Tips for getting into Russel group unis/oxbridge

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JemmaY2004
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So I have a couple of years until I go to uni. I already do a few music grades and enter pretty much every art competition I can find. I also have a job at a private therapy clinic, I am a young carer for my brother and I play golf. The Alevels I will be taking are Art, sociology and psychology along with an EPQ.

I am wondering if there are any courses worth taking to get certificates to put on my CV or any sort of virtual work experience I could do. Obviously I’ll be aiming to get top grades in my subjects but I know unis and some courses (such as psychology) are very competitive and I really want to give myself the best chance.

Thank you!
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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The extra-curriculars mentioned won't help that much for Oxbridge (unless you're planning on studying for a music degree. But I assume you aren't, since you're not gonna be doing music A Level :nah: ). For Oxbridge, you need to:

- choose what subject you want to apply for. You mention psychology in passing: is that what you'd be applying for? If so, then you'll want to do SUPER-curriculars (i.e. activities that have a direct link/bearing on a psychology application. For example: your job at a private therapy clinic could be a good start towards that. You could do some online courses/further reading, etc. - that kinda thing. I'm not a STEM or social sciences person, so cannot advise directly as to what would be suitable for a psychology application)

- look at the course content and structure of top unis/unis within your predicted grades, and decide whether these unis meet your needs. If you're applying for psychology, you would want to check that the course is properly accredited with/by the relevant body (BPS, I think?)

- if you're considering Oxbridge, look at the tutorial/supervision systems and think about whether this would suit your preferred style of learning

Alongside all this: you must consider whether the A Level subjects you have chosen, put you in a competitive position to apply. They're not the strongest combination ever for Oxbridge, for example :nah:
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JemmaY2004
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Do you go to oxbridge??

I know they have orchestras and bands in some of their colleges and I know they have some sports teams. I was told at an oxbridge talk that they like those sort of things.
Also I may take a music degree, it’s not required by any uni to have taken A-level music they just want grade 7 music theory and I can get that easily.
I haven’t decided what I want to study as I am yet to start my A-levels and I am not sure what I’d enjoy the most as I’ve never taken sociology or psychology before. It’s not like I’m diving in head first, my mum had a degree in both sociology and psychology so I know I’ll like it. However I am think about psychology for uni.
Another point, how would they not be the strongest combination? Psychology and sociology are both linked and art is current in society and it demonstrates a wide range of skills. I’m predicted pretty high for my sciences from GCSE however i am not keen on studying them for A-level as I really don’t enjoy them that much and I know I can get AAA in the A-levels I have chosen if I keep focused and work hard.

You mentioned some online courses. Where would I go about finding those?
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by JemmaY2004)
Do you go to oxbridge??

I know they have orchestras and bands in some of their colleges and I know they have some sports teams. I was told at an oxbridge talk that they like those sort of things.
Also I may take a music degree, it’s not required by any uni to have taken A-level music they just want grade 7 music theory and I can get that easily.
I haven’t decided what I want to study as I am yet to start my A-levels and I am not sure what I’d enjoy the most as I’ve never taken sociology or psychology before. It’s not like I’m diving in head first, my mum had a degree in both sociology and psychology so I know I’ll like it. However I am think about psychology for uni.
Another point, how would they not be the strongest combination? Psychology and sociology are both linked and art is current in society and it demonstrates a wide range of skills. I’m predicted pretty high for my sciences from GCSE however i am not keen on studying them for A-level as I really don’t enjoy them that much and I know I can get AAA in the A-levels I have chosen if I keep focused and work hard.

You mentioned some online courses. Where would I go about finding those?
I did a music degree at Oxford from 2007-2010 :musicus: As such, I really wouldn't advise doing music (especially at Oxbridge) without having done the A Level first :nope: It's a big step up from GCSE to A Level, and then a ginormous leap from A Level to music at Oxbridge. It's hard enough doing music at Oxbridge having done the A Level, let alone having not! Wouldn't recommend :nope:

Who was the Oxbridge talk by? Was it someone from either of those unis? Your activities aren't bad at all but they are not gonna help you get in, is more my point (the way you worded your post, you seemed to think these will help with interview invites/admissions! Maybe at other unis, where they care more about having rounded candidates, but less so for Oxbridge) :fyi:

I dunno about Cambridge's PBS course but Experimental Psychology at Oxford is more STEM than social science. So having biology and/or maths would be more beneficial than sociology (complementary though it is to psychology when it's a social science) or art, unfortunately Whilst there are no longer lists of "facilitating subjects", all three of your A Levels would have formally been considered non-facilitating/too easy in the generic sense...

Online courses, you'll have to ask someone else as I'm not a STEM/social sciences person!
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/unde...irements-table

Scroll down this table to Psychology (experimental) to see what I mean!
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JemmaY2004
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So the table says it’s orange(helpful so not required) but it only says one or more science including psychology. So it’s not like I wouldn’t have met the requirements?

Also yes the oxbridge talk was given by a music professor from Cambridge. And activity’s wise, obviously requirements for a course are just that, clubs won’t help, I know. But I’m sort of thinking more about interviews and what peoples interests are. Because you could have two people who are very similar academic wise but then extracurricular activities could be what makes the decision.

But anyway, I’m not too keen on switching art for something like maths or biology because whilst I’m not bad at those subjects, they are hard and I don’t think I can get an A. I will do research, read books and find online courses. Would these things be mentioned in personal statements?

As I said my mum has degrees in those subjects and she knows a lot of people. Would work experience along those lines be beneficial too.

And finally, do you think (providing I get good a-level results) I can get into something like oxbridge with research and stuff like that with the a-levels I’ve chosen?
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JemmaY2004
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Orange is recommended I mean
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Hiya,

I'm leaving home soon and will be out the rest of the day, so remind me to reply this all tomorrow! Thanks
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Muttley79
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(Original post by JemmaY2004)
So I have a couple of years until I go to uni. I already do a few music grades and enter pretty much every art competition I can find. I also have a job at a private therapy clinic, I am a young carer for my brother and I play golf. The Alevels I will be taking are Art, sociology and psychology along with an EPQ.

I am wondering if there are any courses worth taking to get certificates to put on my CV or any sort of virtual work experience I could do. Obviously I’ll be aiming to get top grades in my subjects but I know unis and some courses (such as psychology) are very competitive and I really want to give myself the best chance.

Thank you!
What is it abut Oxbridge that attracts you? You really need to take A level music [I teach Maths but UCAS is part of my Senior role in school] as it's an academic course.
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JemmaY2004
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Well obviously they’re among the top unis in the country, Ive been to a few talks, I love the idea of individual colleges and campus universities, colleges have competitions against each other in things, both Oxford and Cambridge are beautiful and I honestly believe that the people going to Oxbridge are my type of people.

As for A-level music, I’ve checked quite a few different unis and they all say you either need a-level music or grade 8 (some say 7 at distinction) theory and a practical instrument. I appreciate that a-level music and music theory are both different and studying it at uni is challenging. However if I do decide to study Music at uni I will take more time to study and I will take extra private lessons however i doubt it would lower my chances of getting in.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by JemmaY2004)
So the table says it’s orange(helpful so not required) but it only says one or more science including psychology. So it’s not like I wouldn’t have met the requirements?

Also yes the oxbridge talk was given by a music professor from Cambridge. And activity’s wise, obviously requirements for a course are just that, clubs won’t help, I know. But I’m sort of thinking more about interviews and what peoples interests are. Because you could have two people who are very similar academic wise but then extracurricular activities could be what makes the decision.

But anyway, I’m not too keen on switching art for something like maths or biology because whilst I’m not bad at those subjects, they are hard and I don’t think I can get an A. I will do research, read books and find online courses. Would these things be mentioned in personal statements?

As I said my mum has degrees in those subjects and she knows a lot of people. Would work experience along those lines be beneficial too.

And finally, do you think (providing I get good a-level results) I can get into something like oxbridge with research and stuff like that with the a-levels I’ve chosen?
I'm back :awesome:

I never said you wouldn't have met the requirements by doing your proposed subjects, if you read my post again My point is more that it is not the strongest combination you could pick. Picking a stronger combination for psychology - or actually doing A Level music, if you decide to apply for music - can only work in your favour! :yep:

When it comes to the Oxbridge interview stage, there is no such thing as two (near-)identical candidates and even if there WERE, it's not gonna come down to "this one plays violin and this one doesn't" :nah: What could happen, however, is that - if it boils down to picking one of two candidates who are vying for that last spot - it could come down to: "has this person got the right educational training (via A Levels or equivalent) to help them succeed and thrive at Oxbridge?" In other words, has this person made good choices at A Level/got a certain level of training at A Level, that will help them get a 2.1 or a First at the end of their degree :yes:

It will look extremely odd if your school offers A Level music and you've chosen not to do it, but then apply to music. My worry is that it could/would work against you. Or if it doesn't and you somehow get in, you will really really REALLY struggle with the degree. That, or they make a conditional offer on the premise that you defer entry by a year, and do the A Level in that time and/or remedial other types of study, so that you don't flounder at Oxbridge when you get there (they did that to a mate of mine).

Like I said, I'm not a STEM or social sciences person but I equally imagine that if your school offers you the chance to take more "solid/facilitating" subjects - especially sciences - that it could look very odd that you haven't taken that up.

Just make sure you make informed choices if you want to be competitive. If you think you can't secure As in science subjects, think about whether you'd really want to study a more STEM-type psychology course, and whether you will be able to withstand the pace there even if you get in.

Oxbridge isn't the be-all-and-end-all. Make sure you're choosing the best uni for your interests and abilities. It may be that Oxbridge isn't a good use of a UCAS place, whether it's psychology or music - and that's totally OK
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Plagioclase
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OP I think you're asking the wrong question. If you don't even have some kind of a concrete idea of what subject you want to study, you should be focussing on this rather than worrying about getting into Oxbridge etc. Your subject choice is a lot more important than which university you attend, and what you've written it also sounds like you're romanticising Oxbridge a bit. I think you need to take a step back and leave the worrying about Oxbridge/Russel Group until you've actually decided on a subject to study. Also, everything that TLD has written above is very good advice, so please take it seriously!
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JemmaY2004
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
I'm back :awesome:

I never said you wouldn't have met the requirements by doing your proposed subjects, if you read my post again My point is more that it is not the strongest combination you could pick. Picking a stronger combination for psychology - or actually doing A Level music, if you decide to apply for music - can only work in your favour! :yep:

When it comes to the Oxbridge interview stage, there is no such thing as two (near-)identical candidates and even if there WERE, it's not gonna come down to "this one plays violin and this one doesn't" :nah: What could happen, however, is that - if it boils down to picking one of two candidates who are vying for that last spot - it could come down to: "has this person got the right educational training (via A Levels or equivalent) to help them succeed and thrive at Oxbridge?" In other words, has this person made good choices at A Level/got a certain level of training at A Level, that will help them get a 2.1 or a First at the end of their degree :yes:

It will look extremely odd if your school offers A Level music and you've chosen not to do it, but then apply to music. My worry is that it could/would work against you. Or if it doesn't and you somehow get in, you will really really REALLY struggle with the degree. That, or they make a conditional offer on the premise that you defer entry by a year, and do the A Level in that time and/or remedial other types of study, so that you don't flounder at Oxbridge when you get there (they did that to a mate of mine).

Like I said, I'm not a STEM or social sciences person but I equally imagine that if your school offers you the chance to take more "solid/facilitating" subjects - especially sciences - that it could look very odd that you haven't taken that up.

Just make sure you make informed choices if you want to be competitive. If you think you can't secure As in science subjects, think about whether you'd really want to study a more STEM-type psychology course, and whether you will be able to withstand the pace there even if you get in.

Oxbridge isn't the be-all-and-end-all. Make sure you're choosing the best uni for your interests and abilities. It may be that Oxbridge isn't a good use of a UCAS place, whether it's psychology or music - and that's totally OK
My school doesn’t offer A-level music just a BTech music performance diploma and I figured that grade 8 music theory and a practical theory grade is much much better than the BTech music.
My school offers maths, biology and chemistry alevels but I know the teachers for those subjects are not good as I’ve already studied those there. I had to get a maths tutor, my biology teacher didn’t show up to our lessons half the time and my chemistry teacher is alright but she taught us the bare minimum required to pass. My best teacher was physics but they don’t offer physics alevel at my school. I was debating moving to a prestigious grammar school in my area (they get like 20 oxbridge places a year) but they don’t offer psychology or sociology and you have to take 4 alevels there so I’m not sure what I’d take plus I don’t know anyone there and in case we go into lockdown again, I want to be in a familiar place.

I am good at maths and I actually do enjoy it but
I know a lot of maths alevel is to do with engineering and physics of which I don’t particularly enjoy and it hasn’t really got much to do with psychology.
Psychologists aren’t medical doctors so I don’t believe there would be any use in studying chemistry, it’s hard and I don’t find it interesting at all.
As for biology, it’s probably the most interesting science but I know the mark schemes are very specific and as I said my teachers for biology are really not good.

It’s not that I’m not interested in taking another STEM subject, it’s just that my school is a performing arts school and there really isn’t much focus on STEM subjects, particularly at A-level. Every good STEM teacher my school has ends up going to one of the grammar schools near us. Thant’s why I think I’m better off taking art, I know my art department, I know the teachers and I know I can get an A maybe even an A*. And for sociology and psychology whist I’ve never studied the subjects before my mum and I have very sociological and psychological discussions at home as she works in the industry and I help her out quite often and so I know what I’ll be going into and that I can talk about what I’m studying with her. As well as the fact that I enjoy talking and learning about it.

Obviously I know there are many other great unis other than Oxbridge. I know Exeter have great study abroad options, Bristol and St Andrews are also great unis. But what I like about oxbridge are the colleges, I’m quite a competitive person I know they have inter-uni competitions and I love the idea of that. Oxbridge from where I live isn’t too far away but far enough for me to be independent and start my own life. And I don’t really want to go to a London uni (even thought there are amazing ones there) I live so close to London and I go almost every week I kinda want an adventure and some excitement.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by JemmaY2004)
My school doesn’t offer A-level music just a BTech music performance diploma and I figured that grade 8 music theory and a practical theory grade is much much better than the BTech music.
My school offers maths, biology and chemistry alevels but I know the teachers for those subjects are not good as I’ve already studied those there. I had to get a maths tutor, my biology teacher didn’t show up to our lessons half the time and my chemistry teacher is alright but she taught us the bare minimum required to pass. My best teacher was physics but they don’t offer physics alevel at my school. I was debating moving to a prestigious grammar school in my area (they get like 20 oxbridge places a year) but they don’t offer psychology or sociology and you have to take 4 alevels there so I’m not sure what I’d take plus I don’t know anyone there and in case we go into lockdown again, I want to be in a familiar place.

I am good at maths and I actually do enjoy it but
I know a lot of maths alevel is to do with engineering and physics of which I don’t particularly enjoy and it hasn’t really got much to do with psychology.
Psychologists aren’t medical doctors so I don’t believe there would be any use in studying chemistry, it’s hard and I don’t find it interesting at all.
As for biology, it’s probably the most interesting science but I know the mark schemes are very specific and as I said my teachers for biology are really not good.

It’s not that I’m not interested in taking another STEM subject, it’s just that my school is a performing arts school and there really isn’t much focus on STEM subjects, particularly at A-level. Every good STEM teacher my school has ends up going to one of the grammar schools near us. Thant’s why I think I’m better off taking art, I know my art department, I know the teachers and I know I can get an A maybe even an A*. And for sociology and psychology whist I’ve never studied the subjects before my mum and I have very sociological and psychological discussions at home as she works in the industry and I help her out quite often and so I know what I’ll be going into and that I can talk about what I’m studying with her. As well as the fact that I enjoy talking and learning about it.

Obviously I know there are many other great unis other than Oxbridge. I know Exeter have great study abroad options, Bristol and St Andrews are also great unis. But what I like about oxbridge are the colleges, I’m quite a competitive person I know they have inter-uni competitions and I love the idea of that. Oxbridge from where I live isn’t too far away but far enough for me to be independent and start my own life. And I don’t really want to go to a London uni (even thought there are amazing ones there) I live so close to London and I go almost every week I kinda want an adventure and some excitement.
Thanks for giving the full context, your reasoning makes a lot more sense to me now. Def better to do Grade 8 theory/practical than to do the BTEC for music. And it's understandable to wanna stick to known entitities, given it's a pandemic, and that you're worried about doing sciences, given you go to a performing arts school which doesn't have great teaching in many of the subjects I was alluding to :yes:

Wishing you the best of luck with making decisions and applying
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JemmaY2004
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
OP I think you're asking the wrong question. If you don't even have some kind of a concrete idea of what subject you want to study, you should be focussing on this rather than worrying about getting into Oxbridge etc. Your subject choice is a lot more important than which university you attend, and what you've written it also sounds like you're romanticising Oxbridge a bit. I think you need to take a step back and leave the worrying about Oxbridge/Russel Group until you've actually decided on a subject to study. Also, everything that TLD has written above is very good advice, so please take it seriously!
I have options in my mind and so I was basically just asking if anyone knew any courses or anything like that, that looks good on CVs and personal statements. It’s not that I have no clue, it’s going to either be a social science (psychology) or something art/music related that’s why I’m asking for tips because my school isn’t university driven like some grammar schools where they have interview practice and constant talks from top unis. My school focuses on almost every option post 18, that being unis, apprenticeships, employment, gap years and foundation years. I know for sure that I want to go to uni, I love learning/studying and I know uni can be a great place to grow independence. I’ve been to Oxford, had a look around and it is turkey beautiful and as I’ve said I’ve been to oxbridge talks.
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