My girl has set her heart on Oxford or Cambridge. Encourage or ignore????

(293 Posts)
Ilovemyrabbits Tue 04-Jun-13 20:47:56

DD is 12...I know, it's very young and she's got a long way to go before we seriously need to consider this BUT...she is a very determined young lady who becomes very focussed when she has a goal in mind. She is academic and does well at school but she's not always top of the class. She's not overly outgoing, but she mixes well when she needs to. She has told all her friends she wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Her Y6 teacher told her she could do this if she wanted to. In the teacher's defence, she has two daughters who have gone through the Oxbridge process successfully and I think she was trying to be encouraging.

I am torn here between wanting to encourage dd in her aims, because it's good to aim high, and wanting her to be grounded. She's quite a sensible girl, even at 12, but I'm trying to figure how to deal with this. Part of me thinks, keep quiet...it's a long way before the decisions need to be made and she may well adapt her plans by then. Another part of me thinks, she's stubborn and what do we do if she sticks with it?? Should we be encouraging her now? Asking teachers if she's capable? Or what????

Neither her dad nor I went to university, so I guess we're a little out of our comfort zone here. Does anyone have any advice for me????

Encourage her! Someone has to go to Oxford and Cambridge, why shouldn't it be her?

At the same time you might want to say, "When you get older you will maybe be clearer what subject you want to study, and when you look into it you might decide that Oxford or Cambridge aren't the best places to study that, so don't get too settled yet on them."

At 12 she probably has only heard of those as "the best" universities, as she gets older she will pick up a more balanced view and may want to study elsewhere. But I don't think there's anything wrong in aiming high.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 21:00:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Relaxedandhappyperson Tue 04-Jun-13 21:00:56

Why not? It might not happen ultimately, for all sorts of reasons, but a goal like that is a Good Thing.

If she sticks with it and gets great grades then she should go for it. And if she doesn't, she'll be in a position to be realistic at 16/17/18 without anyone having squished her dreams before they started.

alienbanana Tue 04-Jun-13 21:02:57

Encourage, but I agree with angus. It doesn't have to be all about oxford or Cambridge

Relaxedandhappyperson Tue 04-Jun-13 21:03:07

I went to Oxford and for admissions they weren't remotely interested in things extra-curricular (did physics). Just whether you were bright and would do well.

Not decrying extra-curricular stuff obviously but IMHO it should be done for enjoyment and pleasure in the moment not for university admission purposes.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 21:08:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ZZZenagain Tue 04-Jun-13 21:08:55

does she know what she would like to study?

I would tell her that they are great universities to study at, however she needs to be very good to get in and she needs to work very hard once she is there in order to succeed. I wouldn't be negative and I wouldn't talk about it too much either at this stage.

If she has really set her mind on it, you could try asking a teacher whether this seems at all realistic and see if the teacher can offer you any advice on how to help dd prepare.

You won't know until she has her GCSE results if she has a real chance but working hard at school and striving to get good marks is good preparation for anything that lies ahead really.

lucidlady Tue 04-Jun-13 21:13:48

Definitely encourage her!

MummyMastodon Tue 04-Jun-13 21:37:36

Well, I clicked on this all ready to say 'encourage', thinking she would be about 16... but only 12, gosh.

I certainly wouldn't discourage her, of course, but I think I would try to defer her interest a bit - just tell her that of course she can apply as one of her choices if she does well in her GCSEs and try to leave it at that? There is such an element of randomness in who gets an offer and who doesn't, it would be awful for her to focus on this for six years and not make it.

DD has an Oxford offer, but she didn't think about Oxbridge at all until after GCSE results, and not with any seriousness until after AS results. One year of chasing Oxbridge is enough of an emotional rollercoaster, I wouldn't want six.

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:49:51

Agree with Mummy. I'd say stick it firmly on the back burner until after GCSE results (or whatever they're called by then).

mindgone Tue 04-Jun-13 22:54:19

I would tell her, as I told my own DCs, that the harder they work, and the better results they get, the more choice they have. The more choice you have, the better the chances of finding something you love. Whether that be at Oxford, Cambridge, or anywhere else. Incidentally, my DS wants to do a course which is not offered at either Oxford or Cambridge! So that would be a fly in the ointment for your DD! smile

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:54:21

angus you may be asked about your outside interests at a uni interview but these days at the top unis they won't be what gets you the interview.

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:57:57

I would add that as soon as it was clear that my eldest DC had a chance of Oxford or Cambridge and mentioned that she'd maybe like to try, I immediately bought an £11 Virgin rail ticket to Durham to show her somewhere else she might like.

joanofarchitrave Tue 04-Jun-13 23:01:41

IMO for a place at any good university she's going to need to show why she loves and is deeply into the subject she wants to study. Having said that, if she is motivated by Oxbridge, why not? Worked for me - the subject passion came afterwards.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Tue 04-Jun-13 23:15:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I think you should encourage her to aim high and work hard. Her teacher has done the right thing by encouraging her to think this could be for her. There's plenty of time for her to find out more about herself before she even needs to think abot uni applications.

HollaAtMeBaby Tue 04-Jun-13 23:48:04

Why would you not encourage this? And don't wait for GCSE results, you need to be seriously focussed on oxbridge from 14 to maximise your chances. Is she at a state school, or private?

IKnowWhat Wed 05-Jun-13 00:01:52

In my experience it is more about how a student reflects on their extra curricular activities in their personnal statement rather than writing a long list of 'achievements'
I haven't suggested to my DC's that they do things because it will look good in a PS.
You can't fit much on the UCAS form anyway smile

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 00:06:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IKnowWhat Wed 05-Jun-13 00:13:43

Kids should be encouraged to get out and do things but it is perfectly ok if it's not County level sport or grade 8 music.

Duke of Edinbrugh is great but as it is compulsory at some shools I can't imagine it is given much weight in a personal statement.

angusandelspethsthistlewhistle Wed 05-Jun-13 00:23:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

fossil971 Wed 05-Jun-13 00:23:30

I went to Cambridge out of a state comp in the 1980s/90s. Nobody else in my family went to university and I was the dullest mousy teenager possible! I didn't even get a brilliant degree but I am glad I went and I've stayed in my degree subject all my working life. Even then it was a pretty diverse place, it has far higher private school intake than average but they are still only about 50% so that's a lot of "normal" people too.

I would say to her, hold on to the idea, and when she gets nearer to applying she can certainly look at Oxbridge and maybe other places, and bl**dy good luck to her. I first had the idea for my career at 13, it is not too young to have the dream.

This isn't the first thread I've seen where someone's DC is thinking of Oxbridge and they are saying should they lower their expectations. FFS! Far more people fail from lack of aspiration than aiming too high!

The Be Cambridge website is pretty good viewing nearer the time maybe. Obviously I think it is the preferable place! grin

Ilovemyrabbits Wed 05-Jun-13 07:24:01

Thanks for all the comments. I know she's only 12, but being from a fairly low level of education, pulled myself up by my boot-strings kind of background, I'm struggling to know the right way to approach it even at this early stage. I've encouraged her to think of other universities as well, explained the 'red brick' universities as best I can. I didn't think to say that different universities offer different strengths, but that gives me another line of discussion for her.

I've said that she will have to work hard and that they only take the best of the best. She knows it's a tricky place to get into as her friend's brother, who is the loveliest boy, has recently been accepted for interview, but blew it and is now out of the running (his words...didn't realise they let them know immediately).

DD is in state education, not private. She is passionate about English. She's 'chosen' her options already and has included Latin and French for languages, history over geography and art over dance.

I am factoring in that she is young, but I know how easy it is to squash someone's dreams when they are young and change their whole life trajectory. I don't want to be responsible for that, but I conversely don't want to encourage her towards something she's not able to achieve. In that light, I've asked her old primary school teacher (I work with her) for advice. She's said that she'll check with her DH (dd's form tutor) what we should do. She will tell me if it was waste of time I'm sure, or she just won't come back to me. In addition, I'll ask the teachers at the next parents' evening whether it's realistic (if I can talk DD out of coming with us!).

The subject doesn't come up too often in the house but she has mentioned it before and we've said that's great and told her to consider Durham and Lancaster, cos her dad works oop north most of the time and it'd be practical smile I was just so shocked that she'd told her friends. It makes it seem much more 'real' if you know what I mean.

I did wonder whether I'd just get shot down for being unrealistic, told she's too young, etc, but most people have said to encourage her, so I think we'll step back, find out what we can about it all in the background and just encourage her in her pursuit of a great education, wherever that may end up.

notcitrus Wed 05-Jun-13 07:47:14

Encourage her to work hard and give herself the best chance to get into Oxbridge or whatever uni she wants when the time comes - maybe mention that they don't offer all subjects or things like sandwich courses which she may want, but why not go for it. GCSEs would be soon enough to adjust her plans should she be struggling then. Hard work is probably the best skill she could acquire at this age.

For comparison, I remember a teacher telling me when I was 6, if I didn't learn my times tables I wouldn't be able to get into Oxford or Cambridge when the time came. Obvioudly not literally true, but it shut me up at the time and meant O&C were always in the back of my mind when I thought about uni. So I applied even though my teachers thought I had litter chance - there's other spaces on the application form, after all - and got in.
In comparison, bright kids I worked with shortly after leaving school, age 11-12, didn't know what a university was. I hope I managed to plant the idea in some of their heads.

I'd encourage any kid to consider Oxbridge - by age 16 they can figure out if they have a slight chance, but application really is just filling in a form and possibly getting a polite rejection letter - and hopefully acceptances from other excellent unis. It's not like they'll get Failed Oxbridge Candidate tattooed on their forehead!

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