LYLN
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Hi! I’m currently struggling whether to choose earth sciences at Oxford or natsci at Cambridge. I’m applying to earth sciences in other unis.

I enjoy atmospheric science but I found that in the earth science course in oxford, a climate module is only offered in 3rd year; whereas in Cambridge there is stuff about climate in 1st year.

Although I don’t mind studying other sciences as part of the natsci course in the first two years, people have told me that I shouldn’t waste my time studying subjects I won’t take too seriously...?

Any help will be hugely appreciated
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Doones
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(Original post by LYLN)
whereas in Cambridge there is stuff about climate in 1st year.
...
Although I don’t mind studying other sciences as part of the natsci course in the first two years,
You've answered your own question, twice
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Econ Juice
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(Original post by LYLN)
Hi! I’m currently struggling whether to choose earth sciences at Oxford or natsci at Cambridge. I’m applying to earth sciences in other unis.

I enjoy atmospheric science but I found that in the earth science course in oxford, a climate module is only offered in 3rd year; whereas in Cambridge there is stuff about climate in 1st year.

Although I don’t mind studying other sciences as part of the natsci course in the first two years, people have told me that I shouldn’t waste my time studying subjects I won’t take too seriously...?

Any help will be hugely appreciated
What were your grades for GCSE and AS-Level?
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LYLN
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(Original post by Econ Juice)
What were your grades for GCSE and AS-Level?
I got 9A*s and 2A at GCSE and our school stopped doing AS levels for our year (new system...) but I’m predicted 3A*s for A-levels (Maths, Chemistry and Biology)
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Econ Juice
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(Original post by LYLN)
I got 9A*s and 2A at GCSE and our school stopped doing AS levels for our year (new system...) but I’m predicted 3A*s for A-levels (Maths, Chemistry and Biology)
Congrats, those are some fantastic results! I can't help you much here, but i'm hoping you know that Cambridge don't care about GCSE's as much as Oxford do.
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Doones
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(Original post by LYLN)
I got 9A*s and 2A at GCSE and our school stopped doing AS levels for our year (new system...) but I’m predicted 3A*s for A-levels (Maths, Chemistry and Biology)
Acceptable for either university

(Original post by Econ Juice)
Congrats, those are some fantastic results! I can't help you much here, but i'm hoping you know that Cambridge don't care about GCSE's as much as Oxford do.
And 9 A*s are fine for Oxford.
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LYLN
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(Original post by Econ Juice)
Congrats, those are some fantastic results! I can't help you much here, but i'm hoping you know that Cambridge don't care about GCSE's as much as Oxford do.
(Original post by Doonesbury)
Acceptable for either university
Thanks for your quick replies Sorry I have another question,
I heard that for interviews, unis take into consideration that some applicants have never done geology before, so will the interview be tailored to be less earth sci based and more Chem/phys/bio based?
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LYLN
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Also, since I didn’t consider Earth science before, I’ve done some chem based stuff like work experience and summer courses. Should I include them in my personal statement? Would I be disadvantaged for my lack of Earth sci work exp?
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Econ Juice
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
Acceptable for either university

And 9 A*s are fine for Oxford.
Certainly! But I feel that it may benefit the OP's application more at Oxford since they put more emphasis on GCSE's.
Regardless, I think the OP stands an equal chance at both universities, and so would advise them to look into both courses more and see what really interests them. I don't think we can help OP with telling the OP which course they'll enjoy more.
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(Original post by LYLN)
I heard that for interviews, unis take into consideration that some applicants have never done geology before, so will the interview be tailored to be less earth sci based and more Chem/phys/bio based?
Yes.

You may well get geology-related questions but they are more interested in how you deal with them (especially by thinking out loud) than the actual answer.
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LYLN
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
Yes.

You may well get geology-related questions but they are more interested in how you deal with them (especially by thinking out loud) than the actual answer.
Thanks again
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(Original post by Econ Juice)
Certainly! But I feel that it may benefit the OP's application more at Oxford since they put more emphasis on GCSE's.
Regardless, I think the OP stands an equal chance at both universities, and so would advise them to look into both courses more and see what really interests them. I don't think we can help OP with telling the OP which course they'll enjoy more.
I guess I’ll have to keep researching then...
Thanks for your help so far!
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Doones
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(Original post by Econ Juice)
Certainly! But I feel that it may benefit the OP's application more at Oxford since they put more emphasis on GCSE's.
Regardless, I think the OP stands an equal chance at both universities, and so would advise them to look into both courses more and see what really interests them. I don't think we can help OP with telling the OP which course they'll enjoy more.
Well they won't be disadvantaged by it at Cambridge either...

And, I think we are agreed, finding the right course (even if it's at neither Cambridge or Oxford) is much more important than any differences in Oxbridge admissions processes.

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Plagioclase
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(Original post by LYLN)
Hi! I’m currently struggling whether to choose earth sciences at Oxford or natsci at Cambridge. I’m applying to earth sciences in other unis.

I enjoy atmospheric science but I found that in the earth science course in oxford, a climate module is only offered in 3rd year; whereas in Cambridge there is stuff about climate in 1st year.

Although I don’t mind studying other sciences as part of the natsci course in the first two years, people have told me that I shouldn’t waste my time studying subjects I won’t take too seriously...?

Any help will be hugely appreciated
This is the struggle that was facing me four years ago. I've just finished my third year in Earth Sciences at Oxford and I'm intending to go into climate research, so I'll do my best to answer your question. First of all though - both courses will allow you to go into atmospheric science. Neither course will close options for you.

I think it's important to mention that climate science (and the subdiscipline of atmospheric science) is a broad and multidisciplinary area of research. In the Oxford course for instance, it is definitely not the case that we only study the climate in third year. Purely in terms of physical and chemical climate science, it is covered in the first year Planet Earth module, the second year Carbon Cycle and Isotope Geochemistry modules, the third year Climate and Physical Oceanography modules (and to some extent in the Volcanology module), and in many of the fourth year modules. However, you will learn that the climate is an integral part of the Earth as a system and climate is addressed in some form or other in practically all courses. For instance, an understanding of climate is absolutely integral to sedimentology and palaeobiology.

I wouldn't recommend getting too fixed on the atmosphere. This is the aspect of climate science that gets the most attention and in my case as well, it's what I wanted to do at uni. But there are actually lots of other fascinating aspects of climate science. For example, if you're particularly interested in atmospheric physics (which is what most people mean when they talk about atmospheric science), then you may also be very interested in physical oceanography. This is one of the major areas of research at Oxford and you can cover it in quite some detail in the course (if you'll allow me to shill for a moment because this is my main research interest, it's an absolutely fascinating area and I would absolutely recommend it!).

It's difficult for me to compare the courses because I've only experienced the course at Oxford, but my impression is that the key strength of Cambridge's NatSci course is that you will receive an excellent training as a physicist and a chemist and a geologist, whereas the key strength of Oxford's Earth Sciences course is that you will have an great understanding of how the Earth works as a system, and how we can exploit the different sciences to understand the Earth. If I had gone to Cambridge then it may well be true that I'd have received a more rigorous mathematical and physical training which would have made my life easier, but on the other hand I doubt I'd have had as holistic an understanding of Earth Sciences which I think is a very valuable thing.

If you are absolutely sure that you want to go into physical atmospheric science (or atmospheric chemistry), then I'd say Natural Sciences at Cambridge or (possibly even better), Physics at Oxford is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences course looks fairly traditional to me, so I'd imagine that the Physics modules in NatSci might be more useful. Oxford's Earth Sciences course is probably the most mathematically and physically intense Earth Sciences course in the UK, but it will always lose out to pure physics.

On the other hand, if you're interested in how the Earth works as a system and how we can use the entire spectrum of natural sciences to understand the Earth, then I'd say that Oxford's Earth Sciences course is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences options are probably great, but because you can only fully specialise in the third year and you're studying pure sciences for half of your degree, you will not have as broad and integrated an Earth Sciences education as you would do at Oxford.

Basically, I don't think either course is fundamentally better, but I would definitely recommend Earth Sciences at Oxford to anybody who is good at maths, physics and chemistry and who is fascinated by the Earth!

I hope this is helpful and not too biased, if you've got any other questions please let me know or PM me!
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Plagioclase
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(Original post by LYLN)
Also, since I didn’t consider Earth science before, I’ve done some chem based stuff like work experience and summer courses. Should I include them in my personal statement? Would I be disadvantaged for my lack of Earth sci work exp?
Your personal statement is meant to answer the following two questions: why do you want to spend the next four years of your life studying this course, and why are you the best possible candidate for it? If you feel like your work experience and summer schools answer that question, include them. If you don't, don't. You are not expected to have any Earth Sciences work experience, because this is extremely difficult to get (and probably says more about your personal connections than your actual interest). I would strongly recommend reading around the subject though - some insightful comments on a book or two that you have read is definitely the kind of thing you'd want to include.

(Original post by LYLN)
Thanks for your quick replies Sorry I have another question,
I heard that for interviews, unis take into consideration that some applicants have never done geology before, so will the interview be tailored to be less earth sci based and more Chem/phys/bio based?
Yes. If you get an interview at Oxford (which, given your grades, you almost certainly will), they will throw a bunch of interdisciplinary questions at you. A good understanding of the A Level subjects you've studied will be assumed, but the most important thing is that you can demonstrate that you can think logically and creatively, and can deal with unfamiliar material. You will almost certainly get asked to comment on geological specimens, but no prior knowledge of geology is required (for instance, if you've got a bunch of vertical fractures filled with a black, uncrystalline mass, what might that tell you about the physical and chemical environment it was formed in?).

(Original post by LYLN)
I got 9A*s and 2A at GCSE and our school stopped doing AS levels for our year (new system...) but I’m predicted 3A*s for A-levels (Maths, Chemistry and Biology)
I'm not involved in the admissions process, but it's my impression that our department puts most of the emphasis on the interview. I know people with 'lower' grades that have been accepted, and people with stellar grades that have been rejected.
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LYLN
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
This is the struggle that was facing me four years ago. I've just finished my third year in Earth Sciences at Oxford and I'm intending to go into climate research, so I'll do my best to answer your question. First of all though - both courses will allow you to go into atmospheric science. Neither course will close options for you.

I think it's important to mention that climate science (and the subdiscipline of atmospheric science) is a broad and multidisciplinary area of research. In the Oxford course for instance, it is definitely not the case that we only study the climate in third year. Purely in terms of physical and chemical climate science, it is covered in the first year Planet Earth module, the second year Carbon Cycle and Isotope Geochemistry modules, the third year Climate and Physical Oceanography modules (and to some extent in the Volcanology module), and in many of the fourth year modules. However, you will learn that the climate is an integral part of the Earth as a system and climate is addressed in some form or other in practically all courses. For instance, an understanding of climate is absolutely integral to sedimentology and palaeobiology.

I wouldn't recommend getting too fixed on the atmosphere. This is the aspect of climate science that gets the most attention and in my case as well, it's what I wanted to do at uni. But there are actually lots of other fascinating aspects of climate science. For example, if you're particularly interested in atmospheric physics (which is what most people mean when they talk about atmospheric science), then you may also be very interested in physical oceanography. This is one of the major areas of research at Oxford and you can cover it in quite some detail in the course (if you'll allow me to shill for a moment because this is my main research interest, it's an absolutely fascinating area and I would absolutely recommend it!).

It's difficult for me to compare the courses because I've only experienced the course at Oxford, but my impression is that the key strength of Cambridge's NatSci course is that you will receive an excellent training as a physicist and a chemist and a geologist, whereas the key strength of Oxford's Earth Sciences course is that you will have an great understanding of how the Earth works as a system, and how we can exploit the different sciences to understand the Earth. If I had gone to Cambridge then it may well be true that I'd have received a more rigorous mathematical and physical training which would have made my life easier, but on the other hand I doubt I'd have had as holistic an understanding of Earth Sciences which I think is a very valuable thing.

If you are absolutely sure that you want to go into physical atmospheric science (or atmospheric chemistry), then I'd say Natural Sciences at Cambridge or (possibly even better), Physics at Oxford is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences course looks fairly traditional to me, so I'd imagine that the Physics modules in NatSci might be more useful. Oxford's Earth Sciences course is probably the most mathematically and physically intense Earth Sciences course in the UK, but it will always lose out to pure physics.

On the other hand, if you're interested in how the Earth works as a system and how we can use the entire spectrum of natural sciences to understand the Earth, then I'd say that Oxford's Earth Sciences course is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences options are probably great, but because you can only fully specialise in the third year and you're studying pure sciences for half of your degree, you will not have as broad and integrated an Earth Sciences education as you would do at Oxford.

Basically, I don't think either course is fundamentally better, but I would definitely recommend Earth Sciences at Oxford to anybody who is good at maths, physics and chemistry and who is fascinated by the Earth!

I hope this is helpful and not too biased, if you've got any other questions please let me know or PM me!
Wow thank you so much for your info and advice! I'm actually interested in meteorology so are there stuff relating to the weather in the Oxford Earth Sciences course?

Also, what books/shows would you recommend to read/watch? I'm currently reading The Earth: A Very Short Introduction and I'm looking to do a few MOOCs too.

If you don't mind I'm gonna be a bit nosy...:mmm:
What other unis did you apply to?
Are there ~30 earthsci students in a year?
How many tutorials are there per week?
Which college are you at?
Thanks in advance!

Btw, physical oceanography sounds very cool and I'm actually joining a summer course about oceans in August so hopefully I'll learn more about it too
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Sandtrooper
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
This is the struggle that was facing me four years ago. I've just finished my third year in Earth Sciences at Oxford and I'm intending to go into climate research, so I'll do my best to answer your question. First of all though - both courses will allow you to go into atmospheric science. Neither course will close options for you.

I think it's important to mention that climate science (and the subdiscipline of atmospheric science) is a broad and multidisciplinary area of research. In the Oxford course for instance, it is definitely not the case that we only study the climate in third year. Purely in terms of physical and chemical climate science, it is covered in the first year Planet Earth module, the second year Carbon Cycle and Isotope Geochemistry modules, the third year Climate and Physical Oceanography modules (and to some extent in the Volcanology module), and in many of the fourth year modules. However, you will learn that the climate is an integral part of the Earth as a system and climate is addressed in some form or other in practically all courses. For instance, an understanding of climate is absolutely integral to sedimentology and palaeobiology.

I wouldn't recommend getting too fixed on the atmosphere. This is the aspect of climate science that gets the most attention and in my case as well, it's what I wanted to do at uni. But there are actually lots of other fascinating aspects of climate science. For example, if you're particularly interested in atmospheric physics (which is what most people mean when they talk about atmospheric science), then you may also be very interested in physical oceanography. This is one of the major areas of research at Oxford and you can cover it in quite some detail in the course (if you'll allow me to shill for a moment because this is my main research interest, it's an absolutely fascinating area and I would absolutely recommend it!).

It's difficult for me to compare the courses because I've only experienced the course at Oxford, but my impression is that the key strength of Cambridge's NatSci course is that you will receive an excellent training as a physicist and a chemist and a geologist, whereas the key strength of Oxford's Earth Sciences course is that you will have an great understanding of how the Earth works as a system, and how we can exploit the different sciences to understand the Earth. If I had gone to Cambridge then it may well be true that I'd have received a more rigorous mathematical and physical training which would have made my life easier, but on the other hand I doubt I'd have had as holistic an understanding of Earth Sciences which I think is a very valuable thing.

If you are absolutely sure that you want to go into physical atmospheric science (or atmospheric chemistry), then I'd say Natural Sciences at Cambridge or (possibly even better), Physics at Oxford is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences course looks fairly traditional to me, so I'd imagine that the Physics modules in NatSci might be more useful. Oxford's Earth Sciences course is probably the most mathematically and physically intense Earth Sciences course in the UK, but it will always lose out to pure physics.

On the other hand, if you're interested in how the Earth works as a system and how we can use the entire spectrum of natural sciences to understand the Earth, then I'd say that Oxford's Earth Sciences course is the best option. Cambridge's Earth Sciences options are probably great, but because you can only fully specialise in the third year and you're studying pure sciences for half of your degree, you will not have as broad and integrated an Earth Sciences education as you would do at Oxford.

Basically, I don't think either course is fundamentally better, but I would definitely recommend Earth Sciences at Oxford to anybody who is good at maths, physics and chemistry and who is fascinated by the Earth!

I hope this is helpful and not too biased, if you've got any other questions please let me know or PM me!
PRSOM!
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Plagioclase
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(Original post by LYLN)
Wow thank you so much for your info and advice! I'm actually interested in meteorology so are there stuff relating to the weather in the Oxford Earth Sciences course?
There is, but not a huge amount. We do some introductory meteorology things in the first year Planet Earth course, and it's kinda relevant to the third-year volcanology course in terms of plume behaviour, but that's it. Even at Cambridge, I'd be very surprised if they did any more in their Earth Sciences department.

This is because climate and weather are fundamentally very different systems, and as such they're treated quite differently. You are not going to find an Earth Sciences course that goes into detail about operational meteorology (i.e. weather forecasting), simply because that's not the kind of thing that we're generally interested in as Earth Scientists. Predicting the weather is obviously important for humans, but understanding the climate is a lot more important for understanding how the Earth works. Meteorology is more the kind of thing you'd do in a physics degree... which I recognise is a problem, given that you've not done Physics at A Level. Cambridge's NatSci course isn't going to help you in this regard either, since I've just realised that your A Level options will not allow you to take their Physics courses.

(Original post by LYLN)
Also, what books/shows would you recommend to read/watch? I'm currently reading The Earth: A Very Short Introduction and I'm looking to do a few MOOCs too.
The key books that I was inspired by when I was applying to university were the following:
  • The Two-Mile Time Machine (R. Alley) - This is the book that made me want to study Earth Sciences. It's an introduction to millenial-scale abrupt climate change (and palaeoclimatology is general) which is a fascinating area of climate science which is never really discussed outside of academia.
  • How To Build A Habitable Planet (Langmuir and Broecker) - Probably the most comprehensive introduction to modern Earth Sciences. It's written like a popular science book but be warned, it's not an easy read. It covers much of our first year Planet Earth course - definitely worth reading, but don't be worried if you don't understand everything.
  • Basically everything written by Jan Zalasiewicz, in particular The Goldilocks Planet.


(Original post by LYLN)
If you don't mind I'm gonna be a bit nosy...:mmm:
What other unis did you apply to?
Are there ~30 earthsci students in a year?
How many tutorials are there per week?
Which college are you at?
Thanks in advance!

Btw, physical oceanography sounds very cool and I'm actually joining a summer course about oceans in August so hopefully I'll learn more about it too
  • Imperial, UCL, Southampton & Bristol (all for Geophysics apart from Bristol, although in retrospect I would not have applied to Bristol)
  • Yep!
  • There are two tutes a week in first year, one for mathematics and one for Earth Sciences. In years two and three, there's generally about one a week but it depends on what college you're at. In my college for instance, we were basically allowed to choose what we want tutes in and we took them as we needed them, e.g. fewer in Michaelmas when we weren't sure what we wanted them in and a lot more in early Trinity when exam panic starts...
  • St. Anne's!

And cool, is that the headstart course at Southampton?
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LYLN
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
There is, but not a huge amount. We do some introductory meteorology things in the first year Planet Earth course, and it's kinda relevant to the third-year volcanology course in terms of plume behaviour, but that's it. Even at Cambridge, I'd be very surprised if they did any more in their Earth Sciences department.

This is because climate and weather are fundamentally very different systems, and as such they're treated quite differently. You are not going to find an Earth Sciences course that goes into detail about operational meteorology (i.e. weather forecasting), simply because that's not the kind of thing that we're generally interested in as Earth Scientists. Predicting the weather is obviously important for humans, but understanding the climate is a lot more important for understanding how the Earth works. Meteorology is more the kind of thing you'd do in a physics degree... which I recognise is a problem, given that you've not done Physics at A Level. Cambridge's NatSci course isn't going to help you in this regard either, since I've just realised that your A Level options will not allow you to take their Physics courses.



The key books that I was inspired by when I was applying to university were the following:
  • The Two-Mile Time Machine (R. Alley) - This is the book that made me want to study Earth Sciences. It's an introduction to millenial-scale abrupt climate change (and palaeoclimatology is general) which is a fascinating area of climate science which is never really discussed outside of academia.
  • How To Build A Habitable Planet (Langmuir and Broecker) - Probably the most comprehensive introduction to modern Earth Sciences. It's written like a popular science book but be warned, it's not an easy read. It covers much of our first year Planet Earth course - definitely worth reading, but don't be worried if you don't understand everything.
  • Basically everything written by Jan Zalasiewicz, in particular The Goldilocks Planet.



  • Imperial, UCL, Southampton & Bristol (all for Geophysics apart from Bristol, although in retrospect I would not have applied to Bristol)
  • Yep!
  • There are two tutes a week in first year, one for mathematics and one for Earth Sciences. In years two and three, there's generally about one a week but it depends on what college you're at. In my college for instance, we were basically allowed to choose what we want tutes in and we took them as we needed them, e.g. fewer in Michaelmas when we weren't sure what we wanted them in and a lot more in early Trinity when exam panic starts...
  • St. Anne's!

I'm considering Imperial and UCL too!

How is a typical day of an earth sciences student like?

Do you think an EPQ on the topic of de-extinction would be relevant to earth sciences? I filled in half of the log and found my research materials but I keep procrastinating actually writing it so I'm unsure whether to drop it or not...

Honestly thank you sooooo much! You've been very helpful

(Original post by Plagioclase)
And cool, is that the headstart course at Southampton?
Nope, I'm an international student so the course is actually in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
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(Original post by LYLN)
[/list]
I'm considering Imperial and UCL too!

How is a typical day of an earth sciences student like?

Do you think an EPQ on the topic of de-extinction would be relevant to earth sciences? I filled in half of the log and found my research materials but I keep procrastinating actually writing it so I'm unsure whether to drop it or not...

Honestly thank you sooooo much! You've been very helpful

Nope, I'm an international student so the course is actually in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
A typical day... hmm. Typically (at least in the first two years) you'd have between 2-4 hours of lectures a day and then there's usually a few two-hour practical sessions. The course is very broad, so the lectures could be on anything from detecting earthquake ruptures from space, to reconstructing past sea-level from oxygen isotopes, to molecular approaches to estimating the timing of speciation. There are four main types of practicals: map work (constructing geological maps, inferring cross-sections and 3D structures from geological maps, tectonic structures and geological histories, etc); microscope work (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary petrology); working with hand-samples (e.g. sedimentary structures, fossils, volcanic deposits); and problem sheets (e.g. aqueous geochemistry or geophysics). You'd then probably spend some hours preparing for tutorials (which could be anything from working through a problem set, to writing an essay, to producing petrological descriptions of thin-sections), and then reading over lecture material, or general reading to improve your understanding. And of course, assuming your time management is reasonable, there's also time for non-work stuff too

And then of course there's the fieldwork component, which is an important part of any Earth Sciences degree! It's pretty important that you enjoy working outside, because over the course of your degree you will undertake at least ~ 3 months of field work, including an independent geological mapping project over about 6 weeks. Fieldwork is hard work, but it's generally good fun and you learn a lot! It's one of the very unique things about doing a degree in Earth Sciences and when you're out in beautiful Spain or Bermuda in your final couple of years, you'll know that you chose the right degree!

The EPQ... hmm. So personally, I'm very glad that I did the EPQ because it's the closest thing you're going to get to a university-style dissertation in secondary school. It's less about what the actual topic is, and more about the process of independently coming up with a research question, having that first experience with the scientific literature, getting used to referencing, processing a large amount of information, planning out a large project, etc. The fact of the matter is that you will be doing similar things at uni (definitely in your second year and above) and I think it's a good experience. It also gives you something to talk about in your interview, if it's relevant (although I'm not sure how relevant de-extinction is). On the other hand, the qualification itself isn't particularly important, the value is in the skills you obtain from it. If you can't take it seriously or you feel like you're just doing it for the qualification, then there's not a lot of point.
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