Any positive stories of shy Oxbridge interviewees

(42 Posts)
Roastchesnutlatte Thu 01-Dec-16 21:52:31

Dd has an interview next week. She is very shy and lacking in confidence. She had been fine about the interview but yesterday she had a mock interview at school and was basically told that although she deserved a place, someone else would be winning it because she wasn't selling herself. He even caught her at school today to reiterate this.
I now have an even less confident child that I am having to persuade to even go and has completely given up.
She fully appreciates the need to sell herself but can't make herself into someone she isn't . I just want to cheer her up really and try to get some confidence back. Any positive stories ?

OP’s posts: |
gonegrey56 Thu 01-Dec-16 22:00:25

She has got an interview at a top institution- a fantastic achievement! She just needs to be herself, her interviewers will be looking for substance and her potential, not an overly confident self promoting individual. Very best of luck to her .

queenoftheschoolrun Thu 01-Dec-16 22:02:39

Yes, me! My tutor once explained that when he interviewed candidates he was looking for those he thought would benefit most from being at Oxford. He was looking for a love of learning, passion for the subject studied and someone he'd enjoy tutoring. Some of the people on my course were uber confident but there were plenty of shy introverts too. Tell her she just has to convince them how much she wants to go, not pretend to be someone she isn't!

goodbyestranger Thu 01-Dec-16 22:06:58

OP one of my DDs was very shy at interview, got an offer after interviews where the tutors clearly saw she wasn't going to be a seller of herself and went on to do postgrad at Oxford too. She's now teaching students herself - some very shy also. Tell your DD she's going to be fine, it's an academic interview, she's not competing at an American investment bank! The teacher has the wrong end of the stick. She does need to speak though, not clam up - that's vital.

Genvonklinkerhoffen Thu 01-Dec-16 22:07:20

I'm quite shy. I hate it because I work in a hugely male dominated environment. Like 75 men to 5 women.

I remind myself of these things:
I'm here on my own merit
I'm an expert at what I do
Even if I'm not an extrovert, I'm excellent at [my thing Im excellent at] and I'm loved and valued by my colleagues, friends and family.

I do think sometimes shyness comes from imposter syndrome so for me, these things have helped. I'm still quiet and don't gob off about things but it doesn't take people long to realise that I am the genuine SME and take notice.

So, understanding that interviews are different from work and she's got such a short time to demonstrate her massive potential, even a shy person can show that they know and understand their stuff and outline their potential.

There will be admissions folk on here with far better advice than my ramblings. Is it beneficial to show insight into your shyness? I know it's a shortcoming of mine (in the environment in which I work) but I don't know how understanding your own "weaknesses" (I can't think of a more appropriate word, sorry) would come across?

Genvonklinkerhoffen Thu 01-Dec-16 22:08:27

And GOOD LUCK!! flowers

CharlotteCollins Thu 01-Dec-16 22:08:51

Getting into Oxbridge isn't everything. I went and tbh I think I'd have done better somewhere else. I never worked out what to do if I couldn't find a book in the library, didn't want to feel stupid asking questions in tutorials, especially if I didn't understand the answer.

Reassure her that if it doesn't work out, it means she and the place are not a good fit, more than a judgement of her abilities.


zzzzz Thu 01-Dec-16 22:15:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FoggyMorn Thu 01-Dec-16 22:21:33

DS1 is a recent Oxford graduate, and I'd say he's fairly introverted, combined with the natural tendency of Scottish people to have a horror of "blowing your own trumpet", I did wonder how he would manage shine at interview. The interviews were over 2 days and he said lots of fairly odd questions- to draw him out I suppose, and see how he could think on his feet (his subject was medicine but many of questions were science and engineering based, which were secondary areas of interest to DS).
Everyone applying is going to be very bright and capable but they are looking for applicants with "something else" and that's not necessarily going to the the ones who are the most confident and polished at interviewing... I'm sure they'll give you DD every opportunity to show her mettle and potential. Good luck to her smile

Roastchesnutlatte Thu 01-Dec-16 22:44:04

Thanks all, will show her this. Very much appreciated
It's not the getting in or not I care about , it's just the destruction of her confidence in herself.
I have sent one of those berated " after a glass of wine 9 pm emails" to the teacher concerned, except I hadn't had a glass of wine, just been cuddling dd. Grr!

OP’s posts: |
LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 02-Dec-16 08:16:49

she deserved a place, someone else would be winning it because she wasn't selling herself


WTF? That's an appalling thing to say.

And a lot of bullshit, too. She isn't meant to be selling herself. She is meant to be turning up, responding to her interviewers, and seeing if she feels she'd want to spend three years doing that kind of supervision. And they are meant to use their expertise to work out what kind of a thinker she is.

It is not about 'selling' yourself.

mudandmayhem01 Fri 02-Dec-16 08:29:50

A student at my school has a Cambridge interview today, he is a bit quirky, very nervous, no extra curricular beyond doing more maths in his spare time, spent his interview prep slot reassuring its his ability in mathematics they will be interested in not his social skills, still stressed on his behalf though! I did practice introducing himself, shaking hands a bit of small talk about his journey / the college as he is worried about that bit, as soon as he started talking about maths he sounded much better. I couldn't understand anything he said from that point ( his maths teacher has been working with him on that bit of his prep!)

goodbyestranger Fri 02-Dec-16 08:31:02

OP I would also say that getting in will boost her confidence in itself and that for a shy DD the tutorial process is ideal - very easy to get lost in a class of ten or fifteen. Oxford can be a great confidence builder IME.

NamelessEnsign Fri 02-Dec-16 08:38:41

Good luck Roastchestnut's daughter.

Ex-Oxbridge student and introvert here. I was painfully unprepared and under-educated at my interview. This may sound unbelievable, but I lost the hearing in one ear (a stress thing related to a condition I have) in my first interview and was too shy to say anything about it. Of course, the interviewer was on that side of me on a round table.

Thankfully I had two reasonable interviews and the second interviewer really drew me out with interesting questions.

I'm pretty sure from looking at all my College friends that the interviewers are looking at how you think and how you can be educated to think, not how bullish you can be. There are legions of over-educated and painfully confident candidates. They start to look samey after a while.

Just be yourself - that's who you will need to be when you get in, anyway!

Roastchesnutlatte Fri 02-Dec-16 10:01:28

Thanks all
Mumsnet can be a lovely place
Have screenshotted replies for dd, I really think they will help. It's one thing for your mum to give advice but much better coming from elsewhere when you are a teenager !

OP’s posts: |
glorious Fri 02-Dec-16 10:12:44

Really truly I would ignore that unhelpful feedback. Provided she is actually speaking rather than totally clamming up that will be fine.

I cried in my Cambridge interview and got in. Not something I would care to repeat but it didn't do me any harm.

Good luck to your DD flowers

Bumpsadaisie Fri 02-Dec-16 10:36:37

Oxbridge is full of shy very clever non-pushy introverts (it also has lots of pushy confident extroverts who are on a self selling mission too!) As long as your DD can actually do the interview - ie speak and respond intelligently to the discussion - she doesn't need to come across like an advertising executive.

Shed do much better to try and be true to herself than to pretend she is something she is not.

SkyLucy Fri 02-Dec-16 10:45:47

Best of luck to her! If she adores her subject she'll be fine - she's obviously bright so tell her not to doubt her academic ability, just let her passion shine. I was very shy and felt hugely out of my depth at my interview (scruffy state school kid surrounded by seemingly polished + prepped public school kids!) but LOVED my subject. Can't pretend the interviews weren't tough, but they obviously saw beyond the blushes and nerves and gave me a chance. I loved every minute of my four years there, and you know what? There are bloody hundreds of shy/quirky/reserved/truly amazing students there. It's not about 'selling' yourself, it's about your passion, potential and dedication.

I really hope she gets the result she wants - remember, it's her chance to suss them out too!

HellsBellsnBucketsofBlood Fri 02-Dec-16 10:58:14

He's an idiot and has no clue what the interviewer is looking for (I can say this because not only did I get through my interview, but DH later did Oxbridge admissions).

She needs to simply be herself and answer the questions to the best of her ability. Her views will be challenged- she should be prepared to consider alternative points and to change her mind if it is justified. And avoid spouting views worthy of the Daily Mail - I only mention this as some applicants for DH were ... interesting. The tutor is deciding whether she is (1) intellectually flexible and (2) someone he would like to teach put up with for the next three years.

Grausse Fri 02-Dec-16 11:37:51

That's an awful thing for a teacher to say. She must have stood out from the crowd to have got an interview. The most important thing is her subject. If she loves it, can talk about it and lights up with enthusiasm about it that will be far more important than her shyness.

I have a very shy nervous DS. He loves maths though and is very good at it and can talk endlessly about it and at his Cambridge interview that was all that mattered.

jaguar67 Fri 02-Dec-16 17:41:50

What a plonker of a teacher. Exactly the sort of BS that puts so many capable young people off applying at all, grrrr.....

Big hug & flowers for you and DD

Completely agree with PPs. Just to add, encourage your DD (who sounds lovely btw) to think of it as the most brilliant opportunity to spend some time with leading experts in their field - not many Yr 13s get to do that! Yes, they'll be able to run rings around her if they choose to, but the reality is they will just push as far as reasonable to see how she thinks and responds to theories/ problems - the more she feels challenged, the better! They are most certainly not looking for polished 'end products'.

Yes, there are plenty of super confident students there (perhaps even more who give the appearance of being so, anyway wink) - but there are plenty of unassuming shy types too. There really is room for everyone and the interviewers see it as their job to cut through interview nerves/ shyness/ BS/ whatever, to assess that potential.

Please let your DD know there's another MNer rooting for her here!

goodbyestranger Fri 02-Dec-16 17:53:53

A tutor featured on one of the official Oxford University website interview advice videos says in it please remember that lots of the tutors are shy introverts too.

Cherryburn Fri 02-Dec-16 19:47:00

Roastchestnutlatte my DD is also a shy introvert. She had similar feedback from a mock interview and was sure she'd blown one of her 2 real interviews, largely through nerves.

She's just finishing her first term at Oxford, has found loads of other quirky, shy introvert friends there and has loved it (notwithstanding a couple of crises of confidence along the way!). She had her end of term meeting with her tutors this week and got fantastic feedback.

Tell your DD not to worry and to try to enjoy the experience. And to be herself! Very best of luck to her.

Sadusername Sat 03-Dec-16 11:54:03

OP- I think if you try and reframe it for your dd. I doubt if the teacher meant to make her feel bad, or expected her to be someone she isn't. They have said that feel she deserves a place and are so worried that she won't do herself justice that they brought it up the next day. Emphasise to her that they think she is a worthy candidate and really want her to get the place. Perhaps they meant that she needs to convey her enthusiasm for the subject a bit more, which might be a bit different to selling yourself, even if those are the words he used. As far as I am aware they won't ask questions like- Why should we take you and not the other candidates? Or ask them to describe a time when they displayed leadership qualities.
My dd had a mock interview at school and felt a bit upset initially by the feedback. She is by no means shy, but they marked her down as they said she took a really long time to answer questions. As she has a tendency to blurt out her first thoughts and babble somewhat, she deliberately slowed herself down. She did feel personally criticised at first but when she watched the video back, she saw that that was quite a (substantial) gap before answering some questions and she's consciously trying to rectify this. Probably she was trying to second guess what they might have wanted her to say.
i think what I am trying to say is that most students will have their strengths as well as weaker areas. From what I have read on here and tsr, the process is very holistic and they aren't just taking one thing into account!

29redshoes Sat 03-Dec-16 12:02:19

The single shyest person I know went to Oxford (from a comprehensive).

They're looking for knowledge and passion for the subject rather than an ability to sell oneself. The mock interviewer sounds v unhelpful!

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