Oxbridge and State Schools(209 Posts)
Feeling a bit cross about a presentation DD attended at a local school for all the secondaries in the area. It didn't seem hugely encouraging given that the DCs there had been invited to attend by their schools and therefore had the potential to be applicants. Now in my heart of hearts I'm not sure that DD is Oxbridge material, but for her to come away for the presentation saying "I don't think I would fit in" is somewhat disappointing.
I don't,know. I think, with Oxbridge, there's a lot to be said for the "I want it. I'm going to give it a go" attitude. Both Oxford and Cambridge can be pretty withering places I think and a certain amount of steeliness and "I'll show you," doesn't go amiss. They're not places for the faint hearted.
I looked up the Cambridge Maths requirements and it seems they want just about every type of Maths qualification possible and no gap year in case you go off the boil. I've never seen anything so focussed and uninterested in the whole person.
But conversely the colleges which used to be least welcoming are now the most, or at the very least are as welcoming Welovegrapes.
They're not welcoming places. They are exclusive and elitist and unique. If a child wants that experience then I would encourage them to consider it and go for it. But not to waste time scouting around for something that might make them feel at home.
Thing with Oxbridge is that its excellent for contacts in later life, and fab for some courses, but by no means all.
Places like Imperial should be added into the mix, as well as other parts of the Russell Group, or even some of the Ivy League and others in the US that offer scholarships to really bright Brits.
Some love the College life, some hate it. Regardless of where they went to school.
I have to say this doesn't surprise me, it's a long time ago since I applied to Cambridge, but there was very much an attitude in a lot of state schools (mine included) of not encouraging certain pupils to aim too high; the head girl whose parents were both GPs was actively encouraged to apply, whereas because my parents had no formal qualifications and worked in low paid jobs, it was suggested I bear in mind that there were other unis, not put all my focus on Cambridge etc.
It's important to remember that there can be real divisions in state schools, the attitude at mine to those who had 'professional' parents and those who didn't was markedly different. It wouldn't surprise me that this sort of thing still exists, and might well come across at presentations etc - the only people I knew locally who had gone to Oxbridge before me were pretty much all horse riding, lacrosse playing v v middle class children, which I wasn't at all.
Indeed whilst most of my friends at Cambridge were state school educated, the majority were the children of doctors, teachers etc - being at Cambridge and growing up in a council house in Essex (as I did) was, in my
massively upper class and right wing college pretty unique.
If I had my time again, and could choose any college, coming from the background I did, I'd pick Robinson.
I used to do Cambridge admissions until a couple of years ago, and the policy is to encourage anybody who expresses an interest. We don't want potential applicants to rule themselves out on the basis you have described. It's often helpful to go to the link college for your area to one of the open days, and also to read about the courses in detail on the internet. You can usually get reading lists and essay titles and so on for first year courses from the relevant departmental websites, and they are useful in helping applicants to get a handle on what is expected once they get there.
You would be amazed at the social mix at Cambridge - it's not as mixed as an inner city comprehensive, but Brideshead it certainly ain't. Don't believe all the myths!
She said one of the tutors said it was 3x the work of other courses and another said unless you are heading for A*AA then don't bother applying (fair enough, but that's why the DCs were there ...). Lots of photos of taking exams in gowns ... What she didn't feel that there was any encouragement - I guess she was expecting more of a "hard sell" given that they were supposed to be there to get more applications from bright state school kids.
My DD got in with AAB. The terms are only 8 weeks long so it is intense during term time, but if you go to all the lectures and supervisions, and spend the required time on the reading, it's well within the grasp of anyone reasonably bright. The fact you are getting small group teaching really helps in making sure people understand the material.
Gowns are great because you can have messy clothes on underneath and nobody need ever know
It is 3 X the work of other unis. It would be most unfair on potential undergraduates not to point that fact out. Noone told me, and actually, it would have been very helpful to have been prepared...
And surely emphasising that admission, and coping when there, are down to academic interest and aptitude rather than family background or whatever, is a good thing?
I think it would be very wrong not to point out the grades required or the workload once there, particularly when talking to people who may not know the system from the inside. They have to be honest - it is too important not to be, and there are loads of myths and rumours around so a "hard sell" would be completely wrong, IMO.
I'm sorry your DD was disappointed but I don't really understand the problem. I'd be really surprised if they were not encouraging to people with the required grades who liked the sound of lots of work.
BoffinMum AAB is a massive exception to the ordinary rule, not the generality.
The Oxford guy who came to talk to the Y12's a couple of weeks ago at our (state) school was definitely encouraging but also very realistic about the extra workload and the standard required to get in. As he should be, obviously.
I only ever wore a gown twice. Once for matric, on practically my first day at Cambridge, and once when I graduated. Both times I borrowed the gown I wore. I understand the other place is gowntastic, but not Cambridge.
I would add that Oxbridge do not have a monopoly on high workloads and pressure, there is no simple 3x rule on workload, there are many courses at other unis that have similar workloads and some unis, especially the London ones have a testing culture that keeps up a relentless pressure on students, with regular hurdles that even the best students do get tripped up by. If you are going for a demanding course at an elite uni, especially medicine, architecture, Science, you do have to be prepared for some very hard work. Even in the humanities many students work considerably harder than I did back in the seventies, though generally you would be looking at 4-6 essays often bunched towards the end of term, last day of holiday versus an essay a week at Oxford but the days at other unis when you could get away with not doing the reading are no longer true, and an undergraduate who turns up at a tutorial at my uni not equipped with knowledge and opinions they are prepared to defend can expect to be challenged. It comes as a shock especially to overseas students.
I must say that I was never surprised by the amount of work and I never found it overwhelming. It just seemed, you know, fine, to me. But obviously I'd never been to another university so I had nothing to compare it with. But I think maybe people do overplay that a bit. The work was hard, sometimes, but it wasn't the workload that was hard, it was the subject matter(s). But most of the time it was just really interesting, which takes the edge off the hardness quotient, somewhat.
I really don't think it's overplayed Russians. If you're clever but you're looking for an easy ride you need to be looking elsewhere.
But surely there's some middle ground between looking for an easy ride and 'don't go there it's too horrendously onerous'? Maybe things are different since my day but since people were saying exactly the same things then I'm not convinced. Or perhaps I just have a different idea of what constitutes an overly tough workload than other people do (this is possible, it's one of the distortions that music training gives you - the work never stops but you love the work so it's not work, rinse and repeat.....) Or maybe law and history and medicine at Oxford are more onerous than other subjects.
I wonder where these easy rides are though. From what I gather the less popular unis and vocational degrees work you hard because they have to justify themselves. You certainly have to work harder at a Russell Group these days, not only that but the days of a 2.2 being a respectable "Sportsman's" degree that enables you to waltz into a job are over. Most of the students I know are aiming for Firsts, and that was never easy. I don't dispute a History degree at Oxbridge will have a higher workload than one outside of the UCLs and Durhams but there are still no easy rides that I am aware of.
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