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DS1, 11, already convinced he'll never go to Oxbridge. So am taking him there on a trip

(24 Posts)
sinpan Wed 14-Oct-09 17:27:23

We live in Manchester so have opted to take him to Oxford for a couple of days (cambridge too far away) so he can see what it's like. I'm taking his brother as well even though they're both years away from thinking about higher education. It just astonishes me that his attitude might be already formed at this age.

I'm not British myself although my son is, and I still find myself taken aback by the challenges of the class system (I know I may be leaping to conclusions in assuming that's what's informed his attitude but the longer I live here the more conscious I become that it does exist, not just a myth).

Anyway am looking for advice on where to take them, what to show them, and more practically, where to stay. I really want them to understand that they can aspire to this (or any other challenging education) if they work hard enough.

Uriel Wed 14-Oct-09 17:32:36

Take the Tour?

TennisFan Wed 14-Oct-09 17:33:46

What a great idea, I wish someone had taken me to Oxford or Cambridge when I was still at school. I always assumed I wouldn't have been bright enough and at the time the school I was at didn't really suggest or push anyone towards Oxbridge.
I first went to Cambridge to visit a friend at college when I was about 20, i couldn't believe what an oportunity I had missed out on.
I am not saying I would have got in, but at least I would have had a chance to try.

haventsleptforayear Wed 14-Oct-09 17:34:40

Maybe he doesn't want to go. There are other places you know.

I lived in Cambridge and it put me right off!

I can't see how a trip there would make any difference.

When I was in 6th form I also went on a "proper" organised open day to Oxford and was not interested either.

I think you can wait a while!!!!

Deadworm Wed 14-Oct-09 17:37:43

I'm really not sure that a visit to Oxford would do much to inform them at this stage. It's just a town, albeit a beautiful one. Better to give your son information about the (quite large) numbers of ordinary comprehensive schoolchildren who go on to Oxbridge, or better to let him decide much later based on his subject areas which would be the best place to aim for. Oxbridge isn't the best for everything.

And it seems early days to be pushing him about this. Makes sure he has confidence and application in his schoolwork. And leave the rest to develop in its own time??

Milliways Wed 14-Oct-09 17:37:54

It may be too old for them at this age, but visit the Admissions office which is open to everyone and download an Admissions audio tour ??

Have fun anyway - it is a beautiful city just to mooch around.

Oh, and they WILL like the fab ice creams available from the parlour opposite Christchurch

CristinaTheAstonishing Wed 14-Oct-09 17:39:24

Downplay it. Stay in a grotty B&B, go to some grim places (there must be some in Oxford), then say "see, what exactly do you think is out of your reach here? It's just another place, people still only have one head, schools have slightly better results is all."

TotalChaos Wed 14-Oct-09 17:39:47

I went to Oxford. I never thought I'ld go to Oxford - till a good friend of mine who was a year older than me got in - made me see Oxford wasn't just for genius child prodigy types. I think 11 is too young, and think I would have been very bored indeed by Oxford at that age. They might find the Pitt-Rivers natural history museum interesting. Possibly a walk by the river? And a trip to George and Davis Ice cream cafe (there's one near ChristChurch).

seeker Wed 14-Oct-09 17:40:24

But what about all the other fabulous universities - are you taking him to visit them too? He's only 11, give him a break!!1

TotalChaos Wed 14-Oct-09 17:41:11

good point Seeker, I reckon there'ld be rather more to interest an 11 year old in Edinburgh or London!

Deadworm Wed 14-Oct-09 17:41:32

Yes, Pitt-Rivers is a fantastic museum, and the nat hist museum next to it is quite good too.

Has he read the Pullman books (Northern Lights etc). It would be lovely to walk about spotting landmarks from that.

seeker Wed 14-Oct-09 17:46:57

St Andrews has a beach to die for and the best ice cream in the world! Not to mention the famous fudge doughnuts.

wonderingwondering Wed 14-Oct-09 17:48:00

I think the danger in that approach is that you might build up expectations too much. By that, I mean definitely take them to places - I took my toddlers to beautiful buildings, like the V&A, and National Gallery, just so they're not intimidated to walk in to places like that. So take them to Oxford & Cambridge and say -- there are fantastic universities here.

But to focus purely on those universities might be counter-productive, either by placing too much pressure/expectation on them, or by creating an "oxbridge or nothing" mentality. And class issues aside, working hard at school isn't enough to get in to Oxbridge, it is a real bottleneck, in that there are many more able students than there are places.

Why not talk to them more generally about life opportunities, studying abroad and so on?

hocuspontas Wed 14-Oct-09 17:49:45

I can safely say that at 11 my 3 dds would not have had a clue what Oxford and Cambridge were, let alone think they weren't good enough to get into them.

Deadworm Wed 14-Oct-09 17:54:54

Yes, the danger is that by focising on just two uiniversities, and raising the issue with any energy at all at age 11, you will make him anxious and antagonised, and that the 'I can't get in there' attitude will be a reaction to those feelings.

justaboutautumn Wed 14-Oct-09 17:56:47

Message withdrawn

choosyfloosy Wed 14-Oct-09 18:09:28

Re where to stay, what's your budget? Possible places:

Youth hostel - prob most fun for this age - great location and not appallingly expensive (not exactly cheap though!) - VERY noisy location if that bothers you, sandwiched between the Botley Road and the railway.

I'm sorry, my browser is having a moment, but I think this is the page for looking for accommodation in the colleges.

The Backpackers' Hostel is cheaper I think but although I've never been inside I wouldn't go there with young children I think (and in this context I count 11 as 'young').

My favourite hotely place in Oxford is The Tower House which is unusual, lovely atmostphere, unbelievably central.

The Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express at Peartree Roundabout are right next to the Peartree Park and Ride so quite convenient. Lots of deals there as ever.

Stuff to do - first of all, check out which is the Oxford what's on guide and absolutely brilliant. The bus tours look good, maybe one of the walking tours (to my shame I have never actually done one of these), Pitt Rivers (afternoons only) and as above, at least one visit to one of the G&D's ice cream parlours. I prefer the one on Little Clarendon Street which is about 5 mins' walk from the Pitt Rivers (and 5 mins from The Tower House or the bus stop for the Peartree P&R.)

I would absolutely not take them round a college unless they have a major Harry Potter thing going on. I think visiting colleges is dullsville even when you're much older, the interesting stuff in a university is what goes on in your head IMO.

seeker Wed 14-Oct-09 19:58:17

And be very clear that it won't be a huge disappointment to you or a failure on his part if in the end he doesn't get in to Oxford, or doesn't even want to try. My eldest brother is 66 and still hasn't quite recovered from the sense of failure and of letting our father down when he didn't get in to Oxford. Or the sense of jealousy and resentment of my second oldest brother, now aged 60, who did. It's a potential emotional minefield, and one best not entered, IMHO.

sinpan Wed 14-Oct-09 20:03:11

Thanks everyone for the good advice - of course I don't want to push him to be aiming for anywhere at this stage - if he decides higher education's not for him that would be ok. Just don't want him to decide it's not for him when he's barely in high school. And as many have said it's a good trip (and cheap-ish on the train from Manchester).

DevilsEnticeMadness Wed 14-Oct-09 20:12:10

To be fair, i actually find it harder to get to oxford from manchester region then to Cambridge. I drive and would go M6 A14 in, its about 3-4hrs ish. If you are getting the train then it is more difficult but can be done with a few changes if you go manchester to peterborough, peterborough to cambridge.
I would recomend if you can get to cambridge as well as it has a completely different feel to oxford.

Very Very envy about you caring so much about you boys to go to this much effort. My parents would have just told me that oxford and cambridge is impossible and to get more realistic.

inveteratenamechanger Wed 14-Oct-09 20:19:50

Great idea to get him to read the Pullman books beforehand, if he hasn't already.

I hope you have a lovely time in Oxford - the Botanic Gardens are great if you like that sort of thing (I do).

But I would second what others have said about the world beyond Oxbridge.

I was absolutely adamant as a teenager that I didn't want to go to Oxford - even though I would have had a chance of getting in. The whole image completely put me off, and I felt like it wasn't for me.

I ended up doing my first degree somewhere else - a Sixties university which was perfect for me. It was a fantastic intellectual experience and inspired me to become an academic.

I actually did my DPhil at Oxford, but was always glad I didn't do my undergraduate degree there. I am sure I wouldn't have the academic career I have now if I hadn't gone to Sixties University. So my teenage instincts were right!

stleger Wed 14-Oct-09 20:35:39

Isn't the old prison in Oxford a hotel now? Go in late Spring though, or summer.

Lilymaid Wed 14-Oct-09 20:47:12

I went to Oxford when I was 4 - my father was doing some work there, and it was a sightseeing trip for the rest of the family. I then decided that I was going to university - and I kept that ambition all the way through school, though I didn't end up at Oxford.
Why should he be convinced aged 11 that he could never go to Oxford?

minervaitalica Thu 22-Oct-09 16:47:52

Well, I think you should go to Oxford to see:
- dinosaurs skeletons at the Natural History Museum
- Shrunken heads at the PItt rivers museum
- the Hogwarts dining hall and staircase (Christchurch college)
- cows on Port Meadow, whilst walking to the Trout pub to have lunch by the river
- the Deer park at Magdalen college

Forget the uni thing - it's too early and he has got time to change. Just have fun and he may just remember how cool his trip to Oxford was one day...

I really do not understand this "I would not fit in" thing; there are posh unis where I come from but if people get in they at least try to go, given the better AVERAGE opportunities available. How can you not know without even trying?

I went to Oxford and it is far more diverse than many other undergrad unis I have seen: lots of international students from totally different backgrounds, locals from all over the store, toffs and socialist workers or Etonians and comprehensive alumni sharing tutorials. Same goes for the tutors (I only had 1 fully British tutor for the whole of my course). I cannot think of many "types of people" who would not find a group of like-minded friends there.

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