Cambridge - Son regrets applying.(145 Posts)
Our 17-year-old is doing A-levels at College, and has now applied for universities. He didn't originally consider appling for Oxbridge, but his teachers advised him to do it. He even went on a school trip to Oxbridge to have a look around. Anyway, he has applied, so is now waiting if he'll be invited for an interview.
The problem is that he now regrets applying. He considers it a lot of effort, especialy compared to the other universities he applied for. He especially hated writing his personal statement.
He doesn't really want to go to an interview, and I can understand that. He'd have to travel a very long time (between 6 and 7 hours if there are no train disruptions), he'll miss college and he'll have to spend at least one night, possibly two, in Cambridge, and after all that effort and spending quite a lot of money which we've actually been saving for something else, he might still get a rejection. His predicted grades are A and A* level, but he may not achieve those.
He has two offers from two of his other choice universities, which have lower entry requirements, so he's sure of a place to study anyway. He likes those two at least as much as Cambridge. He's not sure he'll fit in at Cambridge and he's afraid that the work pressure will be too much.
From what I've read I think he should be fine there, study-wise. Socially I don't know; he's not a very social person, so I suppose that'll be an issue everywhere. He is worried about the usual: that it'll be too posh for him. None of his (step) parents has gone to any university, so it's all a bit alien to us.
My son is normally very confident and relaxed, but this entire Oxbridge application stresses him more that his exams -or anything else for that matter- ever have.
Should I push him to keep applying or would it be better for him to withdraw his application?
Too posh is an outdated worry. What course/college?
What benefit would he get from withdrawing his application? He isn't committed to anything.
Does he generally fear failure? I don't think you'd do him any favours letting him wriggle out of it tbh. He can always say it didn't suit him whether he rejects the college or vice versa.
Avoiding things because they're a bit hard or a bit scary is not something for you to encourage.
I would at least wait and see whether he gets invited for interview. Then he has a choice of whether to go or not.
If he goes for interview AND they made an offer he still has choices.
If he pulls out at this point he may always wonder whether he made the right decision. Is the cost issue something you are concerned about rather than him? Some colleges can help with travel costs if it's a problem.
Having said all that he needs to be very happy with his uni options and it is a stressful business.
Its only an application. He doesn't have to go to the interview, and even if he decides to, he doesn't have to go to Cambridge.
See it through as far as you can, and make decisions if and when offers are on the table. This is all very anxious about something that doesn't need fretting about yet. He might not get interview/in.
If he's invited to interview, he should go and see what it's like. The whole "too posh" thing is a bit misinformed - yes, there are a lot of students from privileged backgrounds, but there will be at any university where there are a lot of A/A* students.
Worrying that it is too posh is why it ends up mostly full of posh people! It's hardly their fault if other people are too narrow minded to want to mix with them!
A couple of days and a train fare / accommodation costs (speak to the interviewing college if these are problematic as they may be able to help) ... Honestly, those are terrible reasons.
Course won't suit, fine. Don't like the city, fine. Don't want a single day off college ... He would look back on that decision with regret, I think.
Go to the interviews, if invited, for all applications, to get a feel for all choices.
Wait until results and pick which one he wants to go to. If he gets all his predicted grades chances are they will all confirm offers.
My friend got three As at A-level and only lasted a term at Cambridge as it completely stressed her out. She then studied at the same Russell group Uni as me (albeit was then an academic year behind). Another friend lasted a year at one of the London Unis and then transferred to our local uni for the other 2 years of her degree. Both have subsequently had successful media and professional careers respectively.
At this stage I would keep an open mind but, wherever he ends up going, it is not the end of the world if he decides to change uni at any time.
Really, really really - talk to the college if travel costs are a problem, I'm sure they will help.
If it is helpful, I went to Cambridge - my parents both left school at 16, and to date (and I'm in my 40s) I still don't have any blood relatives who've been to university. I actually think Cambridge was probably easier than my other choices would have been because the colleges look after you so much so it's less intimidating, you don't have to worry about finding accommodation etc. And there are generally lots of bursaries and funds to help people from less well off families as they're always looking to widen access.
Come to that - my Director of Studies in college (interviewed me and was in charge of the course for the 3 years) left school at 15 to be a farm worker and only came to education very late through having been a union rep, you can't get much less posh than that!
he's not a very social person
You DO NOT have to worry about this: Cambridge and Oxford are both full of introverted nerds. One lad I know pretty well was Mr Anti-Social all through school - he never had a single friend home from school once his mother stopped organising his social life when he was 6 or 7.
Off he trots to Oxbridge, joins assorted clubs, makes friends, gets a girlfriend.
Of course, not every person comes out of his or her shell, but I can assure you, plenty of Oxbridge students sit around the coffee machine with others of their own kind barely uttering a word.
I was the first in my family to go to uni, went to Cambridge and loved it. Please encourage your son to at least go for the interview, I guarentee that there are people from many backgrounds there.
Travel costs are trivial in the whole scheme of things - sounds like an excuse.
Why not wait and see if he gets an interview first and then help him figure out what exactly it is that is bothering him.?
If he feels he's been pushed into applying by the school and genuinely doesn't feel he wants to go then there's probably no point in putting himself through the stress (it is very stressful, my DS has just been invited to interview and we are trying not to focus too much on Cambridge as the be all and end all but he REALLY wants to go). But, if he just doesn't fancy the journey/interview then it would be a shame to miss out for that reason. Whichever university he ends up at there are going to be tough times when he has to do things he would rather not do, this is just going to be the first. A valuable life lesson perhaps?
Son is not generally afraid of failure at all, actually, and doesn't avoid things because they are scary. He can be a little bit lazy, though, so the threat of a massive work pressure does put him off a little. ;-)
He's not afraid to fail. He says that he thinks it's a ridiculous that applying for Oxbridge is so much effort compared to other universities, and he isn't convinced that it's worth the effort, and although he hasn't said it, I get the feeling that it annoys him and he feels it's pointlessly snobby. He wants to go into politics, and he's quite idealistic.
As for the costs: He worries more about the money than I do. He's always a bit cautious with money. I don't want him to let his choice be guided by (lack of) money if that doesn't have to be the case, but he knows what I've been saving the money for and he says that he doesn't want to spend it on something that may lead to nothing.
He had to fill out a lot of forms and didn't want to do that, but Itold him to just go on with it all and see what happens, and he did. Still, he doesn't really want to. One of the universities where he already has an offer from is Manchester, and he's very taken with that one.
If it was left up to him he'd withdraw his Cambridge application.
I'm also not sure if his college is focusing on Oxbridge because if many of their students go there it reflects well on them, or if they genuinely think it's best for my son. Is Cambridge really so much better than other universities?
has he looked at other universities? It is kudos for the college so they will encourage it but he should be happy where he is going and if thats not cambridge so be it. I know 2 people who didn;t last a term but now doing brilliantly elsewhere
It sounds to me that he's actually very very nervous and maybe even slightly intimidated by the whole process of 'Oxbridge'. It seems a shame to kiss out on it all and the reasons like travelling etc are really trivial. Everyone has to kiss out on odd days to do interviews! I think you should see if someone at school can talk to him eg personal tutor. Find if he goes through with it all and decides not to accept a place but what a shame not to find out.
IMO its not about whether it's a better uni, it's about whether it's better For him. In my DS's case he just feels like it fits him better and I think he's probably right. If your son genuinely doesn't think this is the case then maybe withdrawing would be for the best. However, withdrawing just because he had to fill in a few extra forms??
As far as cost is concerned, as far as i am aware Cambridge is committed to making sure that the best students are able to attend regardless of their financial situation. Is it the cost of travelling to jnterview that's bothering him or the cost of being a student there? My DS originally asked if we could afford for him to go to Cambridge but actually when we did the sums it works out cheaper than his other options.
If your DS is interested in politics, there will be loads of opportunities to engage in that at Cambridge (most of current and shadow Cabinet have Oxbridge connections)
It's not all Brideshead Revisted these days - my son went to Cambridge from a 'bog standard' comp which had very little record of sending students there and loved every single second of his time there
On the 'is Cambridge so much better question' there's lots of info about university's rankings in global league tables; number of Nobel prize winners etc. But I'd focus on the fact that the teaching style at Cambridge will be very, very different from Manchester, which may or may not suit your son. In a way the interview he's been invited to is a taste of this as it sort of mirrors Cambridge supervisions (weekly meeting of 1 or 2 students with their subject tutor). In a supervision the student is expected to argue their case and talk through their views. the tutor will have been through the essay the student has submitted in detail and will really probe and question. Mostly in other universities work is handed back with tutor comments written on it, but there isn't usually this intense back-and-forth over an argument. Nor is this a pointless skill - DS got into doing powerpoints for his seminar presentations for one of his Cambridge tutors (who has done TV series and is pretty switched on) and it was his ability to sum up a range of arguments clearly and succinctly that got him his current job.
Costs - once at Cambridge, costs are often lower than at other universities. Eg DS accommodation costs lower than DDs at Bristol and Leeds; food in canteen is very good standard and cheap; libraries full of books so no need to buy; lots of funds and bursaries to support study/travel etc.
It is genuinely better ... for some courses and some students.
I agree that the SFC will be pushing Oxbridge as much for their own statistics as for him - though that doesn't mean it's wrong.
I still don't see what he's got to lose by going along. The old adage about its being better to regret what you've done than left undone.
I think he should go for it. You regret the things you don't do. I am an introvert, no one from my family had stayed at school beyond 16, no one from my school had ever gone to Cambridge to do medicine before and they even took me with a 'B' . The cost of living is way way lower than the London med school I went to, lots of subsidies and grants available. The people I was there with were infinitely less posh and more inclusive than those at said London medical school and I had a fantastic time. There are three eight week terms only and the work pressure is as much as you put on yourself. I worked every holiday and left with no debts ( on a full grant back in the nineties that said)
You need to leave it up to him.
If he had really wanted to go and was now backing out due to laziness/fear/finances it would be different, but from the sound of it he didn't even want to go in the first place. If he wants to go to Manchester, that's where he should go. It's 100% his choice.
I turned down an Oxbridge place for another fab uni and have never regretted it for a single second. It wasn't for me and my parents respected that (although it definitely wouldn't have been the choice they'd have made).
Mehsmum: plenty of Oxbridge students sit around the coffee machine with others of their own kind barely uttering a word.
That would be exactly the type of social life he'd enjoy! :-D
The money for travelling isn't such a big problem; it only means I'll have to save up a bit longer than I'd hoped. We won't have to go without necessities or anything like that!
Perhaps I should presures him a little. But the thing is; I don't usually do that. So far it hasn't been necessary for school, because he's pretty good at self-motivating, and by now he is really used to making his own decisions, and he's mature enough to do so.
Oh well, he may not get invited for an interview, and then he won't need to decide.
What does he want to study? Whether Cambridge is the 'best' university academically depends on the subject, and the area within that subject that specifically interests him.
Cambridge definitely isn't pointlessly snobby - at least it wasn't 25 years ago - sure, you can find plenty of public school types wafting around if you look, but there's also huge numbers of incredibly focused people who are driven by genuine love of their subject. My impression from talking to friends who studied elsewhere is that the proportion of the latter is probably higher at Cambridge than at many other universities.
If he doesn't go, he'll always wonder what if?! At least if he goes, he knows.
I'd also encourage him, if he does go, to use it as an opportunity to get a better idea of whether it suits him, of not.
My DS was in a similar position this time last year. He knew he wanted to go for the interview, but was less sure whether he would accept a place, if offered. He thought he would regret it if he didn't give it his best shot. So, he gave it his best shot, had a really interesting night away in 'Hogwarts', and then got a really nicely worded rejection letter in January! But, because he wasn't really convinced it was for him, he wasn't upset at all! However, he is really glad that he applied, and went for the interview experience, and the fact that he is not left wondering, what if? Best of luck to your DS, at least wait until he hears whether he has an interview before the decision is made, that in itself may help to make up his mind, either way.
The main thing about Cambridge is people who love learning and love their subjects, yes. There are socialites there, but they're outnumbered by nerds... and if he wants to get into politics, then there are huge opportunities to engage with all kinds of organisations that stand him in good stead for that. Not least Target Schools, which aims to increase access to Cambridge for people from backgrounds such as your son's. There were plenty of us when I was there - my Mum was a single parent, brother disabled, money not so much tight as non-existent. And if money is a problem, Cambridge throws it at people who need it, too, far more than most places can afford to.
The workload is tough if you don't love the subject. It really is that much harder in terms of expectations than other universities, to be frank, but that stretch can be really stimulating as well. It's all about ideas and critical thinking and that can be a lot of fun, especially if you've not been surrounded by a ton of people as bright and far brighter than you are before. It can be incredibly exciting intellectually. It can also be like anywhere else: bunch of hormones on legs with the usual adolescent dramas.
He should go for the interview, at least. That way he'll be able to talk to kids currently there and get a feel for whether it's for him.
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