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Overkill or normal these days?

(22 Posts)
Sadik Fri 17-Jun-16 16:55:58

I should say, this is friend-of-a-friend stuff, but I'm still wondering. Apparantly, a pupil in dd's year, yr 9 (though not at her school) has been given a letter by her school suggesting that she should be considering an Oxbridge application in the future. She's going on a visit to Cambridge, is going to do 2 extra GCSEs over and above the norm, and has also been advised to do D of E and various other extra-curricular things.
Obviously, good on the school for encouraging their pupils, and I think the pupil concerned is super bright, but it all sounds a bit hardcore. Or is this the norm these days for potential Oxbridge applicants? (As opposed to my day when a teacher suggested it was worth thinking about as a possibility 1/2 way through lower 6th when I mentioned I wanted to study his subject at uni.)

honeyandmarmitesandwiches Fri 17-Jun-16 16:58:21

I don't think it's overkill, it sounds like they're just trying to help her meet her potential. If you want to get into a really top university like that, these days I would say it's important to think in terms of extra curriculars as well as the best grades, and start early.

NeckguardUnbespoke Fri 17-Jun-16 17:05:44

The DofE thing is nuts, if it's solely about university admission. No university, still less Oxbridge, gives a toss.

For GCSEs, eight good ones is enough for everyone. Doing more is only justifiable if the best eight are impeccable.

No "top university" gives a toss about extra curricular activity unless it is directly related to the subject, and even then it's only of interest if the academics are all there.

MyLlamasGoneBananas Fri 17-Jun-16 17:09:57

My daughter briefly considered Cambridge after the school encouraged it but her heart wasn't in it enough to be bothered to jump through the extra hoops Cambridge wanted.
It is quite a lot of extra work and yes they have to start early.
Poor kids are pushed so hard these days.

eyebrowsonfleek Fri 17-Jun-16 17:41:53

Our school (comp) took the top 20% ish for a day trip to Cambridge University. The others went to other establishments.

My son went on this trip. I can't see him being Cambridge material as he's bright but not outstanding but the point was to inspire the kids that Cambridge could be for them. Cambridge is about 2 hours away from here btw.

Our company is OFSTED outstanding and seems to have courses to suit a variety of abilities. I can't comment about the vocational courses as my kids are top set but luckily their school doesn't suffer from the lack of ambition that I've heard of on here.

mouldycheesefan Fri 17-Jun-16 17:45:27

Yes both our local and school and the school my niece goes to do this. It's not overkill it's normal but I agree about the extra curricular.

lljkk Fri 17-Jun-16 18:02:23

someone put an Oxbridge flea in DD's ear in yr8, but none of rest is our experience.
DD's school only goes to GCSEs, they wouldn't get the "credit" if she did get in.

Sadik Fri 17-Jun-16 19:49:28

It wasn't so much the 'why not think about it' suggestion, as the extra GCSEs et al. They end up with enough exams to do to start with, it seems to me, without adding more. (Mind you, I'm old, and date back to when 9 O levels was the norm.) Nothing against D of E - DD is planning to sign up as she fancies the expedition, and I think it'll be good encouragement to her to do some new things - but again, is it really that important for universities?

Couchpotato3 Fri 17-Jun-16 19:57:41

If they are seriously bright and potential Cambridge material, a couple of extra GCSEs won't be that much of a big deal to them - in fact they will probably regard them as fun extra-curricular activities in their own right.
My son (Oxbridge grad) did Mandarin, Greek and Environmental Science as off-timetable extras. No-one pushed him to do it. They were on offer for anyone who was interested, and he was interested. That's it. Totally irrelevant to his degree and career, but he wasn't interested in sports or D of E or playing a musical instrument or whatever (not for want of giving it a go). Agree that unis don't care about extra-curricular (including extra GCSEs), but there's nothing wrong with extra study if that's what floats your boat!

bojorojo Fri 17-Jun-16 21:35:08

Given that very many applicants to Oxbridge have all A*s at GCSE it is quality not quantity that counts. However, for Oxbridge 8 is a bit light if other students take 10. All these stats are available so I guess the school does not want to disadvantage their students. Also the work is intense at these universities so taking the bare minimum number of GCSEs is not necessarily the best preparation. However 10 is fine. No need for any more.

However D of E is a complete waste of time. They do not look at that. They want A levels, clear interest in the subject and they will look at GCSE results and expect academic subjects for most of them. Showing you have some outside interests and other talents or have held a position of responsibility says something about the candidate but won't get you an interview if everything else is not top notch. It is sad that a school gives such poor advice.

Sadik Fri 17-Jun-16 21:55:27

TBH, dd's going to end up with 10 without doing any extra at all (problem with bilingual education hence 2 x language/lit) - but as couchpotato says, I guess no issue with doing more if it's essentially for fun.

1805 Fri 17-Jun-16 22:31:31

not too early imo. It's just suggesting options at this point. Lets the dc know not to rule them out.
When I was applying for places, I wouldn't have dared apply for where I went to without the input from a teacher at school. So I think it's important dc know what is out there for them.
(ds will take 10 gcse's too, so no prob with that number of subjects I reckon)
I don't know if D of E has been recommended to him though. Good luck to her.

NeckguardUnbespoke Fri 17-Jun-16 22:35:15

I wouldn't have dared apply for where I went to without the input from a teacher at school

Teachers can be a real force for aspiration. But there's also a lot of (incorrect) received wisdom, and anyone who has staffed an Open Day will know that there are a hell of a lot of kids getting extremely bad advice from schools.

ilovegreen Sat 18-Jun-16 00:56:06

I think DofE is amazing if facilitated by inspirational people. I had some fantastic formative experiences hiking and camping in the New Forest, on Dartmoor and then in the Cairngorms for my Gold expedition.

The other parts (skill, service etc) I felt were a drag at the time, but it teaches you about practice, discipline and duty, just as important skills as the resourcefulness, endurance and team work learned on the expeditions.

I think universities would definitely value DofE on an applicant's CV, especially if done to gold level, but it doesn't have to be DofE. Equally could be Scouts expeditions or similar.

NeckguardUnbespoke Sat 18-Jun-16 09:50:52

I think universities would definitely value DofE on an applicant's CV,

We don't.

If you can find an admissions tutor who disagrees, that would be extremely interesting.

MedSchoolRat Sat 18-Jun-16 11:38:21

Speaking only from my experience.

I interview students. I haven't seen anything in our admissions criteria that would give bonus points for DoE. * BUT *, the DoE gives folk something to talk about. So when we ask questions about teamwork, helping others, empathy, motivation, showing resliance, the stories that kids tell may come out of experiences like what happened as part of their DoE. Could also have something to say because of being head girl, or being on the basketball team, or cheerleading, etc. DoE experiences give you things to talk (chances to describe when you showed desirable qualities) about on personal statement, too. The more stories, the more the applicant knows they have something good to say.

Sadik Sat 18-Jun-16 13:38:19

I imagine it might help you become more organised, confident etc as well - which would be useful for uni applications as well as everyday life. (At least I'm hoping this will be the case with DD - the organised bit especially!)

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Sat 18-Jun-16 14:42:33

DD1 did DofE to Gold, universities weren't in the least bit interested, BUT it was a major bonding point between her now-boss and her at interview. Having done all three levels does say that this person has commitment and can stick at something hard IMO.

DD2s Oxbridge interview focused entirely on her academic work submitted, even though the fact that she's walked 80k in four days with a pretty serious medical condition says a lot more about her as a person (i.e she's bloody minded and won't give up) than the fact she knows a lot about teenagers and depression (submitted essay).

I was told once by an Oxbridge admissions tutor that they didn't care if you were head girl, had grade 8 flute, and wiped bums in an old folks home every weekend, all he wanted to know was "do you love my subject? And can you prove it?".

Anecdotally from the DDs, DofE/extra curricular is good for medicine applications as it shows you can juggle lots of things at the same time, but only if the grades are good as well.

NeckguardUnbespoke Sat 18-Jun-16 17:28:45

I imagine it might help you become more organised, confident etc as well

Yes, and that will be its own reward: my children did assorted DofE and very good it was too.

But being better organised will show in your academic work. If it doesn't, saying "I have DofE so might be more organised" isn't going to convince anyone.

Similarly, the discipline of practice and rehearsal means that playing an instrument to a decent standard in an orchestra has very good effects on people. Still isn't interesting on a UCAS form in its own right, though.

Sadik Sat 18-Jun-16 18:02:19

Sorry - I really meant that if you become more organised, you'll be more able to put together a decent application, get yourself to interview if invited, that sort of thing. Obviously plenty of teens are good at that already, but certainly not all of them from my experience.

t4gnut Mon 20-Jun-16 09:18:31

All Oxbridge applicants will have 9+ A* GCSEs and be predicted A full sweep of A's at A level. it depends very much on the course what additional stuff they're looking for - DofE is perhaps a bit of a lazy, traditional suggestion - but the additional stuff is there to get them through the door for the dreaded Oxbridge interview:

NeckguardUnbespoke Mon 20-Jun-16 09:25:29

Both of my children have been through the Oxford application process, successfully. Amongst other things, they were told that personal statements do no form part of the interview-granting criteria, although they may be used as a starting point for an interview. The interview decision is on GCSEs, tests (HAT, PAT, MAT, LAT, etc) and on additional submitted work (both of mine submitted genuinely "in the line of classroom work" essays, not stuff specially written for the application, and in both cases including some stuff from outside the subject they were applying for: this apparently went down well).

Both have done DofE (Silver, I think). It was never mentioned, raised or discussed. It might have been in one of their personal statements, I can't remember.

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