Take a gap year and reapply to Oxbridge?(519 Posts)
DD has been rejected from Cambridge. People with far worse grades have gotten in. She's disappointed. She mentioned retrying next year if she exceeds the standard offer?
Is it worth it considering Welsh fees are going up next year?
It's not clear from your post whether the offers are all based on predictions or actual grades. If it's predicted grades it is worth reapplying with the actual results.
Other people getting offers though is irrelevant. They may be more convincingly interested in their subjects or may have applied for courses or colleges which are more flexible. It may be worth your DD really examining what she wants to apply for and why, and doing as much reading around and thinking about her choice as she can, given A levels.
Where else has she applied to? Has she offers from anywhere else? Did she get an interview at Cambridge? If so, how did it go? No-one can have far worse results. They may not be quite as good but it is not all about results. Everyone has good grades. Potential is taken into consideration and pre tests if applicable. If she really wants to try again after her results are known, why not? But if she didn't get an interview, can she improve her application or improve at interview if she was rejected after interview. What is the applicant/offer ratio for the course she wants? Is it hugely over subscribed? Could she look at something else?
I know a boy who missed his Cambridge offer, but has applied this year to Oxford (same subject) and got in.
The Cambridge offer was A* A* A*; Oxford have offered at AAA (I.e. his actual results).
We need more info OP!
Subject / actual or predicted grades / interview or no interview / results if known of pretests...
An applicant can apply for feedback you know - info should be available from college website on how to do this.
DS has just been turned down by Oxford, I feel your pain. His college is going to send a report giving a debrief of how he did, I assume your DD will get the same. I don't think you can possibly decide whether a reapplication will be worthwhile until you see that feedback, although I perfectly understand you wanting to do something straight away
I was looking at the Oxbridge acceptance thread on the student room, and there were several people who had been accepted on the second application. One of them said that his first college had advised him that he re-applying was not out of the question, but it should be to a different college.
I almost feel like it is on a par with receiving a physical injury. You actually have to let the shock and the swelling go down before you can decide how bad the wound is, and how best treat it.
Best of luck to your DD.
Hello (name changed for this because don't want to be recognised, but did want to help).--
I teach one of the big arts subjects at Oxford and not infequently find myself interviewing someone on a gap year. I always ask if they applied to university last year, mostly out of interest (occasionally they have made a wild switch of subject, or got far better than predicted results).
We wouldn't reject someone because they'd applied before and not been admitted, and the fact plays no part in our thinking, but I will say anecdotally that second-time applicants seem almost never to get a place. I assume that this is because they don't flourish under the queer and particular constraints of the Oxbridge entrance interview; on paper they often seem excellent candidates (as, admittedly, do so many others). But I really wouldn't recommend reapplying unless there's a distinctive reason you can identify for why it didn't work out this time. As the nervous interviewer, I always feel doubly bad for those who walk out the door having flunked it twice. (And we often get quite despairing letters afterwards from the school.)
I believe you can marginally increase your chances by applying to the 'other' university. So if you are rejected by Cambridge, the apply to Oxford next time round.
"DD has been rejected from Cambridge. . . She mentioned retrying next year. . ."
Well, if she thinks that Cambridge (or Oxford) is the be all and the end all, then I would say, yes please, please try again next year or she'll feel like a complete failure for the rest of her life . . . assuming she's successful next year. One shudders to think what if she gets a second rejection.
I say, move on with your life. My thinking is that if Cambridge thinks you're not good enough for them, then Cambridge is not good enough for you.
There isn't a space at Cambridge for every student with a certain clutch of high grades. Everyone walking into the room has a high likelihood of getting those.
She needs to look beyond that if she is trying again - how could she improve the interview etc.
I will say anecdotally that second-time applicants seem almost never to get a place.
This is not just anecdote. Second-time applicants do not have a high chance of getting a place. Of course, there are always a few mistakes - I have had close family members who were rejected first time and went on to achieve high Firsts - but these are the exception, rather than the rule.
Nothing wrong with retrying. I have come across students who reapplied and got in, but IME it's people who either panicked first time around, or who had an unusual trajectory (they did reasonably well at GCSE, but their A Levels are where they really shone, and that wasn't quite obvious - to them or interviewers - the winter before).
But, beware of thinking that because other people with lower grades got in, therefore, your DD ought to have. Oxbridge make offers to people with a range of grades for two basic reasons. One, the person getting a lower grade has had a rough ride (disadvantage, illness, etc.). Two, the person getting a lower offer is shit hot, and they really want them. Generally, it is both things together, IM(limted)E.
I think people think that students who get in with lower grades get in because the colleges were scraping the barrel. This isn't likely TBH.
One approach is to consider applying for a post grad course at Oxbridge if still keen after completing a good degree at another uni?
I am surprised at the informed comments above. DC were advised that if they were applying for competitive courses, whether Oxbridge or elsewhere, to treat it as a two year process. Essentially apply to top courses, firm your best offer and insure another, and then work very hard to get the grades. If then in the summer you got stellar grades and still wanted to go, try again, getting some good work experience under your belt in the meantime. If you did not get the grades, take up your other place.
As it turned out both mine got offers they wanted towards the end of March. However they were both reconciled to having another go, and would have expected to have had an equally good chance the following year. This seems to be borne out my the fact that two of DDs friends have been offered Oxford places on reapplication, as have the DC of two friends.
A friend's son got a place on a very popular Cambridge course on THIRD application. He was very motivated and had fab and relevant work experience which he had found himself.
There is no need to make an immediate decision, in fact not until after DC gets A Level results in August. In the meantime DC should focus on getting best possible A Level grades and put uni destination to the back of her mind. My son re-applied this year (having got an offer which he missed by a small margin last year), this time for a different joint honours (one of the subjects was the same, but the other very different). This made it feel like a fresh application. Pros - he has a place and has the opportunity to mature (young in year), travel, improve his language. Cons - stressful for me (he doesn't do stress luckily), uncertainty, less in the way of school support, friends going off to university. If she can make her Gap Year into a positive regardless of outcome and can make a competitive application next year, then worth considering re-applying. Not for the faint-hearted however.
I don't really agree with the concept of getting rejected by 'mistake', as if Oxbridge selection is a mechanical matter of selecting The Best from the Very Nearly Best. There are no absolutes when it comes to assessing the potential of young adult applicants, nearly all of whom have excellent academic records. I was rejected by Oxbridge one year, accepted the second, and went on to get a 1st and do postgrad study.
I don't feel like the college which rejected me made a mistake, and somehow failed to see my true potential. I didn't show them much potential. I was insecure about my A level predictions, panicked by the interview, intimidated by other applicants. Even if I'd received an offer, I think the first year would have been difficult for me.
The second time was completely different: I was confident, with good A level result, and excited to be staying at college meeting people, and my personal statement was full of books I loved rather than books I thought I should admire. I was enthusiastic in my interview, but I didn't obsess about the process half so much, because I was due to go to Australia a week after and was happily distracted by that.
People change a lot between the ages of 17/18/19. Some people also make better applications outside the pressures of sixth form -- I know I got a lot of well-meaning but unhelpful or contradictory advice, first-time around, and the sense of scrutinity from teachers and peers was also hard (who's got an interview? what exactly did you say? have you heard?).
I would encourage anyone to reapply, if, on results day this summer, they see their grades and think: 'I really didn't represent myself well at interview; I know I can do better than that'.
I would be less enthusiastic about 'huh: look, I got great grades, and someone with worse grades got a place. That's not fair. I want another shot'.
I did meet a few people at my second year of interviews who were also on their second shot, and who seemed fuelled by resentment or entitlement, like there had clearly been a mistake made first time. None of them got offers at my college, and I have no idea if they got in anywhere else, but they were not especially pleasant to be around. (And they played a vicious game of Scrabble.)
One thing I have observed is that re applicants are often that bit clearer about the course they want to study. So straight economics rather than PPE say, and may change their mind about where they want to study. They have had an extra year of their A level subjects, more reading and more experience, so will have refined where their interest lies (physics vs engineering), and perhaps less daunted, say, about studying in London. And I agree with the PP. Most of them grow up a lot in that year. At interview they are young people who haven left school, have good results under their belt and July-December of relevant reading and experience. Very different to the 17 year old who might have been seen previously.
So even if you don't get Oxbridge on reapplication, having a second go can mean that you are happier with the course you end up on, and when you arrive at University you have a better idea why you are there.
I heartily echo ARumWithAView. Ds's first attempt was a last-minute job - he certainly hadn't nurtured the idea of Oxbridge since a foetus - and he hadn't read around his subject that much nor was "passionate" about what he'd mentioned on his personal statement. On paper , he was top notch, but in person he was a gibbering uninteresting wreck.
This year he got in - he has read a great deal and more importantly enjoyed what he's read. The interviews were still tough, but he felt confident in what he was saying. Very importantly his grades far exceeded the normal offer.
The odds aren't massively better second-time around, and unless you are determined to give it another shot, and feel you have the strength to cope with another rejection, then it might be best to leave it. Also agree that having a good gap year (not necessarily travel - ds hates travel!) is important otherwise you could feel you were just treading water for a year. Spying on The Student Room I've seen kids bitter and wailing that they've wasted a year after being rejected again.
To be honest I was quite worried about ds. Last year he actually punched the air when he didn't get in as he felt he wasn't up to it, but this year he'd really set his heart on getting in.
People on this thread are talking about reading more, so I assume are mostly talking about humanities/social sciences where perhaps maturity could make a difference for a second application.
The statistics in sciences show that candidates aren't likely to do better on re-application than they did first time around. (I exclude medicine from sciences.) I would suspect that maturity makes less of a difference in science subjects, where interviewers are looking for a particular kind of thinking, a quickness at problem solving, that isn't affected by one extra year of study, extra reading.
I have read here a number of times that selective London schools treat university entrance as a two year process. I can see why they might do this for medicine, economics, law. I am genuinely bewildered as to why they would do this for maths, physics and engineering, and I really don't think they do.
Applying a second time is fine is you are prepared to be rejected a second time. It can feel like a waste of a year if you had your heart set on being accepted and yet ended up taking the same non-Oxbridge offer you could have had a year earlier.
I applied to Oxford first and then Cambridge post a level. First time round I was a naive provincial summer born- did a terrible interview as so intimidated by the whole thing. Second time round was a year older much more confident and with a bag of good a levels.
I knew I hadn't done myself justice which was why once a levels were out I was absolutely determined to have another go.
I also put this on the oxbridge applicants thread
DC were advised that if they were applying for competitive courses, whether Oxbridge or elsewhere, to treat it as a two year process.
I wonder if this was quite person-specific (or family-specific) advice? Most students would not have the resources to do this, I think. It's not usually recommended to do a gap year for the sake of it, too. But it might make sense if you knew someone could manage it financially and/or find something useful to do for that year. For languages degrees, that might be quite easy.
Granted, I guess for the tiny number of subjects for which work experience is relevant - medicine, I guess - someone might be rejected for not having done enough before an application. But this wouldn't be the case for the majority of subjects, where work experience wouldn't factor into the decision.
Not family specific. Also I am not sure where resources come in. It is perfectly possible to earn at least your keep during a gap year, if not save a bit towards University.
Given how much University costs a bigger financial error might perhaps be to take any course simply because this is what you have been offered first time round, if you feel that with good results and a fair wind, you might get the course you really want on re-application.
In terms of STEM Oxbridge reapplications, I have seen them work, though the pattern often seems to be Cambridge maths or NatSci first time round, then Oxford, with a specific science second time. I assume in part because MAT is earlier than STEP so you get an unconditional offer, and because you have an extra year to develop interests and decide which science you want to study. The two Universities select in slightly different ways, so there seems no reason why a near miss, with excellent A level results, should not have a reasonable chance.
Needmoresleep at the risk of having the anecdote/ data thing trotted out at me, I've recently seen a GCSE 12A* single science Oxford applicant reapply after rejection and get an offer for NatSci at a big name Cambridge college.
Just to muddy the various waters
Very good post by Rum.
user7214743615, could you link to the application statistics which show Oxbridge reapplication success rates, broken down by subject (or just divided into Arts/Science)?
Both Oxford and Cambridge put detailed undergrad application stats online, but I can't find anything which mentions previous applications to their own or other institutions.
It's really useful to read nervousinterviewer's comments from the perspective of someone actually handling admissions*, but, at the other end of the spectrum, there's a lot of online conjecture about overall success rates for second-time applicants; I've heard it confidently asserted, for example, that they have better odds. (I don't believe that, but, then again, I haven't seen any figures.) So - actual statistics would be great.
* Although, IME, the most rivetingly frank description of the admissions process comes three years after you're admitted, when your tutors get drunk at your subject's leaving dinner and decide to discuss the impression each of you made at interview. Professional? No. But very very interesting.
Join the discussion
Please login first.