Applying to Oxford whilst resitting flunked A-levels? (Attention deficit disorder)

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pennycat37
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I began the process of diagnosis for ADHD (inattentive strand) in my A2 year. It was the culmination of years wondering why I had struggled with school and tests when I was seemingly intelligent and motivated. The only answer most people could come up with was lack of effort and organisation, which led to me believing I was just lazy.

GCSEs were easy for me and despite poor revision (not for want of trying. I spent a lot of time doing very little) and not being mentally present in most of my lessons I managed to muddle my way through to four A*s, four As and three Bs, but I could no longer hide my problems with the jump to A-Levels (basically, I am not gifted enough to be mentally adrift for three lessons of mechanics and then just guess how to model circular motion with an elastic string in time for a test).

I’ll use the words of another site user to summarise my experience because brevity is not my talent, so:

‘I have always struggled with exams as I can barely concentrate properly and my mind often 'wanders off' for long periods of time causing me to lose a lot of exam time. I also often have to read the same question for more than once to actually understand what it is asking me to do. Besides that, as my brain works faster than my hands, I often leave questions blank or partly answered as my brain 'records' that I have finished the question while in reality I haven't.’

This year has been a rollercoaster in terms of emotional release at finally finding the words to describe problems which I'd internalised for so long. Despite 25% extra time, I struggled with timing and stress and ended up with:
C in English Lit
D in Maths
E in RS

I begin the treatment process for ADHD in September (meds, therapy, etc) and don't know how long it will take to stabilise, but I hope that it’ll help me when I re-sit next year to gain improved grades in Eng Lit and RS (A or A*).
Unfortunately I can't re-sit all six maths modules (legacy spec) but if all goes well with the three I can re-sit, I am aiming for a B.

Even with my less-than-impressive grades I was somehow accepted to my second place uni with deferred entry, and most people keep telling me to just settle and accept it.

This may sound foolish but I have always had high academic aspirations and because I'm taking a year to re-sit anyway, I've decided I want to apply for Oxford University for Philosophy and Theology. It's a subject I'm passionate about and despite my final E in RS (lol) and I know that I have the capacity to do much better. In essays through the course I was achieving As and A*s and I always had a much better initial grasp of concepts than my classmates.

I'm not a fool and am aware that Oxford is a very slim hope but I this is something I want to do for myself. I’ve heard its offers are based more on the interview, which suits me (my teachers told me that if only I could have an oral exam, I would pretty much get full marks. (They probably tell lots of people this but even so. Part of me wants to believe).
I doubt I could even get to that stage; with my grades being so low I am relying pretty much solely on the philosophy admissions test.

So basically:

1. Does anyone have any experience of applying to top tier unis with low A2 grades?

2. My parents have suggested using access schemes/asking my teachers to include background on my exam issues in my reference but I don't know how much this will help. Does it not just seem like making excuses? I don't want to blame everything on the ADHD.

3. Do you know how much the philosophy admissions test contributes to their decision to interview, compared with grades?

4. Does anyone have specific stories about going to uni with attention issues? I would value hearing your experience.

(PS: Sorry this is so long)
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SarcAndSpark
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I think it would be a really good idea for you to contact Oxford directly- you can email their admissions department (as you can at any uni) and explain your circumstances. Situations like yours are considered on a case by case basis, so it's always good to contact the uni directly and get their take on it- even if you think you have no hope.

You will need to get your teachers to explain the situation in your reference- this will not count against you, but how else will universities be able to put your results into context?

I would say that Oxford is obviously a very competitive uni, so it is always good to think about other options- as they reject loads of great candidates every year.

It's also worth looking into how each university supports students with conditions like ADHD- personally in your situation, as it's recently diagnosed, I'd like to go to a uni that could offer me some extra support. The transition to uni and living away from home for people with conditions like ADHD can be difficult, so personally, I would want to be in a supportive environment- just in case.

Good luck with your application.
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username1230881
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Definitely contact Oxford. As your best case scenario is A*A*B that's still not quite meeting their typical AAA requirement across the three subjects, so you would have to seek both consideration of your resits and a lower formal entry requirement to your chosen course. They'll be happy to advise I'm sure.
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Rain Thorn
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Oxford is quite good at taking all parts of a person into consideration. I believe they are wiling to lower entry requirements if they're given sufficient evidence and reasoning due to an individual candidate's background and personal situation ie: say if you life in a very poor area of the uk, have low income and went to a school with low pass rate but got very high grades and hit all the other boxes they would maybe drop grade boundaries by a grade. Definitely contact them too they can give the most advice on this.
It may also depend on the degree you want to do. There's stats on how many people are accepted to do different degrees in any year for oxford. So that would be a factor as well.
I wish you best of luck applying!
(PS: nothing is impossible keep your head high and even if you don't get in being considered is great!)
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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I have no direct experience with this but it's always worth contacting and asking Oxford, I guess. There are no lower/contextualised offers made to anyone, to my knowledge, but I may be wrong...

Something worth highlighting, though, is this:

(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
It's also worth looking into how each university supports students with conditions like ADHD- personally in your situation, as it's recently diagnosed, I'd like to go to a uni that could offer me some extra support. The transition to uni and living away from home for people with conditions like ADHD can be difficult, so personally, I would want to be in a supportive environment- just in case.
:ditto:

I'm not convinced Oxford would be a good environment for you, pennycat37 (I say this as someone who attended Oxford and developed a disability whilst there). I would also question whether your ADD would allow you to keep up with everyone else. There is some flexibility to an extent but Oxford terms are rather unforgiving and wait for no one, tbh.


I think you'd do very well elsewhere without putting yourself through an Oxford degree, which may or may not (I hate to say, I suspect it's the latter) work to your favour.

Good luck in finding out more and deciding what to do
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pennycat37
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Thanks for you advice on finding somewhere with a supportive environment. I think you're right, pastoral care is definitely important to me and I've been looking at college-system unis because of it (had my eye on Wadham college at Oxford as it had a really nice warm vibe when I visited), though I haven't really done enough reading on the level of support at different establishments yet.
And don't worry, I will be applying for a range of places haha, best to be prepared for the worst
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by pennycat37)
Thanks for you advice on finding somewhere with a supportive environment. I think you're right, pastoral care is definitely important to me and I've been looking at college-system unis because of it (had my eye on Wadham college at Oxford as it had a really nice warm vibe when I visited), though I haven't really done enough reading on the level of support at different establishments yet.
And don't worry, I will be applying for a range of places haha, best to be prepared for the worst
Personally, I would be looking for a uni with a strong disability services department, rather than necessarily relying on the college system- although a good vibe from a place is obviously a great thing
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pennycat37
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)

I'm not convinced Oxford would be a good environment for you, pennycat37 (I say this as someone who attended Oxford and developed a disability whilst there). I would also question whether your ADD would allow you to keep up with everyone else. There is some flexibility to an extent but Oxford terms are rather unforgiving and wait for no one, tbh.


I think you'd do very well elsewhere without putting yourself through an Oxford degree, which may or may not (I hate to say, I suspect it's the latter) work to your favour.
I appreciate your honesty. I know of one person who was diagnosed with ADHD in her second year at Bristol and they have been very accommodating with extended deadlines etc. so it's sad to hear that you didn't have the best experience at Oxford - it would be nice to think that top educational institutions are supportive of people with different needs - but I guess this probably isn't the case a lot. Would you say that it is an overly pressured atmosphere, or that the pastoral care is lacking, or both?

I went to a grammar school from years 7-13 and the focus on 'academic excellence!!' from both teachers and students was suffocating at times - I knew many different people capable of achieving excellence with the right conditions, but the school pretty much failed to accommodate them. Maybe when you have so many students to whom the practicalities of studying come naturally, there is little motivation to understand or help the stragglers.

Thanks so much
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by pennycat37)
Would you say that it is an overly pressured atmosphere, or that the pastoral care is lacking, or both?
Glad you understood that my advice was well-intended and that you didn't take offence at it I would say both in all honesty. Granted, Oxbridge's pastoral care cannot be easily rivalled in terms of the sheer number of avenues of seeking pastoral care. But quantity does not always equal/guarantee quantity. That's something some people forget.

If you really want to try Oxford, then find out as much as you can about support provisions (uni-wide and college-wide) that Oxford can offer to help mitigate the impact of your ADD. It's important to find out what reasonable adjustments Oxford are willing to suggest and provide for you, particularly in terms of exam concessions. Only then will you be in a good position to decide if Oxford would be a place worth trying.

Remember: it's not just about you selling yourself to Oxford and matching their expectations. It's vice versa too
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