This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Oxford - too high pressured?(82 Posts)
My highly academic DD is little poorly with allergies, eczema and gut issues. She has coped well so far and if anything is feeling much better. She is all 9's in GCSE's despite missing the school most of the year.
She always thought she would be going to Oxford to do PPE but now has changed to English mainly because she thought PPE will be too competitive and stressful...
She is now thinking of not applying to Oxford because she thinks it
1- Might be too stressful and that effects both her skin and gut, in return causes anxiety/sleeplessness and the vicious circle.
2- Isn't impressed with the English course offered at Oxford.
3- Thinks she won't have much fun there if everyone is too busy studying (she is very social but also likes to study and work hard)
at the same time is thinking should I go as she always thought that would be the place for her.
Other options are Birmingham, Kings college London where courses are better.
DH went to Birmingham and is dead against it lol
My Question is what can I do to help her make this decision.
She loves a good discussion and enjoys the quality of class banter, that's why I think she will actually be happier at Oxford.
If she wants to study English, it wouid be insane to do so at a place which offers a course she does not like much.
Has she looked at other universitiesthan the three you have named? There is still oodles of time to do that.
And you need to dial back the stress, because she hasn't even taken her GCSEs yet. She simply doesn't need to decide yet. Nothing will put her off Oxford faster than you talking about it now. Get throughbthe GCSEs first.
@edithWeston, she is in year 12 now, did GCSE's last year. Thank you for your input. you are right about the stress factor.
I didn't study at Oxford but work there. Although it is clearly stressful for the students there is also currently a lot of attention to mental health support, mentoring etc. Probably more than elsewhere, because of its reputation. Students also definitely have fun and the college environment encourages a good social life. The choice of college is very important to get the right balance I think, some have more of a pressure culture than others.
I think her first two concerns are valid. Oxbridge terms are short and quite intense, so there is quite a lot of stress/pressure. If this is likely to affect her health, she would at least need to work on some really effective coping strategies. Having said that, university life can be stressful wherever you go, so there are no guarantees that she wouldn't experience similar issues elsewhere.
If she genuinely doesn't like the course, that's a concern too. What doesn't she like about it? I think she needs to look into this side of things carefully and you need to respect her point of view.
I think the last concern is misplaced tbh. Students in Oxford will have plenty of fun, I'm sure. I went to Cambridge, where it was a case of work hard, play hard. People certainly weren't studying all day! I'm sure Oxford is the same. However, the work hard/play hard approach can contribute to the intensity that I mentioned above, so the overall pace of life is something to think about.
English is massively oversubscribed at Oxford - getting in for it is no less of a crapshoot than for PPE.
There's plenty of fun to be had - people manage their time to have a social life, play elite sport and get their undergraduate degrees. Term time work is very strongly discouraged because it adversely affects academic performance.
She needs to go and meet some current students (at all of the universities she's considering) and ascertain whether she fancies it or not - writing two X 2000 words a week is a lot more work than writing 2x 2000 words a term.
Applying to a place that requires lots of work to complete a course she's not actually interested in doesn't seem like a logical choice so, if her heart is set on Oxford, she could look at the available courses to see if there's anything she fancies more.
If she prefers the courses at other excellent Uni's then I don't see why this is a dilemma.
🤷🏻♀️. It sounds like she has thought about what she wants and has come to a decision.
Is there an expectation from her school or other people that she should apply to Oxbridge because she is so bright?
She should apply for a subject she loves, if that is PPE then it should be PPE, you can do it other places than Oxford.
If she doesn't like the Oxford English course then she shouldn't apply for it. But what doesn't she like? What would she prefer? Answering those questions should help her decide where she does want to study and what she wants to study.
Oxford is high pressured, but there is a lot of social life - part of the pressure is fitting everything into 8 weeks or so. But if she isn't enthusiastic before she gets there then the studying will get her down.
I was at Oxford as a Graduate, and don't think I'd have thrived as an undergraduate, I prefer a slower paced life. There are plenty of other good Universities out there, and great ones for some courses from all kinds of places.
I have a daughter who is in her first year at Oxford. She's incredibly happy there. Great social life and brilliant tuition. Work load is huge as terms are only 8 weeks but she's coping with it. I think you need to be passionate about your subject or it would be a struggle to cope. Get her to choose her college carefully to try to get the best match for her. It can make a big difference to the whole experience. If she wants Ppe apply for that not English. It's too much work for a course you're not committed too
Dc knew quite a lot of people who went to Oxford. A minority were unhappy, though not necessarily the ones you might have predicted. Two transferred, one to a RG, another to the US. Both are happy.
In short its not the end of the world if you find you are not enjoying Oxford, either the course or the place. Providing your grades are OK it is very likely that many universities will allow to transfer in after your first year.
I am struggling to understand why she’s changed from PPE to English regarding what to study. English doesn’t necessarily relate to Politics or Economics, so is she confused a little regarding what to study? If she wanted PPE, what did she like most? Why not choose joint subjects within that umbrella and even single honours? Look at other universities for that because there may be courses she has not considered.
I assume she is studying maths. Would she not want to use that? Is she studying History and/or Politics? I assume she is doing English. What direction could her other subjects take her in? I am not sure English is the answer and it seems a traditional English course doesn’t appeal. What else could she look at within her interests and that matches her A levels?
The work level is not so intense elsewhere but if ramps up and there are pressure at the best universities if you are not organised and up to date with work. I doubt UCL, Warwick and Durham are a walk in the park.
I'd tend to apply for PPE and if she doesn't get in then the decision is made. I'd say anyone with straight 9s has a strong chance however. But if having interviewed etc she thinks it would be too much then she's pretty much guaranteed a place at any of her other four choices so has a year and a quarter from now in which to decide.
Stress doesn't equate to unhappiness. There's no doubt that the academic side of life at Oxford is stressful but plenty manage to enjoy their years there despite that stress - all of my DC did, but none would say there weren't periods of serious stress on the work front.
Students are most certainly able to have an excellent social life if they manage work properly.
Edinburgh is ranked higher than Oxford for English, it has 3x 10 week terms over 4 years so less pressured. However they usually ask for higher grades than Oxford, but worth considering if she likes the course.
At Oxford less there is much less contact time and student have to be very very self motived. There’s more teaching and contact time at Edinburgh.
Scottish unis might be a good option for her.
Oxford will be much cheaper though.
She needs to think about the style of teaching and learning that appeals to her as well as her subject.
Doesn’t she want big city life - her alternatives of London and Birmingham suggest this?
It’s a bit bonkers to choose the uni first and then the course. It’s a big jump from PPE to English.
I know she’s young , but she needs more clarity of thought.
DD went to oxford to do her second choice course and was never really happy. She also wasn’t self motivated enough - most students there really REALLY love their subject and she was a bit meh. And lazy TBH.
She spent all her time going up to London to soclaise , she’s a big city person.
If she has "gut issues" then a lot of the accommodation at Oxford might not be suitable (and although you choose a particular college in the first instance, you may well be pooled to a different one). This was a consideration for ds (he missed masses of yr 12 for suspected Crohn's disease) and a nice handy ensuite room was a top priority! (We saw one bit of accommodation at one Oxford college where you had to go out of room, down spiral staircase to outside, walk along and then go up another staircase to shared bathroom - which might be occupied once you got there )
I studied English at Birmingham University and loved it! For me it offered the ideal combination of big city and village areas (most students live in Selly Oak / Bournville). The course was strong too - massively broad mix of students in the intake so great when it comes to socialising and making friends. Would highly recommend! Lots of competition as they required AAA in my intake year but I'd highly recommend it.
Picnics on the green (complete with some cold tinnies from the shop and chocolate from Cadbury world) surrounded by the red brick buildings and all my mates on a sunny summer day were GLORIOUS.
Personally I found Oxford quite claustrophobic when I visited mates who were studying there, probably a combination of the uni's vibe and the chip on my shoulder as a "working class done good" type!
She sounds like a really good egg - good luck whatever she chooses
What doesn't she like about the Oxford course, out of interest?
I agree if she wants to do PPE she should apply for that. I doubt English is terribly different in terms of stress levels, especially if there's the added stress of it not really being what she wants. I do get that she may just be genuinely unsure, too.
It's a shame it's too late to apply for UNIQ because that would be a good insight into if she was suited to it or not. Simply having top grades at gcses us nt a guarantee of a place, as others have said you need to show you have the potential to excel at your subject under their tuition.
As someone with a dd with a chronic health condition she may want to consider a university that's not too far from home. It's been beneficial to us to be able to help her with hospital visits ( including A&e), just general practical and moral support, and she can come home for weekends when she wants tlc ( washing done and a decent meal!)
All grade 9s is not a guarantee of a place but it puts you near the top of the tree if A level predictions follow suit. The university can see these actual results which are a reasonable predictor of success.
When posters say a course elsewhere is ranked higher, it’s such a fine judgement as to why it’s ranked higher. With Employers, Oxford will be seen as desirable and they might wonder why such a gifted student didn’t go to Oxbridge. With the greatest respect, employers don’t look at the minutiae or ranking of English courses when employing someone. It’s largely irrelevant. They will look at overall ranking of the university, degree classification, A levels, test results and other evidence of skills.
However, when choosing a course, the student has to want to study the core of it and hopefully be able choose modules they engage with. Few employers outside academia will worry about what they are for English. So university will count more than course for English, eventually!
Ladies, thank you so much, you are all my village. I have no idea why I was off mums net for so long. I took all my advice from here when she was in primary years
I will now re-read them all and get back with questions, this is just a gratitude post
I'm neitehr going to agree nor disagree with the pressure comment but am curious as to why, if she has dismissed specifically Oxford's English course as dull (and that is a reasonably commonly held view) that she hasn't looked at Cambridge? Their degree is more flexible and, for want of a better word, modern.
I looked up league tables for English yesterday and Edinburgh was about 24th! <sidles off to check>
Hi OP, not sure if this will be of any help but I have Ulcerative Colitis and read Modern Langs at Oxford 20 years ago. At the time, my disease was very much not in remission (I did my ALevels in hospital etc) so I was under the care of a consultant at the JR Hospital throughout. Despite this, and - let’s be honest - a very high-pressured academic environment, I had a great time. I think that the main thing to consider is whether the course is right - I don’t think I really thought about that side of things until I started, but my degree was very traditional and there was a hell of a lot of reading to be done in holidays etc, v little modern content (eg 20th century!) etc. My friends reading English had much the same experience. From a social point of view, it’s a work hard, play hard atmosphere - lots of societies to join and people go out a lot at night etc. Someone upthread mentioned accommodation and that’s really worth considering. I was at one of the oldest colleges and had to get a letter from my Dr asking for special dispensation for a room with easy access to a loo for my first year (invaluable as I had a flare up) - and then I got in-college accommodation for my final year rather than having to live out, again with a loo. So there are ways around it. But, as I say, it’s about whether the course is right because the other stuff can be overcome / worked around. Good luck to your DD - I hope it goes well!
All grade 9s is not a guarantee of a place but it puts you near the top of the tree if A level predictions follow suit.
No, it doesn't. Why would you think that? This is a typical profile, not an exceptional one.