We aim to give our students as much advice and support as possible if they are aspiring to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Of course, MPW helps all of its students with all of their university choices. There is also special support on offer for the small minority of students who are going directly into the world of work. However, with Oxbridge we have a special programme, the aim of which is to give our students the best possible chance.
Firstly, Directors of Studies meet prospective Oxbridge students in the AS year to discuss their choices. Each applicant’s suitability is assessed, usually in consultation with the Oxbridge co-ordinators. Some students just join us for the A2 year, so we need to meet these students very frequently so that we get to know them really well before the October 15th deadline. Some students return to us to apply after their A level results and we have to meet them regularly to ensure that the application is on track to meet the deadline. For the two-year students, there are also seminars run by the Oxbridge co-ordinators in the Summer Term. These give students an overview of the type of courses and teaching on offer at Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the challenge that lies ahead for applicants.
During our UCAS week last June, Kate Wallace, from the student recruitment team at Oxford University, talked to our AS students about both universities. She informed them in detail about the applications process and how best to prepare themselves for success, as well as giving them a vivid sense of what studying at Oxford and Cambridge was like. Kate outlined the key differences between the two universities, as well as the many things they had in common. She highlighted to students the importance of researching the courses they are interested in thoroughly, advising them to pay particular attention to the specific topics covered and method of delivery at each university. She also expounded upon the importance of focusing on academic strengths and interests in the personal statement, rather than listing extra-curricular activities in an unfocused way.
Following on from this, early in the Autumn Term, Professor Kirsten Dickers, from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, spoke to our A2 students and some of their parents about what university life at Cambridge was like, as well as referring frequently about what to expect at Oxford too. Professor Dickers is an Admissions
Tutor, so she was able to give us a genuine insight into what the academic staff at Oxbridge are looking for in prospective students. She delivered her talk in a friendly and supportive way, just as she has done on the other occasions when she has visited us. As well as offering practical advice, however, she also made the students aware of the difficulties in securing a place at two of the best universities in the world. While it is really important that Oxford aspirants secure very good A grades in their AS examinations if they are to be considered, Professor Dickers pointed out that some students who had achieved exceptional grades in just one subject – if that subject was the one which they were intending to read at Oxbridge – might be considered for interview.