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Am I right to discourage dd1 from Cambridge application (NatSci)?

(154 Posts)
roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:11:09

Dd1 is currently Lower 6th and, for a long time, has intended to apply for NatSci at Cambridge. However, I'm concerned that she'd be wasting an application, due to her grades at GCSE and feedback from the current year's applicants.

She is doing AS Physics, Chemistry, Maths and English Lit, whilst following the Further Maths course at home as her school doesn't offer it. Physics is by far her best subject, but her GCSE result doesn't reflect this.

The offers and interview invitations have now started coming in for pupils in the year above. Of the two pupils who applied for Cambridge NatSci, neither was offered an interview. One of them was given feedback that this was because his academic profile was not strong enough.

This chap had 4 As at AS level, so it must be his GCSEs that were the issue. He has 7 A*s and 6 As. Dd1 has 6 A*s and 4 As. Two of the As are in Physics and Chemistry. Although both were high As, and unexpectedly 'low' given her previous performances (normally in the top three in her year), those are the grades that she got.

To me, that makes her situation clear, but dd1 is determined to apply anyway. Both dh and I went to Cambridge so we know the form - however, neither of us went for NatSci, which is (one of) the most competitive for applicants.

I'm torn between not wanting to shatter her dreams and advising her, realistically, that she would probably be wasting one of her five applications. Can anyone suggest a middle ground?

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:13:24

(Apologies. The pupil who recently didn't get an interview offer has 7 A*s and 3 As. 10 GCSEs in total.)

BertrandRussell Fri 27-Nov-15 15:14:52

I'd say go for it. She's got 4 other choices and if she doesn't, she will always wonder.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:16:25

Fair point, Bertrand. Especially if she doesn't apply because I advised her not to!

SevenSeconds Fri 27-Nov-15 15:17:22

If she was my DD I'd let her apply. She may not get in, but that's not the end of the world is it? She still has four other applications.

Can you talk to her teachers about her chances? If they advise her not to apply, it may come better from them than from you.

Does she have a particular college in mind? Some are less competitive than others for NatSci.

FordPerfect Fri 27-Nov-15 15:20:19

Is she doing ASs in any of those subjects this summer? (I am not sure which subjects are linear this year). If she is, why not wait and see how she fares before deciding? It is too early to write it off - much can change during Year 12.

TiesThatBind Fri 27-Nov-15 15:21:26

It is her decision and in my view she has got nothing to lose from applying.

The great thing about Oxbridge is that the interviews mean grades aren't the only consideration. Certainly in my year at school places didn't just go to those with the best marks on paper.

If she doesn't get in she will be disappointed but she'll have given it her best shot and should be able to make peace with the outcome. If you stop her applying YOU are shattering her dreams and she is likely to resent you for it.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:21:55

She originally thought of St John's, but would probably be open for a rethink on that, at least. And yes, a chat with her teachers is probably a good plan.

Indeed it wouldn't be the end of the world smile. Perhaps it would be better to let her get on with it and avoid too much negativity. Just as long as she chooses her other four applications wisely.

Sadik Fri 27-Nov-15 15:21:35

I'd say you've not got much to lose with 4 other options available. If she doesn't get in, remind her that she'll have escaped Saturday 9am lectures and a ridiculously over-full timetable!

MrsHathaway Fri 27-Nov-15 15:22:12

I wonder if his personal statement was the wrong profile - maybe too much rugby and not enough MOOCs or something. That would be "academic profile" without being grades.

Do you have to put actual scores on Oxbridge forms? Perhaps he scraped some of his exams or only just made his A overall on a critical topic. TBH the grade doesn't tell you a lot - maybe his school report bit just wasn't strong enough!

If you and the school genuinely think she is a strong contender and they are ready to support her then yes she should still go ahead, but perhaps with her friends' experiences in her mind so she can look at IC/Edinburgh or wherever else with a more open mind.

Do you think she is applying to Cambridge because you did IYSWIM so it feels like the obvious option rather than necessarily the best? That's kind of what I did if I'm honest.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:23:08

AFAIK she'll be doing ASs in all four subjects this summer (plus possibly a module of Further Maths independently). Her school uses an exam board that isn't going linear with those subjects yet (we aren't in England).

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:28:16

I think that family visits to Cambridge over the years may have swayed her a little, but primarily I think it's her own ambitions. She's extremely determined, but sometimes that causes her to force issues a bit too much. Although that's probably another reason why I should just leave her to it.

Interesting point about the personal statement. I'd assumed it was only because of the grades, but can see how it might be broader. My application was so long ago (and for such a different subject) that I'm not sure whether the scores are included.

titchy Fri 27-Nov-15 15:31:34

Has she been to any of the recent masterclasses? The advice dd got was they don't give two hoots about your GCSE profile, they do care about AS profile (though that will change obviously), so yes absolutely she should go for it.

I suspect the two from the year above whose academic profiles weren't good enough didn't have 90% UMS in their AS papers which Cambridge want to see, given that their standard offer is 2 Astars and an A. I doubt they meant their GCSE profile.

Dustylaw Fri 27-Nov-15 15:34:39

I empathise with you but you are second guessing your daughter's chances far too much. You don't know, for example, how much weight the tutors might give to studying Further Maths by herself and off her own bat. Nor do you know the details of the candidates who didn't get an interview offer - it isn't just an assessment of how many A stars vs As. You do know that your daughter is going to be a very strong candidate for all her other choices so frankly it isn't like she is going to 'need' 5 non-Cambridge choices to land a very good university. Most especially, you don't want to be the person standing in the way of letting her have a go at her dreams - which have clearly motivated - yes, she may end up being disappointed but she also might end up with the Cambridge place she is dreaming of. I know you want to spare any disappointment but you would be giving a message of 'don't even try because you aren't good enough and it's always better not to aim high in case you are disappointed.'

MrsHathaway Fri 27-Nov-15 15:35:37

for example, how much weight the tutors might give to studying Further Maths by herself and off her own bat.

I think this is a brilliant point.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:38:36

That's useful advice from the masterclasses. She hasn't been to any of those, as we just live too far away.

Thanks for all advice, which I'm taking on board. Yes, on balance I'm better to step aside. (Not to drip-feed, but dd1 has ASD and anxiety, and can react very badly to things not going the way she expects. Hence my attempts to manage expectations just a little!)

strawberryandaflake Fri 27-Nov-15 15:38:53

She can but try, but I agree she doesn't have a hope. I went to Cam. I was also on an admissions team for a while. She will be up against others with 9-10 Astars and at least one at A level, with other credentials such as head of debating team, gold level DofE award, already set up a micro business and so forth. I got in because I already had management experience. If you don't let her try you'll never know and she may always wonder, but don't protect her from the fact that it's unlikely.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 15:39:49

Agree - very good point about the Further Maths. I don't know what the other candidate was doing, but I'm sure that can't hurt.

BertrandRussell Fri 27-Nov-15 15:44:33

"head of debating team, gold level DofE award, already set up a micro business and so forth."

None of which is relevant to the university admissions process unless it can be linked directly to the course.

OP- there is a Cambridge admissions tutor who posts on here sometimes- I can't remember her new name- but I reckon she might be alone soon.

titchy Fri 27-Nov-15 15:48:06

That advice is VERY out of date now strawberry.... Don't think Les Ebdon would be too pleased about such things!

AlmaMartyr Fri 27-Nov-15 16:00:07

Sounds like she should give it a go. It always seems so different across the colleges so a less competitive college might be worth a shot?

MrsHathaway Fri 27-Nov-15 16:02:02

Yes, or maybe an Open application?

SecretSquirrels Fri 27-Nov-15 16:25:56

Cambridge place a lot of emphasis on the UMS achieved in AS levels. Getting As isn't enough they have to be very good As. In some subjects the successful candidates are usually averaging over 95% UMS.
How they will select once the applicants have no AS exams I don't know.

Realistically it's not a waste. Five choices is plenty to include Cambridge plus another couple of aspirational choices and a couple of safer ones.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 16:28:00

Thank you - I'll have a chat through all those options with her smile. I applied Open a long time ago. I'm not sure which colleges are less competitive for NatSci, but I'm sure we can find out. We have a fair bit of time.

roundandroundthehouses Fri 27-Nov-15 16:30:44

Her other 'aspirational' choice would be Durham, and her safest one would be the one in our 'local' city, which has a reasonable, but not stellar (heh!), reputation for Physics. I'd be hugely surprised if she didn't manage to get into that one.

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