s) are toiling back and forth filling the interior up with endless boxes, so I think our son is unusual, but he seems to manage perfectly well!

Leeds2 Sat 06-Sep-14 17:55:14

Thanks for getting back to me, *Roisin."

Greengrow Sat 06-Sep-14 18:30:52

Also in terms of tactics there are huge lot of subjects easier to get to Oxbridge for than English which has a very large number of applications. I am not saying don't apply if she's really good at English and that is all she loves but do consider other subjects which have very much less competition for Oxbridge.

oneearedrabbit Sat 06-Sep-14 18:56:03

My dd has got a place at oxford and is going up in a few weeks time.
The oxford concept was completely new to us so we went through it as real innocents, which in a funny way was quite useful - we never worried much as it was all such an eye opener!
She certainly had not been planning the application for years - only decided in the September term to give it a go. She had all A*s at gcse but her AS level results were not superb ( 3 As 2 Bs over 4 A levels); however in her favour hugely was she was passionate about the subject she wanted to study which is a science type subject. Also she had done a great deal of other stuff at school (d of e, outward bound, ccf etc) and had a super report from head of science. She put 5 unis on the ucas form and then did the BMat test, and did well.
So was then thrilled to be invited for interview and got offered a place.
Given the many children I know personally who on paper are as bright or brighter than she is, but have not over the past few years had offers, I feel it was down almost entirely to her true and deep interest in the subject - she (of her own accord) constantly reads about science, talks about it, and had her own ideas and views of what she would be interested in; plus, she did two lab based work experience sessions last summer ( a week each).
I would say to anyone, just encourage your child to go for it. I think they must be looking for potential and passion, which, together with (obviously) pretty good exam results, should get them over many of the hurdles.

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Sat 06-Sep-14 19:22:04

Greengrow, if the OP's daughter wants to read English, and has focussed her background reading on English, she is not going to be happy reading (say) Theology or Arch and Anth, even if she can persuade the admissions tutors that she is really, really interested in those subjects and has somehow managed to cram in a bit of relevant wider reading before early December. Much better to stick with English and accept that if she doesn't get into Oxford (or Durham) she has an excellent chance with those grades of getting onto another good course.

Beastofburden Sat 06-Sep-14 19:31:48

roisin there's a bit of urban myth going on here. All oxford and Cambridge colleges have conference trade, all of them expect you to move out at the end of term. St. John's isn't any better or any worse than the rest of them. If ppl really need to stay then they are probably well placed to find a room, as they are both big and wealthy.

But tbh it isn't worth stressing about college choice too much. Everyone loves their own college after a couple of weeks. And if you make an "open" application, where you don't specify a college at all, you have the same chance of admission as if you pick a college.

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