How to get into Oxbridge
Here is my journey to applying to Cambridge for architecture. I hope you can learn from my own experience and hopefully it will help "get you into Oxbridge" I have always been interested in architecture, but never really considered the course, having heard it was a seven year course and it just wasn't something I had ... passion about at the time. Whilst completing my GCSE and AS Level art project, my final pieces were all three dimensional and structural, and that was the first time I felt I had potential for a career in architecture.
With a spark of passion, I did a ton of research into which unis did architecture and ordered prospectuses from them all, which I can read, highlight, rip out and make a sort of scrapbook for them.
Alongside university research, I also conducted research into the subject by following architectural blogs, visiting exhibitions, and reading books. The RIBA website is a great place to start as it lists the latest events relating to architecture as well as prizewinners, competitions and high profile architecture projects.
I read two books (Structures by Gordon and Towards a new architecture by Le Corbusier), both of which gave me a deeper understanding of the subject. It is also useful to get work experience if possible. I visited two architecture practices and did a day course on the subject.
If you are sure of your subject, it's time to move on to applying for a place at Oxbridge! Note that some subjects are not taught at both universities. Architecture is only taught at Cambridge. That eliminates the problem of choosing between the two. The best way to do so for subjects that are taught at both unis is to visit and see the environment in which the subject is taught under and perhaps speak to students undergoing the course.
Both universities are split into colleges, and it is essential you pick the right one. This could be down to several factors, the environment it is in, the location, the teaching staff, what subjects it is known for etc. Again, visiting and doing some research into it is the best way forward.
UCAS is the norm for university applications and it is completed electronically. All your details need to be entered including grades from higher education (GCSE and A Levels) as well as any other qualification you may have achieved. For me, I also played piano and completed Duke of Edinburgh award.
Apart from grades, one of the most important aspects is the Personal Statement. As many people will be achieving top grades, this is the segment which will separate you from other candidates. You have 4000 characters to impress the university. The most important thing to show is passion, potential and commitment. I wrote about my interest in the subject, my influences and what I had done to find out more to further my interest. I mentioned my artistic ability and achievement in that area, which shows potential and skill, and finally I concluded with my attitude towards studying the subject if given a chance, which hopefully shows commitment and maturity.
NOTE Oxbridge Applications deadline for UCAS is Mid-October, so it must be completed and sent off well in time.
For Oxbridge, an additional questionnaire called the SAQ needs to be filled in. This includes marks obtained per module (UMS marks) and also some extra questions relating to you and the subject you are applying for. You will also need to submit a passport photo.
Within several weeks of my application being sent off, I received a letter inviting me for interview. For Cambridge, interviews are conducted over just one day, whilst at Oxford over several days (allows for pooling). Your interview will be held at the college you applied for.
Several colleges may ask for written work, portfolios or a test to be completed before or during the interview period. For me, I was asked to bring in a portfolio for the interview. Some colleges also set a task for architecture students which will decide if they get an interview, an example of which being Clare college.
Interviews are usually conducted in early and mid December. I had two separate interviews over one day, which is the norm for most subjects. The content of the interview for most subjects is academic; they will ask you about things you should have studied and learnt in school (modules and topics you provided in your SAQ). For me, one interview was focussed on my portfolio, and the second on my academics. I was mainly asked to discuss ideas from picture sources, and was only asked two academic questions overall.
At this point, you have done all you could to obtain a place, and all that is left is waiting for the results. Results of the interview will be sent to candidates in January. You either get a conditional offer (usually A*AA) or a rejection. For Cambridge, they may contact you for additional interviews if they choose to pool you to another college.
I am currently waiting for my response. If I get in, then great, follow in my footsteps! If not, then this is what NOT to do!
Once you have obtained your offer, it is time to work hard on getting the grades you need to get into the university!!! If you are rejected, you can always apply again the following year or go to another university you have applied to.
OUTLINE OF ACTION POINTS
1. Choose a Course, Uni and College
3. UCAS Application - Personal Statement
7. Obtain Grades
UPDATE: Unfortunately I was unsuccessful but that was to be expected given one of the interviews went slightly pear shaped and I could tell the interviewer was NOT happy but not that bummed out as the course is very technical and not quite for me.
One of my friends who has basically given up a social life did manage to get an offer of A*A*A which was for law, so even if you do get an offer, it can be very difficult to achieve.
Good luck to those who are applying this year!
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Student employment detracts from studies?
60% of the pop acts that dominated the charts this year went to public school, an extraordinary statistic, up from just 1% on 30 years ago. Music, the traditional expression of the working-class, is now just another perfunctory profession for the rich, rows and rows of indie kids and troubadours strumming out that endless and erroneous ... white-collar anxiety, presumably a sadness born out of paying student and tuition fees that cut into their beer money. That anger, of course, has been played out of late to the lead up to the big vote in parliament, the vote to increase tuition fees narrowly passed, London kicking of soon after as they returned to the shires for Christmas with mummy and daddy. Students only seem to protest in term time. No way would they let this encroach with hols!
The reality of the debt for future students is a bill on their pay packet they will hardly notice. It will be around £15 a month for the average paid graduate, the same cost most students pay per month for their fancy mobile phones while they are at uni. This protest is not just about the worry of carrying student debt but the future ruling classes finally waking up to their responsibilities that they are indeed the biggest mobilised protest weapon we have in the country to speak on our behalf and so have. But this is also about students feeling rather narked about having to work in the future during term time as uni was mostly about having fun.
The police have got some stick over the way they have handled this but once Millbank was wrecked they had no other choice but to deploy normal kettling and riot control methods they would use at the football or any other potentially violent march. The order was given to hit middle-class kid with extendable battons and hope the law suits are not too high. If we have reached the point where police are sued for using any sort of riot control then anarchy will win out. The bad boys from south London couldn't resist joined the white working-class anarchist as 'muscle' to kick it off and if you brick Prince Charles car then you're going to get attention. It's not true that Camilla was hit full in the face with a lump of concrete.
The rowdy youngsters were there because the Tories have cut EMA, the Education Maintenance Allowance, an effective £30 bribe to keep kids in higher education and so off the streets. You got the money paid into yours or your parents bank account purely on regular attendance to you're A-Level and college course, which did see a big increase of punctuality and attendance. If you didn't get signed in to class you didn't get your money for the weekend booze and fags, a rather clever incentive by Blair to make it look like the kids wanted to learn. Watching the rioting chavs shouting at the camera that if they didn't get their EMA they would go back to mugging and drugs could only make you chuckle. It was a no-brainer for the posh kids that tended to do the A-Levels and college courses, the EMA reason enough not to do part-time or Saturday jobs and mum and dad didn't have to worry about their kids asking for cash to go out at the weekends.
But, of course, those South London gang land lads have no incentive to go into higher education when they read statistics like the one that points out no black people were admitted to Oxbridge last year from 10,435 places, and one college at Oxford had not admitted a black student for 7 years! If the young black and chav underclass are joining forces with the white middle-class to riot then the country has a serious problem. It takes a lot to see Gemima holding hands with Lesroy.
David Lammy, the black MP for Tottenham, was the one who made the point on this appalling racism at Oxbridge, suggesting some places in the top Russell Group universities should be based on ethnicity not ability in the future, a controversial move towards the US system of affirmative action. But if Lammy, a well spoken graduate himself, is an example of smart black guys not going to Oxbridge (he went to the University of London) then best not look at his Celebrity Mastermind performance as evidence. He scored a feeble 13 over the two rounds, including answers like Henry the 8th succeeded Henry the 7th to the throne; that the surname of Nobel Prize Winners Marianne and Pierre was Antoinette, and not Curie, and my favourite that Versailles is a state prison, not the famous palace it is. What Lammy and most outspoken black commentators never touch in as that black kids are just as smart as white kids in school but choose not to learn.
So, if you are going into higher education and were encouraged not to work by claiming EMA, and now you will also have that huge debt dumped upon you, is it time to work during study time? In America it's the norm to work at college, as it is parent's to start saving for the college fund when their kids are very young, kids doing what they have to get through study. The top Ivy League colleges there charge an extortionate amount to educate. One suspect's Oxbridge will follow their model now the door is a jar. American parents take out all manner of savings accounts and insurance policies to make sure they can afford college whereas British parents leave it late. In Britain there is certain arrogance in the middle-class of entitlement to higher education, hence the riots. Only one-in-three British student's work during course time and its left to the parents to pick up the bulk of the bill for living costs, the bill that is the real reason why working-class kids tend not to go to university. At Oxbridge you are told not to work during course time so you concentrate on your work.
London student rents are £100 per year minimum and there's little chance of low income mums or students finding that cash, which means the middle-class always have the luxury of the three year piss up social degree doing drama at Manchester etc. As a country we don't really need the amount of graduates we have and half of them that do graduate will not work in careers related to that degree. The expansion under Labour was selling aspiration for votes by getting more kids in college, just as they were buying votes from the poor by increasing benefits. Now both the unemployed and students will have to move towards work or face financial sanctions if they don't.
The Liberal Democrats, of course, are doomed and the students clearly will hold that grudge and will vote out most of them at the coming local and national elections. Clegg and co toured the universities with this silly pledge not to increase fees, knowing full well they would never get power and so easy soft votes from likewise promises. On that basis they could say pretty much anything they wanted to, to get votes, which they did. It was a clear demonstration of the pitfalls of power and the reality of the decisions you have to take when you do get power, the coalition just too much for them.
The reality is that with the nine grand cap all students and universities are going to have to face that maximum charge, especially as arts and humanities centred universities are having their teaching budget slashed by up to 80%, meaning the only way to recover that funding is through the full charge on British students and chasing lucrative foreign students. It will certainly be the death of the social degree as only the rich will pay 27 grand to study media studies, meaning a massive reduction of students in those soft subjects and so the end of them. The middle-class will always dominate the classic subjects like English, maths and the sciences, and with the 5 A-Star minimum sure to come into get into those universities, they will once again be full of posh kids and foreign dictators sons, the way the Tories want it. 60% of the current front bench in the Commons went to public school and Oxbridge and 37% of all MP's did. There are more people from the London borough of Richmond at Oxbridge today than the whole of Scotland and Wales students there put together.
I stayed in Denton, Texas in the US on one of my trips in the 80s and the kids did all manner of jobs to pay through college. A few sold pot on campus whilst the pretty girls danced in clubs and waited table to make up their money. Its well know the prettier college girls go much further in clubs to make the big bucks so to run cars at college and at a strip club we went to it was nearly all girls from Texas University that had the greenbacks tucked in their knickers. It's a big earn there with the tipping system and even barmen can clear one hundred dollars a night in tips when it's busy. Over there people are used to taking all manner of jobs to make ends meet and when your social security money runs out its amazing how many people suddenly find jobs when the government cash dries up.
There are cases of posh girls dancing on tables in bars in Britain to pay there way through college but I expect a massive increase in that type of employment now education is to be privatised. The students may not like having to pay for their courses but their counter-argument that the workers should pay for their three years of fun during these austerity measures is no longer going to wash. The only downside of working during course time is that group are the most likely to drop out of college or get a lower class of degree. But as most three year course involve about six months actual study do we really care anymore?
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Home Schooling versus Conventional Schools
I get a lot of emails from people who are either going to be living and working in Italy (requiring residency) as expats, or who are Italian and are returning home to Italy from overseas and wish to continue home education once they get back. If you'd like some insight into why people look into home education as an alternative to ... conventional schooling, take a glance at this.
Bearing in mind that what you are looking at is the Italian Paradox.
One of the highest per student levels of investment.
One of the lowest teacher to student ratios.
One of the highest levels of numbers of ancillary staff to relive the teachers of time consuming mundane tasks and paperwork.
Unfortunately most of the money is spent on vast numbers of underworked, poorly trained teachers who go through a centralized, non merit based process in order to be employed, with little to no control either by the teacher, or the local schools, as to where they will be employed.
So if anybody is coming here and is interested in home education, here is a review of the process required to getting permission.
There is a great deal of misinformation about home education in Italy, on the internet, via friends and family, from people who have just been passing through the country temporarily and the school directors themselves.
Over here home education is vanishingly rare so finding your way through the quagmire can be heartstoppingly stressful.
Breathe easy. It is legal.
Hold your breath. Getting permission means diving into Dante's little known ring of hell, number 10, Never Ending Italian Bureaucracy.
Having been through the process in the dark myself I've laid it out as it happened to me. Italian bureaucracy happens TO you, forget an expectations about you being in charge of it. It should give you an idea of not only what documents you need (see links at end), who you need to talk to, and what sort of time scales you can be talking about.
I sent the Director the following.
A letter and a cover letter declaring our intent to home educate and declaring ourselves to be both technically and financially competent to do so.
Copies of the relevant laws as clarified by the Italian Ministry of Education and the specific clause in the Italian constitution upon which they are based.
More waiting, heard nothing, not a dickey bird.
Except the maths teacher let slip that she knew about my request when we commiserated about how awful the history/geography teacher was.
Waiting makes me stroppy. Got very dressed up and strode into the school office at drop off time. Asked if they knew what, if anything, was going on.
They made me write a written request for info (sans The Sock Dropper, interesting use of grammar in that letter LOL).
Bonded with the secretary by asking for help with my personal pronouns cos I had a nagging suspicion that the Director had gone from singular male to gaggle of females in a single paragraph. Left letter with office.
Teetered off to repent wearing high heels for the "I am taller than you" power grab when I had to go to the market immediately afterwards.
Got dressed up again and went back to the office.
Different (and very frosty) secretary informed me that my request had been forwarded to the regional headquarters of the educational ...something or other...and I would received notification of any decisions via the school within thirty days of my original request.
So that will be next week then, I thought. Goody.
Got a letter from the school.
Saying that the thirty days were passed and I was entitled to a response.
So their response was that they had not received a response, and they would respond once they had a response, upon which they would base their response.
Slight snarl escaped from my lips as this letter was registered, and I had spent an HOUR queuing in the post office to collect it.
It was also addressed to my son who had to be present so I could sign for it, so the lengthy wait felt a million times longer. Cos its sound track was a relentless refrain of "mummy can we go soon" in a high pitched whine.
Holidays approach, get twitchy.
Holidays arrive, twitch more.
Start thinking up plans of how to home educate AND socialize the child, whilst living on the run to escape truancy charges.
Explode all over The Italian sock Dropper and threaten to move to the UK with or without him. Generally melt down all over the floor.
The words "your bl**dy country.." may have lightly peppered the exchange of views.
Summer camp finished. Camouflage makeup for life on the run with workbooks perfected.
Ignore Sock Dropper's "let's just wait and see" suggestion and march into the school to get an appointment to see the director so I can shout at him a bit.
Director not there, secretary in charge of making appointments not there, told to ring back another (undefined) day.
Politely stomp off trying to smile. But fail.
Ring for appointment, get told they will call me back when appointment procured, told in no uncertain terms "don't call us, we'll call you"
Wait for a week on simmer. With occasional boil
Appointment TOMORROW !!!
Plan power dressing as form of hysterical displacement activity.
Spend all night coming up with pithy comments and ways of dramatically banging fist on desk in protest at the refusal to grant permission.
Do not sleep much.
Work self up into a right state.
Dream of being arrested.
Clatter of favorite (Matalan, purple, dead swish) high heels up school stairs sends sectaries shooting into side rooms as the noise is their personal red alarm system, heralding return of deeply annoying English woman whose gear stick is stuck in "complain".
Hang around in deserted corridor.
Director arrives. Looks confused at lack of females rushing to relieve him of coat. Remembers where own office is without secretarial guidance within minutes.
Go to meeting.
Director says, "yes you can do it" in the first fifteen seconds.
Wind leaves sails.
Adrenaline has hissy fit at not being allowed to work itself out of system.
Am impossible to live with the rest of the day (allegedly) until unused adrenaline works itself out in form of a big fat sobs which dry up when I realize it is time for Grey's Anatomy and instantly cheer up.
The End.. well of that bit. The beginning of all the rest of the journey was still to come.
The cover letter
http://tinyurl.com/34uqxf7 (scroll down)
(edited and xposted from personal blog)
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Discussion / Classic example: the apostrophy and it's mis-use!
Discussion / What does the cost of getting a university education do to your pocket book?
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