Oxbridge Econ DilemmaWatch
After setting my heart on Cambridge Econ in Y11, I did not anticipate finding the Oxford open day trip at my school very useful. However, visiting Pembroke College Oxford (specialists for joint honours History) and speaking with fellows and current students, before visiting Cambridge the next day, I am now totally torn between applying for Econ at Cambridge and History and Econ at Oxford.
I study History, Econ and Maths at A-level (3A* predicted) and have done AS Further Maths. I found FM found pretty stressful, but I think I have done enough for an A.
Basically, I’m wondering if I’m better off applying to Oxford on the basis that my Maths ability will be more of an advantage relative to other applicants, whereas at Cambridge most successful applicants will have A2 FM. I also have a specific interest in Economic History, which has also led me to consider Econ and Econ History at LSE rather than straight Econ. Furthermore, St Andrews require you to take multiple subjects in Y1/2, so I could tailor my PS towards the MA (the BSc would require me to take science subjects) degree with a view to studying History as part of my degree.
However, I liked the atmosphere and colleges better at Cambridge, and the overall admissions statistics are slightly more favourable. In addition, given the progress I made in FM (January mock D, April mock A) despite a unanimously despised teacher has given me a little more confidence about my maths ability. I’m not concerned about handling the maths content of the course, more so getting an offer over a very mathematically talented field. I have also only really done Economics supercurriculars thus far, although I did go to an Econ History taster day at LSE. There are ample Econ History options in the Cambridge Tripos, too.
In terms of other unis, these are my plans, depending on which one I go for:
Cam, LSE, UCL, St Andrews (BSc), Leeds
Ox, LSE (Econ and EHist), UCL, St. Andrews (MA), Leeds
Which should I choose?
Tl;dr: Economics at Cambridge or History and Economics at Oxford? I like Maths but I’m not exceptional at it. I love Econ but also History and Econ History. I have solely prepared for applying to Econ. I want to do finance or economic consulting.
Thanks! I appreciate this is horrible to read.
I was in a very similar situation 2 years ago now (wow) when applying to uni! I'm now at Cambridge studying Economics but also always loved history at school and considered oxford history and econ. (i didn't consider UCL or LSE as I didn't want to stay in London and I didn't like the course at Leeds and St Andrews was super far so can't help you for any of those).
I did Maths, Econ and History A levels (was predicted and got 3A*s) but crucially not further maths. I realised this would put me at a disadvantage so self-taught AS FM in Y13 and got an A. However while yes this put me at a disadvantage for getting in (ie I was asked explicitly about it at interview) the point you miss is what happens when you get in and everyone else (I'd say 95%) of people have done A2 FM (to A* in the majority of cases). People had done 5x as much stats as me or twice as much pure and it was such a gap in ability. If you found AS FM stressful (I didn't particularly but I did it a year later and old spec) I'd be worried about how you find the course here (it really is pretty mathematical in the macro, micro and quantitative methods paper in first year and the amount of maths can't really be opted out of as you go through the course).
Basically, if you want to drop FM, admissions tutors in Cam are going to seriously question whether you are good enough at maths given you're stopping at AS, as well as if you even like maths!! Is liking maths enough to see you through 3 years of really ! hard ! maths ! (i've had a miserable time with it this year)
I also want to touch on your history vs straight econ. Yes, in Cam we have econ history papers throughout, but a) they're only 1/6 of your course in 1st year and only potentially 1/4 in 2nd and 3rd year as the tripos is possibly the most regimented econ degree in the country in terms of module choice, and b) econ history is a very different ballpark to history. Econ history is data. I've grown to love it but my history-studying friends tell me its nothing like real history. Each essay will set you perhaps 5 20 odd page articles that are mostly economic models and data. History students read books. In first-year econ history at least, there is a right answer and little space for opinion, which is not the case in history. They are very different kettles of fish - history is a proper art, econ history is a social science. I don't know what will suit you best, and there certainly are ways to work more essays into cambridge econ (politics papers!!) but just something to consider.
You still have plenty of time to prepare so don't let what you've already prepared for put you off considering history. Finance and consulting will accept you from either uni or degree so don't let that put you off. As much as I want to say Cam has the better atmosphere and colleges in reality you'll love wherever you end up - so pick the course!! If you don't love maths, Cambridge econ probably isn't for you - not in terms of getting in but enjoying it while you're there.
I don't know how useful this has been but if you have any questions let me know!
Having thought about it a lot, I'm set on Oxford now, so I've started preparing for the TSA and HAT. It's definitely true that, whilst i'm good at maths, I don't necessarily think I love it enough to succeed in Econ at Cambridge.