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Oxbridge question (sorry sorry sorry)

(58 Posts)
yeOldeTrout Wed 04-Nov-15 19:29:36

DD is a high achieving all rounder.
She has many ideas what to study at Uni, but main thing is... she doesn't have a deep passion (& probably never will) for what to study. Nevertheless, she will excel at whatever she puts her mind to and finally settles on.

So, even if she gets wild A*s in everything, I think there would be no point in applying to Oxbridge, because they care about "passion" for the subject... is that right? She won't be able to sincerely say in an interview "I am deeply truly madly passionate about X"

The school have already put an Oxbridge flea in her ear, but I think it's rather misplaced. There are better Uni destinations for high achievers like her (I think?).


DamnCommandments Wed 04-Nov-15 19:34:49

Nope. PPE was designed for people like this! Wind her up, let her go and sit back while she learns how to run the country.

disquisitiones Wed 04-Nov-15 19:40:58

Most Oxbridge students aren't passionate about their subject. I only wish they were. Even in a subject like mine in which a quarter or so will go onto graduate studies, I would say that only 30-40% of Oxbridge undergraduates are passionate. The rest are there to get a good degree, enjoy their undergraduate years and to get a good job afterwards.

yeOldeTrout Wed 04-Nov-15 19:41:08


mercifulTehlu Wed 04-Nov-15 19:41:35

I think the 'passion' thing is a bit of a myth, and not necessarily any more true for Oxbridge than most other universities. I've read a fair few UCAS forms in my time, and every single bloody one claims to have a passion for the subject. All I can say is, I'm not sure there are really quite that many deeply impassioned kids out there!

If she's good enough to get in, really wants to go, and can decide which subject she's going to pretend to be super-passionate about wink then she should have a go!

yeOldeTrout Wed 04-Nov-15 19:43:17

Sorry, xpost, really disquisitiones? MNers are always carrying on about all Oxbridge care about "passion" not pure grades and Oxbridge turns down kids with very high grades just because the applicant lacks passion, etc.

Have I been hoaxed by another MN myth?

Twowrongsdontmakearight Wed 04-Nov-15 19:43:54

I'll be watching this too. DS's careers teacher said the same thing. Oxbridge want demonstrable depth and passion where other Unis want well rounded.

disquisitiones Wed 04-Nov-15 19:56:09

I think "passion" should be replaced by "deep thinking" or "intellect".

Oxbridge has to turn down a lot of kids with very high grades. It is generally because these kids don't seem to be as deep thinking or as strong intellectually in interview, rather than because they aren't "passionate". On the other hand in some subjects "passion" and "deep thinking" might well go hand in hand e.g. a strong candidate for English Literature would be expected to have read a lot of books (i.e. be passionate about reading) and to have thought deeply about what they had read.

But it is definitely not the case that e.g. all STEM students will come in with gazillions of passion, work experience and having studied science in their spare time. Apart from grades, the main criterion will be how well they respond to deep questions on their subject in interview.

Oxbridge is one slot on the form. If a student has grades and predicted grades in the right range and wants to do the course, then they should apply. They shouldn't de-select themselves on the grounds of not being passionate.

BusShelter Wed 04-Nov-15 20:15:19

It's only three or four years. Better to fake the passion for a bit then, once you have your Oxbridge degree, she can do whatever she wants.
My DS studies medicine but has no interest in most aspects of it. He wants to specialize in a very particular branch for which he has to qualify as a Doctor. It's a means to an end for him. He managed to get offers from all the places he applied to. I suspect if he had been upfront with the fact that he wasn't particularly interested in caring for sick people then he wouldn't have had any offers. Funnily enough he always gets excellent feedback on his communication skills.

Disinclined11 Wed 04-Nov-15 22:50:06

Basically if she is very bright she will get in by having the ability to think quickl in her selected subject, make connections and that more hit or miss skill of tuning in to the same wavelength as the interviewers (metaphorically of course smile)

yeOldeTrout Thu 05-Nov-15 08:15:53

Thanks for replies, really useful. Will be DD's decision, obviously.

Holstein Thu 05-Nov-15 08:23:02

I think people that are strong across all subjects find it very difficult to have passions. People are usually 'passionate' about what they do best. When you're fantastic at everything you try, you cannot find 'your thing'.
There are probably a fair few people of that ilk at Oxbridge. And other v good universities.
I have met a number of these polymaths, and some are enthusiastic about everything, others don't apply themselves to anything as they know already they can master it.

SecretSquirr3ls Thu 05-Nov-15 08:46:22

This is an interesting one. I have a DS like this. He is a good all rounder and comfortably gets top grades but he doesn't love any subject in particular.
He was steered towards Oxbridge by school but decided against because he believed he would need to demonstrate overriding enthusiasm for his subject. He was also influenced by the fact that his DB is so passionate about his subject that he eats sleeps and breathes it.
I had suggested PPE but he did not do an essay subject for A level and thought it was a risky choice. In fact he has veered back and forth trying to decide what to study for 3 / 4 years, eventually opting for a science. He is a deep think though too deep.

SheGotAllDaMoves Thu 05-Nov-15 09:27:00

I think the passion thing is over stated.

Young people with high intellectual ability will usually have lots of things they're interested in and enthusiastic about.

Demonstrating a real enthusiasm for the subject and an ability to think deeply about it is more than enough smile. An applicant doesn't have to prove it's the only thing in their life!

That said, I would encourage applicants to all universities to ask themselves if this is really the subject that they want to study day-in-day-out for three years. Be honest about that or misery calls.

yeOldeTrout Thu 05-Nov-15 09:36:41

I also asked partly because I was chatting with someone who interviews medical students & the frustration they had when someone got 6 weeks into the course & suddenly declared it's not for them, they never really wanted to do it actually. The interviewers ask questions to try to confirm that applicants have sustainable motives. But then the kids are so coached (or may have attended several other interviews) so they know all the "right answers" to most questions.

I wouldn't want DD to waste time on something she wasn't keen enough on, but don't want her to have to fake enthusiasm either when she could make a good job of the course.

Molio Thu 05-Nov-15 10:38:44

Holstein equally there are students at Oxford who are not 'fantastic at everything' and still have only a genuine enthusiasm for the subject they're applying for, falling short of 'passion'. I think the general idea is that they should become more enthused by the time they leave, having been taught how to think in a particular subject by properly passionate tutors.

Is Oxbridge the new Voldemort on MN? Not sure why.

Molio Thu 05-Nov-15 10:41:19

That's an issue with all interviews though Trout. I interview; you have to attempt to discern the genuine - it's up to the interviewer, you can't rely on words alone.

yeOldeTrout Thu 05-Nov-15 10:46:10

I work for a non-RG uni, and have a wannabe NEET so I fully understand why many MNers find the Oxbridge threads astoundingly tedious. Maybe there should be a special Oxbridge topic that could be easily sectioned off.

anyway thanks for replies.

minipie Thu 05-Nov-15 11:17:52

Oxbridge doesn't care about passion for subject that much - IME what they really like is someone who will express an opinion, speak up in tutorials, come up with a new argument. Basically someone who will be sparky and interesting to teach rather than someone who knows a lot but doesn't have their own views.

Agree PPE is a great degree for an all rounder (also look at PPP or law)

BoboChic Thu 05-Nov-15 12:24:53

"Most Oxbridge students aren't passionate about their subject."`

I come across French applicants everywhere who are (a) brilliant (b) deeply passionate about their subject, yet all sorts of things get in the way of their applying to Oxbridge.

Alanna1 Thu 05-Nov-15 12:30:50

I also agree with the suggestion you have been given about PPE.

I was passionate about my subject, I LOVED it, and I LOVED oxford. I still am in fairly regular contact with my tutors. In a different world, I'd be back studying, teaching and lecturing there. I think that passion comes across in interviews. And all of my friends there loved their subjects too.

BoboChic Thu 05-Nov-15 12:33:47

In London (UCL and King's, principally) there are more and more interdisciplinary UG courses. Maybe more suitable for someone who doesn't have a particular passion?

homebythesea Thu 05-Nov-15 12:43:15

Why not consider a liberal arts degree in the US? She won't have to specialise for at least 2 years. If she is super bright she may well get a scholarship

Molio Thu 05-Nov-15 13:26:57

I don't think it is even a 'MN myth'. For the past few years all these threads have been saying very clearly that the notion of 'passion' is inflated. Tutors, access officers, current parents, alumni all say the same. Of course some might be utterly wrapped up in their subject but the point is that clearly you don't have to be. No-one really seems to bang on about 'passion' being a pre-requisite except for the occasional teacher who isn't really up to speed.

I'm not sure that the fact that Bobo knows French kids who are brilliant (at least according to Bobo) and passionate but don't succeed in their Oxbridge applications proves that passion is a pre-requisite, unless my powers of reasoning are flawed.

BoboChic Thu 05-Nov-15 13:45:36

Molio - sadly, not even unsuccessful. Prevented from applying by forces beyond their control!

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