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Oxbridge applicants without an offer

(309 Posts)
Coleoptera Wed 16-Jan-19 05:47:29

I thought some of us from the other Oxbridge applicants thread might like to join me here on a new one for those of us with DCs who haven't had an offer. It seems that there are very specific challenges for our DCs now, after they put so much effort into their applications and sustained focus on their desired goal.

I'm welcoming over anyone who'd like further discussion and support about how our DCs are fairing and how we too as parents are getting on.

It would be so useful to hear more also from people whose DCs applied in previous years and didn't get in - at any of the various stages of offers/non offers. You are the 'veterans' with DCs who got through this and beyond and hopefully without too much regret.

OP’s posts: |
Iwantedthatname19 Wed 16-Jan-19 07:39:42

Hi, I didn't have a dc applying, but will reply anyway....I've seen your posts about your dts. I'm sorry your dt (?2) is so upset by this.

I read a very interesting post on mn once, years back, about the fact that applying to Oxbridge has a cost in that it creates a pass/fail situation which is different from the one created by a 'normal' application to five (leaving aside med, vet, dentistry - another category!)

And this post was in the old days of caps, when very high achieving candidates could end up being rejected by 2 or 3 of their non o/b choices - but the point was that that was just part of the draw, whereas not getting into o/b felt like a 'fail' (I know of course all the things about "it isn't failing, you did incredibly well to get as far etc...." but that is how it feels to the student!)

I think the wisest schools realise this, and that while most/many of the rejected students feel annoyed for a day and then forget it for the rest of their lives, every year there are a few who may take it much harder. (Obviously there are some in between as well!) I'm glad you've spoken to the school and they will speak to your dt2 - they may well have experience of this and be able to help him have a different perspective.

Coleoptera Wed 16-Jan-19 08:36:42

Iwantedthatname19, many thanks for your post. Yes, it does feel very much a pass or fail for many students, DT2 included. I've been talking to him about how, had he not even applied, he might now be perceiving different goals - much more achievable ones - or looking forward to a gap year - and never have set himself up for "Oxford or nothing". He still isn't 'feeling it' though but I'll keep trying.

I'm really surprised that DTs school hasn't got a formal method of managing those who didn't get offers - including whole group discussions, positive talks from past non-offer alumnae, regular one-to-ones with tutors etc. DT1's teacher who helps people applying for Oxbridge English hasn't even asked him how his interview went, before Xmas, let alone asked whether he got an offer and nor has his tutor! Fortunately, DT1 is very laid back about the whole thing.

I proactively contacted DT2's tutor and they've been great and seen him briefly and I hope will see him again soon but the whole ethos at the school seems to be stiff upper lip and get on with it. DT2 therefore feels the odd one out, not feeling he can get over it and is in a surreal existence right now of life continuing as normal, where he appreciates all the good things he has - alongside a sense of purposeless and no future and a sense of failure.

I think there's something about people who apply for Oxbridge and their energy and focus is single-pointed, often and they may also be perfectionistic, striving and self critical high achievers. Not reaching the goal can feel catastrophic.

I want to add the addendum of course that plenty of people with that same personality, may never apply to Oxbridge and some others without that personality (thinking of DT1 actually) may apply and then survive a rejection much better but I'm just focusing here on those with DCs who are struggling to come to terms with being thwarted in their goal.

OP’s posts: |
Puzzledmum Wed 16-Jan-19 08:50:55

Hello Coleoptera, thank you for creating this thread, very useful.
My DD got rejected from Oxford, but took it very philosophically, I am proud of her for this. In her case, originally she was not 100% sure she wanted to go there or anywhere out of London for this matter, as the course in her second choice uni (which before Oxford was her first choice), is the best in the country. Luckily, she has 4 other very good offers to choose from and is now drawing her pros and cons lists. My DD comes from a very academic, highly selective grammar school and in her school this year there were some very surprising results with Oxbridge applications. Many of the dead certain applicants did not get an offer for some reason. I really cannot explain the reason for this, but feel that it is important for the children to understand that 1) Oxbridge at an undergraduate level is not 'be all end all'. 2) They can always apply for a postgrad course there is they so wish to study there, so there is another chance) 3) There are very many exceptionally bright students who choose not to attend Oxbridge for various reasons and do brilliantly in life. So attending another uni is not going somewhere substandard.
Please try and talk to your DTs and assure them that they are very bright and will do excellently wherever they go. Also they can always do a Masters or a PhD degree in Oxbridge later (the selection process is different).

Puzzledmum Wed 16-Jan-19 09:05:34

Coleoptera - in my DD's school is the same, very unsympathetic attitute, virtually it is what it is, deal with it. I am still waiting for the feedback from the interview to be sent to me to have a look at (I asked for it). DD said they were going to meet with the Ho6form and discuss the feedback but nothing has yet happened. Luckily, my DD took it well (I think this is only because she is very keen on her second choice), but there are other girls who did not at all. The children in these types of schools are usually perfectionists and find it very hard to deal with what they perceive as failure. If I am honest, this is the first thing my DD was unsuccessful in so far.

Iwantedthatname19 Wed 16-Jan-19 09:06:14

It may be that the reason the school doesn't have a formal method for managing the non-offerees is that I think many/most candidates do shrug it off fairly quickly. There are quite a lot of students 'having a go' but knowing the odds are against (mathematically at least!). Those students may be underrepresented on internet forums I suppose. So although they are annoyed/unhappy immediately afterwards, they do quickly pivot over to the other choices - easier these days when many offers are effectively uncapped.

None of that necessarily helps the ones who don't (quickly pivot etc)! But I think that perhaps to have formal school talks set up for the non offerees etc would give it all too much focus and create more of an air that it is a terrible setback. Skating over/ignoring it may actually help most students (or at least not encourage them to get overfixated on it).

But it will certainly help if your dt2's school's pastoral care can step in now to help.

Iwantedthatname19 Wed 16-Jan-19 09:09:21

Ah, I cross posted with puzzled - perhaps I have underestimated the degree of upset amongst those who don't get offers generally.

My impression is that many schools do say at the outset of applications 'you may well not get in, however clever you are, so don't get too focused on it and do be prepared to be disappointed' - but then the whole process cannot help but get you focused on it!

IrmaFayLear Wed 16-Jan-19 09:10:46

I didn't apply to Oxford, because I was afraid I wouldn't get in. I would have felt embarrassed . Story of my life, really, and not something I'm proud of and my mantra to my dcs is, "Don't be me!"

With ds, I encouraged him, although he wasn't sure. He did not get in. But at least he tried. Perhaps people were laughing their heads off (although he didn't tell many people he was applying) or feeling schadenfreude in heaps, but who cares?

He had another go and got in the next year, but as I said on other thread, this is a decision that has to be weighed up very carefully as there is no guarantee of success, and to have to go through it all again was agonising and you have to be sure that the applicant has the resilience to take another knock (which I wasn't at all).

IrmaFayLear Wed 16-Jan-19 09:18:08

I kind of agree with Puzzled. Making a big fuss and having debriefing sessions does make it sound as if not getting in is a major failure, when in fact the odds are spectacularly against you (unless you're applying for Classics!). It needs to be drummed into kids just how many apply, how many are interviewed, and how few places are available. I'm rather against the "You can do it!" "You can achieve anything!" philosophy. It sets young people up for disappointment and discontent.

LosingHerMissMarbles Wed 16-Jan-19 09:45:54

Really sorry to read your past posts Coleoptera. My DS's school has no formal way to deal with unsuccessful Oxbridge candidates either but Ho6 always talks to each one to check they are 'ok' after they have heard.
My DS was unsuccessful with his Oxford application for a STEM subject a couple of years ago and while it was a disappointment he very quickly moved forward and focussed on the other universities, revisiting the courses and making his decisions on that basis and on the type of institution/teaching style he wanted. He is in his second year of a 4 year integrated masters, very happy, working really hard and certainly being challenged. He achieved the grades that might have got him in to Oxford had he received an offer but it is about more than results and personally I think the intensity of Oxford would not have been good for him in the long term. He recognises that too.
The situation with your DT is very specific and I would hope that his school would put something in place to help him talk through the outcome and work forward with his other offers. You know him better than anyone but often time is all that helps. Keep him focussed on his studies if you can, revisit his other choices on paper and in person if you can so he can experience life there even in a small way.
Oxbridge is not the be all and end all and there is always postgraduate study at Oxbridge if that is his goal. If it helps, friend of mine who work in both institutions often say that some of their best postgrad students are those who haven't gone through the Oxbridge route as they bring different insights and challenge others preconceptions.
I do hope things settle for you all. Good luck.

bengalcat Wed 16-Jan-19 10:04:51

At the end of the Oxbridge interviews any applicant who could realistically be offered a place - some unconditional because they already have their A’s and others unconditional for they’ve yet to sit their A’s / Step etc . Of those interviewed around 1:3-4 for most courses will receive an offer . So logically we all know that not receiving an offer doesn’t mean you’re not good enough it’s simply a reflection in its simplest form of bad luck / performance on the day . I knew this , she knew this , we all know this but it still hurts / frustrates etc .
My DD came out of the college on interview day , with her stiff upper lip , then burst into tears . No lunch in Cambridge or looking round the shops for us - she wanted to go straight home . Chatting on the way her first interview had gone well in her eyes but the second had not - from what she could recall saying , as an interviewer myself but not at Oxbridge , I remember thinking it would be a miracle if she got an offer but obviously only time would tell . With regard to support I know she spoke to her favourite Chemistry teacher the next day . At her school the girls also support each other - just like us ! I was working results day and not back until last night Tuesday . The letter from Cambridge was there which she opened when she got in @9 last night - later the letter was ‘ ripped to shreds ‘ in the recycle bin . Later while she was in the bathroom I hilariously fished it out and pieced it together ( feeling like a stalker and listening for the bathroom door to open ) - as far as could see it was quite brief but did have contact details for feedback . I knew from Cambs website that candidates/ schools can request feedback . Will discuss that with her as worth considering at some stage .
Obviously she will have decisions to make at some stage and I will support in her in whatever choice she makes .
BUT as some of you may already have read on the other thread ( lol just like the other place ! ) I’m hung up on , pending word from Durham , her going to York with their ‘ridiculous offer’ of two A’s . It’s a new course - NatSci with the first grads coming off this summer . She’s already an A* for Maths A level last summer and predicted A* for More Maths , Physics and Chemistry this year . I’d feel better , but only slightly , if the offer was for three A’s . I just can’t take the place seriously .
Thank you for reading if you’ve reached this far .

Baytreemum Wed 16-Jan-19 10:09:02

Thank you Coleoptera for setting up this thread- the other thread has gone so agressive - I fear for social cohesion! People seem to forget that every child, every school, every situation is totally unique, and sweeping assumptions are not only oh so far from the mark, but result in one feeling like an alien from another planet looking down in disbelief! Maybe it's because we've lived abroad, been in and out of all types of school, lived with people from a wide range of cultures snd backgrounds, but this current process of selection for education selection seems a strange and divisive one to me.
My daughter is so so sad, just like your son. She was not 'just having a go' - it felt like home- the right place, the right tutors, the right course and opportunities. She also did a late lnat just before Christmas and has no other offers yet, so we are in recovery mode alone. My elder DD had to take a gap year in order to realise her dream and this is turning out to be extremely positive from so many respects, that I hope my younger DD will consider doing the same. For now, we are focusung on hammering the A Levels, will think about any offers that come through, and probably decide after results day. The critical thing is the grades. University can wait. I wish you all the best.xxxxx

Baytreemum Wed 16-Jan-19 10:10:21

Sorry typo - it should have read selection for higher education.....

Puzzledmum Wed 16-Jan-19 10:14:07

Oxbridge is not the be all and end all and there is always postgraduate study at Oxbridge if that is his goal. If it helps, friend of mine who work in both institutions often say that some of their best postgrad students are those who haven't gone through the Oxbridge route as they bring different insights and challenge others preconceptions.

Exactly that!

I also work at a top RG uni and can assure you that this is exactly the case. We get a lot of people applying for postgrad courses from Oxbridge and vise versa. If anything when I mentioned o the academics here that DD is applying for UG they were quite surprised as the feeling is that the Oxbridge is better for postgrad than undergrad. I really believe that everything happens for a reason and for the better and Oxbridge level applicants will do great wherever they end up.

Malbecfan Wed 16-Jan-19 10:44:23

Hi everyone.

Thanks Coleoptera for setting this thread up. I hope that things start to get a bit better for DT2. In the Malbec household, DD2 has bounced back remarkably quickly. She is still waiting to hear from Durham but has 3 other offers. One from York will be rejected as it's quite high and she wasn't over-impressed at interview. She has a great offer from Warwick which she would accept in an instant but Leicester has dangled an Unconditional if Firmed which has really tempted her. She loved the offer-holders day and particularly likes the idea of a year in Japan, which is one option. At the end of the day, it's her choice and all we can do is support her. However, Leicester also offered her cash for great results, so she has really got her head down since the offer came in. None of us gives two hoots about RG - our local uni is "in that club" but shut down their Music and Chemistry departments 15 years ago, something we thought was educational vandalism. At the end of the day, a happy DD with hopefully a good degree is all we can reasonably ask for.

MrsWobble3 Wed 16-Jan-19 11:06:13

I was in your position some years ago - twice - as neither of my children who got oxbridge interviews got offers. Their school did not do much after the event TLC which I thought was the right approach. It’s a big disappointment - and often the first ‘failure’ these children will have encountered. But they do need to learn resilience and continuing the wailing and gnashing of teeth stops them moving on. Life can be shit sometimes and you need to learn to deal with it. The early days were particularly hard as they both had close friends who did get offers. But they got over it and went to uni looking forward to the experience and enjoying it. I haven’t asked them directly but i’m pretty sure that one of them would not choose Oxford over her current uni now - her best friend is not enjoying it there. The other one probably does have some regret about not getting in to Cambridge - I think she thinks her job application process would have been easier with an oxbridge degree. I am not persuaded this is true and since she is now settled and employed it’s of no real matter.

The overall message is that they do get over the disappointment. But so must you - and the quicker and less noticeably the easier you will make it for them.

IrmaFayLear Wed 16-Jan-19 11:15:45

She was not 'just having a go' - it felt like home- the right place, the right tutors, the right course and opportunities.

I don't wish to be combative, but this is the case for everyone. Or else there wouldn't be such huge competition! Being angry/outraged about the injustice of the outcome is going to lead to bitterness. Obviously the first days will be raw, but no good will come of dwelling on what might have been and how unfair it is and how nowhere else is good enough for them.

bengalcat Wed 16-Jan-19 11:45:47

Those who didn’t succeed have choices and decisions to make once all their other offers are in . Like any adverse event those involved will deal with things differently and over a different timescale . There will be variation in where we all are now as some will have applied with A level results , others might have applied for different courses at other universities and others may consider a
gap year and need to give some thought to reapplication - with a possibility of another no from Oxbridge ( but for some they may cope better next year or not with another failure and the feeling ‘ well I gave it another / my best shot ) .
There may be some additional users on this thread when results come through - unexpected failure to achieve grades or eg personal tragedies /circumstances .

notmyrealnameofcourse Wed 16-Jan-19 12:14:08

"Veteran" here in slightly different circumstances. DS was offered a place for Maths at Cambridge. He came from a school where the head teacher actually said to him that Oxbridge was "not for the likes of us".
We had tried to persuade DS to apply for Oxford rather than Cambridge because the Maths entry test is done before the offer not in the summer like STEP but his heart was set on Cambridge.

He was good at Maths and hard working, pretty confident he would get A*s in his A levels but not at all confident in passing STEP. So the insurance choice was important, as realistically he had a high chance of going there. (Cam Maths over offer unlike other subjects because many do not meet the STEP grades).
He looked at Durham but was put off by the "Oxbridge reject" feel - noticeable bitterness among other offer holders. He didn't admit he was only looking as insurance. In the end went for Warwick. The offer there was 3 x A* plus STEP1.

In the end he didn't make the STEP grade and went to Warwick. There he found he was among many others who had either not had offers or had missed the STEP grade. Some of these were much more gifted than him.
It suited him there and he left with a first. I suspect he dodged a bullet and would not have fitted in at Cambridge as well as he did at Warwick which has a much less privileged feel to it.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 16-Jan-19 14:35:28

Something that may be a helpful thought to some of the disappointed applicants...

40-odd years ago, at the same time, DH and I were making our UCCA choices. We both went to schools which were of little use with Oxbridge applications. I had a shot at Cambridge and failed - I had no bloody clue at all how to acquit myself at interview, and was applying without doing their entrance exam. He didn't apply. So, we met on our degree course at a red brick, where we got Firsts and PhDs, and good careers.

He regrets not not applying, that 'might have been' - he'd have thrived more in a place where coming top wasn't easy. I've no regrets that I applied but was rejected - 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'.

Not trying for fear of failure is a cop-out. Would any of them really feel great now if they'd not had the guts to try?

ErrolTheDragon Wed 16-Jan-19 14:58:53

BengalCat - re the York NatSci course - I just had a look on their website, all the courses I could see there said they have a typical offer of A*AA? Maybe your DDs low offer was because they thought she'd be likely to get a Cambridge offer so wanted to make it a safe insurance?

I used to have quite a close association with the York Structural Biology group, which is globally excellent - aka Biological Chemistry, but includes biophysicists, mathematicians, computational chemistry/biology...some of the world-leading protein crystallography software arose from that group. Now, I don't know how the Natural Sciences course interacts with the existing groups (it surely must) but this one group shows that there's some excellent interdisciplinary stuff going on there.

Puzzledmum Wed 16-Jan-19 15:59:39

Has anyone got DC at UCL or Imperial doing Life sciences? Very interested to hear some feedback and first-hand student experience comments.

Notaguru66 Wed 16-Jan-19 16:21:45

@bengalcat - I think you need to lose your hang up. York is a seriously good university offering a seriously interesting course.

DS is in a very similar position to your DD in that he didn't get a NatSci offer from Cambridge but has an offer from York and is still waiting to hear for Durham.

York's standard offer for NatSci is A*AA (and DS has been told they will accept 4A instead) so given your DD has an A* already it seems entirely reasonable for them to make the offer AA.

York (or Durham or anywhere else) will be a different experience from Cambridge and the course is going to be less intense and a different approach to teaching. I visited York with DS for his interview (and my only university visit) and was hugely impressed by the place. And every other parent I spoke to had a child applying to Oxbridge.

I suspect the course is stuffed full of bright people, learning together in a supportive environment. York is not top ranked for every subject (but it's number 3 for Chemistry in the Times table) but they are demonstrably committed to good teaching and support which, is not a given at Cambridge.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 16-Jan-19 16:56:34

Oh yes, I'd forgotten she already has that grade in the bag so her York offer really is A*AA. While there can sometimes be an issue if A levels aren't all taken at once, I'm not sure that applies so much where the school does maths one year, FM the next - it's not like they're going to be forgetting all their maths!

DrMadelineMaxwell Wed 16-Jan-19 17:03:38

We were very impressed with York and f2f has saud all along that she will be happy to go there.

She did have her heart set on Cambridge so it's a relief to see how she's accepted the lack of an offer. She didn't really tthink she'd get in and knows no-one else who did.

She has been on the Welsh MAT Seren network since the start of 6th form which was very much geared at increasing applications to good universities. A lot of it was focussed on Oxbridge but she still has great offers from.all the other Russell group unis she applied to.

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