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PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 12:34 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:25 pm
Posts: 5
I have heard many stories from family, friends of family, friends about successful and unsuccessful applications for Oxbridge and the Interviews associated

The general gist of the response is that they look at the all round package and multiple dimensions of the applicant's persona

Some of the stories I hear are that 'so and so' were

Fluent in German or Russian
County Champion of Hockey or Rugby Captain for County or Taught Karate
Chess Champion for County
Duke of Edinburgh Silver Medallist
Worked in France in Company XYZ over summer holidays
President of Debating Society at School
Grade 8 in Piano or Guitar

so what are the dimensions that qualify for a good Oxbridge candidate

here are a few ideas
1. Grades Results (that goes without saying) - Academic Dimension
2. Demonstrable Work Experience - Leadership Dimension
3. Sports Champion - Athletic Dimension
4. Fluency in Foreign Languages - Communication Skills Dimension
5. Musical Talent - Creativity Dimension

Any views, from people who have heard similar stories or lived and breathed the journey?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:18 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:21 pm
Posts: 13020
Oxford and Cambridge look for different things and so 'one strategy' will not suit both. Students need to decide which they are aiming for and prepare appropriately.

Students should also be aware that these are not always the 'best' universities for all degrees and they do not suit everyone.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Posts: 3826
Location: Chelmsford and pleased
Cambridge look for passion in their chosen subject and are not particularly interested in the 'whole' person that many other universities seek. However, they also check at interview that they will enjoy teaching the student. Attendance at open lectures/seminars in the subject, reading widely/in depth around the chosen subject are what interests them.

Most of the "top draw" universities look for a broad person, but it doesn't need to be all singing/all dancing. Last year one admissions tutor asked how on earth the student thought s/he would cope at university given his/her extra curricular commitments.

A strong academic background, a demonstrable interest in the subject and an active life would seem fair. A lovely lad I know was offered a place (at a reputable university), despite not making the grade because he coached at the rugby club and had completed gold D of E.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:43 pm 

Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 2:09 pm
Posts: 915
Location: Solihull, West Midlands
What the interviewers (who will after all usually be those who end up teaching/ supervising the successful applicants) are looking for is someone who will be rewarding to teach: someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about their chosen field of study. Someone whose eyes light up when you ask them about a recent article they've read about the Riemann Hypothesis, or their favourite Shakespeare character, or the field trip they mentioned in their UCAS statement. The "extras" may show that the candidate has other good qualities, the exam results show that they are capable of putting in the intellectual effort needed, but none of those would outweigh a candidate who seem to be going through the motions collecting activities for the sake of it.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:46 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:28 pm
Posts: 2560
For Cambridge the academic is the sole criteria.
Apart from exam results this includes demonstrating a passion for the subject outside the curriculum.

As already stated - the interviewers are looking for students that would excel within the teaching style at Cambridge, particularly the supervision system.

Unless extra curricular activities are directly related to academic study (travelling abroad for MFL for example) they really won't make any difference at all.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:04 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:34 pm
Posts: 942
One of my second cousins is a doctor and he said he remembered being asked at his interview at Southampton why he did not have a lot of extra curricular activities on his application/ personal statement despite being at a private school. He explained he did not have a lot of spare time because both his parents were working so hard keeping their business afloat to keep him and his brothers at the school that he ended up doing the cooking and taking care of his younger brothers. - It seemed to work :)

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:41 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:40 pm
Posts: 133
My daughter will be applying to Cambridge this year. She has contacted a number of colleges asking specific questions. The answer from all of the colleges has been that they do not mind what extra-curricular activities you have, as long as you have some. One reason is because they don't want an entire intake of introverted swots, but the main reason is because the pace of studying is so intense, they don't want those who had to give all their tie just to get high grades at A levl.

The most important criterion after high grades is passion in your subject and evidence that you have taken it further than what you are taught in school.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:01 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2008 1:17 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Buckinghamshire
My first DC had 8 A*s, 6 A's - 3 grade 8 music exams (including piano) and an organ scholarship for Oxford - with good BMAT - didn't get an interview for medicine at Oxford. (did get place elsewhere). Wicked UKCAT. Middling BMAT - high for 1 and 3 but average for 2.

3rd DC - 13A* 1 A at GCSE, 2 grade 8 music exams (including piano) grade 8 LAMDA, very good AS levels (100ums etc) Very good LNAT - place at Oxford. Also took a YASS (extended) course - not sure what this means. Experience in solicitors and magistrates court.

Oxford told first DS it was A* ratio at GCSE - only 8 A*s out of 13. (others were all A's) - the reason no interview. The school (as a direct result of this) have reviewed the amount of GCSE's allowed.

Incidently both of these children have done so much extra curricula they didn't even have 'word count' for on their applications - neither mentioned Dof E (Silver)- they needed to talk more about work experience and passion.

I am hoping this experience helps others as between DC 1,2,3, I see no academic difference - however I see:

DC 1 - Most able - less passionate.
DC2 - less able (only 6 A*s) - very hard working (getting 1st's)
DC3 - Oxford Place - able and hard working - learnt from older siblings. (Brasenose)
DC4 - Good looking! but got back into grammar for sixth form.............phew
DC5 - Not pregnant........
DC 6 - sooooooooooooooooooo cute!!! (age 5)

Let's just love them for themselves - easy for me to see, as I have a 'variety' :)

Extra curricula has to be for FUN - not CV

Neither of Oxford candidate children set out for Oxbridge - just liked the courses.

Other uni child - LOVES course and will def. do better ...........

Hope this gives an holistic view.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:01 pm
Posts: 7424
Location: Herts
This is very interesting. Thanks very much for posting. It really reinforces the message that a smaller amount of GCSE's done well is better than a wide range done less well. DG

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:50 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Posts: 3826
Location: Chelmsford and pleased
If it helps Cambridge took a grammar educated child with 3A*, 6A and 2B. AS results were all grade A. No music and only sport was fitness.

Surely though they should enjoy life too. A plan mapped out purely for Oxbridge entry seems a little sad.

DD wants to go too. She studies hard and desperately wants to obtain 13 A*. She is taking grade 7 flute and plays because she loves it - this involves flute choir and wind band. She is a member of a tri club because the exercise helps. She is in a few school teams. She goes to history society lectures because they interest her. She is also doing silver D of E. Both DC help with housework, cooking and take the dog for a run. Her school only seem to discuss one path; it is assumed that she will go.

I have no idea if she will make it through the lottery of Oxbridge applications. The potential for disappointment is huge and I worry for her.

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