Looking for the helpful Cambridge admissions tutor who posted a while age..

(358 Posts)
seeker Mon 20-May-13 22:16:18

......if you're around, could I ask a couple of questions, please?

PiratePanda Mon 20-May-13 22:22:38

There are loads of people around who have done Cambridge admissions/have been or are Cam admissions tutors. Anyone in particular, and what's your question? Your post is a bit, errr, opaque.

seeker Mon 20-May-13 22:38:41

Sorry,ni don't mean to be opaque! It was just there was a specific poster, but I can't remember her name.

My questions are on behalf of my dd. Basically, she understands that it's not really worth applying to Oxford if you don't have all As or a*s atGCSE, but Cambridge says that they don't attach so much significance to GCSEs. However, in practice, do most applicants have As and A*s anyway, and are your chances of getting in without them pretty thin?

And the second question- which college in your opinion would you apply to to read philosophy?

Mendi Mon 20-May-13 22:47:46

Seeker, I am not an admissions tutor but I did go to Cambridge. IMO it is not a question of choosing a particular college as being better or worse at a particular subject. The course material is the same at all colleges and it's just a question of who you have as your Director of Studies and how well you get on with them. The tutorial teaching style is quite intense if you don't get on with your DoS.

College choice also has a major impact on your chances of getting in and the social life you have when you are there. It's a question of finding the right environment for your DD.

If you are concerned about your DD's GCSE grades (and I would say these will matter - they certainly did years ago when I was applying and it hasn't got any less competitive, quite the reverse), then you should box clever with college choice. The big name colleges may carry lots of kudos but your DD has a huge advantage in being female: she can apply to one of the all-female colleges and statistically will have a far higher chance of getting in. Once actually there, being in an all-girl college does not affect your social life negatively - everyone does loads outside college anyway.

Your DDs sixth form college or school should be able to advise you on colleges too and may well have good relationships with some.

Good luck to your DD. It's a stressful time.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 20-May-13 22:49:04

I think you may be thinking of this recent thread which has lots of useful info:

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/secondary/a1718146-Oxbridge-and-State-Schools

I taught in the RG and went to Oxbridge myself and I wouldn't encourage my dd to apply unless I thought she was excellent with really high predictions, because it's fierce competition to get in and the pressure once in can be quite unrelenting. I would also be honest with her upfront and tell her she needs not to count on it and not to take it as a personal rejection if she doesn't make it.

That said, if she really is excellent I would encourage her to go for it whatever her GCSE grades smile

About colleges, she needs to look at:

1) somewhere that has Philosophy fellows/dons based in college so the subject is prioritised.
2) 'big name' Philosophy fellows/dons based in college will mean excellent teaching but also stiffer competition for places
3) what kind of atmosphere does she want? Read the college info online and talk to current students - go to college open days to get a feel. They are all very different and I think feeling you are a good fit is important.

junebeetle Mon 20-May-13 23:03:20

They are supposed to value high A level UMS over GCSEs, but I expect most strong applicants have both. The thing is, she will never know unless she tries, and it's only one choice out of 5, so if it's what she wants why not give it a go? Even if the odds aren't that great, a small chance may be better than no chance. If there are any mitigating factors for the GCSEs (eg/ illness, some sort of family disruption or if they were good in the context of her school) then I think there is a mechanism to get that factored in.

seeker Mon 20-May-13 23:07:48

Thank you all. She wasn't eventhinking about Oxbridge -she used to have vague fantasies, but thought her GCSEs ruled her out. Then she bumped into her head teacher today, who asked her what her plans were, then threw cambridge into the mix. So I thought I'd see what I could find out. I suppose it's got to be worth a punt....( no pun intended!)

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 20-May-13 23:08:27

How bad are her GCSEs?

junebeetle Mon 20-May-13 23:12:48

I know of one cambridge offer holder this year from a good comprehensive, no mitigating factors and just one A* gcse but mostly very high AS UMS. I think it's quite rare though.

seeker Mon 20-May-13 23:13:09

Not bad at all objectively- only in the context of her school! 2A*s, 5As and 3Bs. But she's predicted 3A*s and an A for AS. She's rather come into her own in the 6th form.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 20-May-13 23:17:37

I wouldn't be worried about those, personally. Obviously not amazing, but not grades that would rule her out, I wouldn't have thought.

Gruntfuttocks Mon 20-May-13 23:26:27

How 'involved' in her subject is she? Does she choose to spend free time reading / investigating further? Is she doing any extra courses? Can she talk about it for hours? Is she genuinely passionate about it? These are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself and her. Much more likely to be successful if the answers are yes. Cambridge are very good at sussing people out and are well aware of the 'late developers' who take off in sixth form. Don't despair over poor GCSEs but do be realistic.

Yellowtip Tue 21-May-13 08:22:08

One thing about Cambridge over Oxford seeker is that they are far, far more likely to interview. She will need excellent AS results in her top three subjects and excellent written work to submit. But the fact of being really very likely to get an interview is a big bonus for someone who really has come into their own.

seeker Tue 21-May-13 08:24:56

Thank you.

She knows it's an outside chance, obviously, but she's just gathering information from every available source at the moment, so she's ready to think about it properly once AS levels are over.

Well, she certainly never shuts up about the subject- we have had to classify philosophy as "work" and therefore not suitable for dinner table conversation.........

themottledcat Tue 21-May-13 08:59:37

It was BoffinMum who was the admissions tutor.

Although agree with Yellowtip on other thread re. not realistic info being imparted, as far as all the successful Oxbridge candidates at my DCs' grammar school over the years are concerned....no-one has got in with less than top grades at A2 (even one with extenuating circumstances.....).

Also, out of interest, can you get an A* at AS level? Thought it was only at A2 but am ready to be corrected!! (Have vested interest as DS in Yr12 too....but older DC pre-date the A* at A levels).

Yellowtip Tue 21-May-13 09:20:56

I suppose she could view it as a good incentivising thing to do to distract her from her ASs smile

The CU website is by far the best place to go, honestly.

Another thing about the Cambridge process is that it's less centralised than Oxford (although in Oxford that varies between subjects). And therefore college choice matters more. That's probably worth focussing on for a late blossomer.

It is only one choice though. I always tell mine they should waste a choice at the top, not the bottom.

Fuckwittery Tue 21-May-13 09:25:46

I got into Cambridge with 2 Bs at GSCE (rest As and A*s)
This was 1999, don't know how much has changed.

I had some difficult home circumstances and think I got a good reference from my school as a result, was predicted As at A-level.

If your DD's school supports her application that might really help.

alreadytaken Tue 21-May-13 09:40:34

I have nothing to do with Cambridge admissions, but did have a child go through it this year. You might need to pm BoffinMum to get her advice, sometimes people get fed up of accusations and stop giving advice.

Cambridge publish some useful information here www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/statistics/ and here www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/philosophy/index.php#Entry-Requirements One of these shows what written work colleges ask for.

Visit as many colleges as you can get around and read the websites carefully to identify colleges she might like. It's always possible to take a gap year and apply after A levels if she does really well, although my impression is that grades needed are higher than the normal offers. They expect applicants to exceed their offers.

There was a good article in one of the papers about what to think about before applying - things like short terms and the type of place you want to live. I think I posted a link once....

You don't need to decide before having the AS results. There's no harm in taking a good hard look at the colleges before then, it's a bit late afterwards.

Although she could apply to female colleges they don't always take from people who apply to them, they take quite a few from the pool. Some colleges seem to be good at placing their applicants elsewhere, but again just my impression.

alreadytaken Tue 21-May-13 09:45:56

College open day information - register now but look at where to visit once her exams are over www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/events/opendays/cambridge/

Yellowtip Tue 21-May-13 09:51:33

My advice would be that AAB a A2 will not get you a place at Cambridge alreadytaken without extraordinary mitigating circumstances.

I also think that it's worth bearing in mind that some people wear their credentials on their sleeves on MN and others don't. So if advice seems sound, don't automatically dismiss it because the giver hasn't declared their presidency of an Oxford college (for example).

Yellowtip Tue 21-May-13 09:52:34

AAB at A2.

I did philosophy at Cambridge, I think it's a brilliant course. At the time, and I don't know if this has changed, it was the only university in the country offering the chance to study philosophy for three years without combining it with other subjects. You can really learn a lot of philosophy that way, and get to grips with what the point of the subject is.

On colleges, it's a small subject, so only a few people from each college doing it. My college didn't have any philosophy dons at all, but they found me a good director of studies elsewhere.

Slipshodsibyl Tue 21-May-13 13:22:01

Alreadytaken has linked to open day info. They are on 4th and 5 th July with some colleges also offering open days on 3rd. If you cant't make these there are further opportunities to visit Colleges in the early Autumn. You may email tutors directly with questions which would be a good idea. Post A Level applicants in Arts/humanities tend to need 2 A* in order to have a fighting chance. I think about 14 % of successful post A2 applicants have one A*. Science candidates tend to have more A* than Arts/humanities. Exam results at A Level are key but there are always exceptions and anomalies. They are looking for intellectual progression so although those GCSE results would be very much in the lower reaches for successful applicants, really good AS results would help mitigate. The average offer holder has around 95 % in the top three subjects - it says that online.

Still best to email a few of the current tutors though, preferably subject tutors.

PiratePanda Tue 21-May-13 22:35:21

GCSEs do still matter, but nowhere near as much as UMS scores for AS levels. TBH it's rare to see candidates without at least 11 A*/As at GCSE because the standard is SO high. Buf if the Bs are in irrelevant subjects for your DD's chosen course then they will be ignored, as it is recognised that very few people are equally good at both arts/humanities and sciences.

As for college choice, if she's unsure about her chances I would either gor a women's college or for a smaller less well known college (e.g. Corpus rather than King's)

Lexagon Tue 21-May-13 22:59:27

I got an offer from Cambridge with a B and a C at GCSE (in core subjects, although not related to my degree, the rest a mix of A*s and As), and my offer was AAAB. This was recent - so it's not impossible (although I know it's relatively unusual.)
I would really advise against picking a college by playing the numbers game, and instead just pick one you can imagine yourself living in for three years smile

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