A group of 22 keen year 12 students attended a visit to Trinity College Oxford on 8th March. The purpose of the day was to dispel any misconceptions about studying at Oxford University (or other equivalent highly prestigious places of learning), to look around the college and to understand exactly the differences that applying to Oxford may have from other universities.
On arrival, our host, Zoe, asked the students to write some stereotypes of what Oxford is sometimes perceived to be on post-it notes, along with questions for current students. Not surprisingly perhaps, the words they wrote were things like “privately educated”, “posh” and “wealthy”. We then had a visit from 3 current students, all young men at various stages of their education and studying Economics, Engineering and PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). Thankfully, these students seemed anything other than privately educated (all went to state schools”, posh (very down to earth, honest and open) or wealthy.
These students then answered the questions that had been written down; They were extremely personable, honest, and helpful. They spoke fluently of the application process, that although high grades were expected at A Level, Oxford did not necessarily dismiss an application with less than perfect AS or GCSE grades (one student, studying PPE, got BCC in his AS Levels). They clearly showed that what these highly academic institutions are looking for most is potential. They answered questions on the dreaded interview and said that the interviewers take the students to the edge of their knowledge (where ever that edge may be) and then push a little further to see how they handle and think about new information.
They do not want the finished product, they want somebody who can learn effectively, stressing the need for students to prove in their applications that they are fully engaged with their topic by showing thoughts about further reading, summer schools attended and work experience.
After a very good lunch in their beautiful and ancient refectory, we had a brief tour of the college before being given the task of researching and sharing information on what it takes to get into certain courses, as well as understanding just what sorts of jobs can be done with any sort of degree and which are more specialised (did you know that to become a Graduate Journalism Trainee for the BBC, the one degree you must NOT have is Journalism!)
All of this day went a long way to making our students feel that Oxford or Cambridge could be open to them and that it was in no way beyond their reach. The wonderful students we met proved that all sorts of people can and should apply and that if you don’t you’ll never know if you could have.
Thanks to our students for exemplary behaviour and engagement, as usual. Comments from them on the day include:
“I found that the tour and the Q&A with the students gave me valuable insight into university life as well as seriously challenging the common stereotypes of Oxford. It was definitely a worthwhile visit because it was informative but relaxed.”
“The visit was worthwhile in that it gave me huge motivation for my A-level studies. It put everything into perspective and reminded me of the reason I am at sixth form and trying the best I can. The site itself was stunning, and the information on applying and the type of learning done at Oxford was all really useful.”
“I think the trip was worthwhile because it allowed me to see an insight into what Oxford student life is like. It also corrected any perceptions about Oxford that were wrong. It allowed me to see that actually you don’t have to have got all A* at GCSE and that even at A-Level they consider you with slightly lower grades at AS. It also showed me that actually it’s about your academic potential for the future not just how you have done at A Level.”