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do top unis dislike resits/taking a levels later/switching courses?

Hi! I'm currently a 1st yr undergraduate studying Philosophy and Psychology in the university of Warwick. Having taken A levels in English, Maths, Further Maths, Philosophy, and Computer Science. I thought I was going to take a gap year and apply straight to CS so it would be inconsequential, but still connects to my interest (AI) just in case. Things went a bit wrong.

I was doing CS privately and essentially got scammed, so they never sent me the exam paper for that. My school also didn't enter me for Further Maths A Levels as I was pretty much in a hospital for all of year 13 and half of year 12. I completely winged my A levels, got an ABB in English, Philosophy, Maths. Ended up with 3 A levels instead of 5.

I love my degree, I enjoy it deeply, the Philosophy department at Warwick is wonderful and is one of the best in the world. However, my ultimate goal is still to go into AI, and each time I help out one of the maths or CS undergrads I feel regret for what could have been. I did a lot of maths in my free time, did an MIT micromasters on AI + discrete maths, but now my route would mean I'd have to do a conversion course into CS after finishing uni giving a masters from a below-average/average uni, get a 2nd masters from a good uni (that's already at least 24k debt - I'm very insistent on going to a good university for masters and my doctorate) then do a PhD. Not to mention I can go philosophy -> CS but not Philosophy -> maths which is the undergrad I'd actually like to do.

So I'm thinking of quitting uni for now, retake maths and take further maths A Levels, reapply for uni for maths, progress to machine learning in post grad. My uni profs (maths and phil) say I should just do maths I'm not sure how realistic it is, and I really need opinions.

Assuming I get good results:
- I know oxbridge hates people who take routes like this/retakes but do you think it's worth a shot anyway?
- Do I have a chance at getting into top unis for maths this way (let's say top 6?)
- Is this realistic? I would be doing this on my own, how would predicted grades etc work?
- Is being older a disadvantage?
- Is resitting maths + sitting FM later a disadvantage?
Note that I am head over heels in love with maths and CS and philosophy but the former 2 are where my career paths go. I'd like to work in Deepmind or OpenAI one day and I need a PhD, not only for that but also because I love academia and want to stay in research for a while.

I'm super stuck, any feedback is appreciated!!
(PS: posted smth similar to this before but got minimal feedback, I'd love some advice or general thoughts!)
Oxbridge doesn't hate people who have a change of heart, or mature students.

What they're not a big fan of, in the sense of not treating it as equivalent to 18 years olds who've done two years of A level study, is people who've had lots of extra time just to get to the same level. If it takes Susie three years, or four years, or five years, to get her three A*s, then they are going to treat that as less of an achievement than Katie's three A*s in two years. I don't think that's unreasonable.

But - and this is probably more applicable to you - they will look at cases individually. Someone like you who basically didn't do the two years that they'd have been expected to be studying for their A levels because they were in hospital, and who has then spent time studying completely different subjects, will not be considered in the same way as multi-resit Susie who took 5 years to get to the same standard that a top student reaches in 2.

Have you considered an OU maths degree and then a masters at a physical university? Going back to start A levels again seems unnecessary. You could also go talk to a maths tutor at Warwick and see if they have any suggestions. If you're helping current maths and CS undergraduates, you're clearly at a pretty high level already.
You probably would have been better bumping one of the previous threads, (like this one), rather than making another duplicate. I'm just pointing this out as dup threads are against community rules.
Original post by Admit-One
You probably would have been better bumping one of the previous threads, (like this one), rather than making another duplicate. I'm just pointing this out as dup threads are against community rules.

ah i didn't realise ! i made a few in different threads, i'll have to delete them :') didn't know bumping was a thing, ty :smile:
Original post by skylark2
Oxbridge doesn't hate people who have a change of heart, or mature students.

What they're not a big fan of, in the sense of not treating it as equivalent to 18 years olds who've done two years of A level study, is people who've had lots of extra time just to get to the same level. If it takes Susie three years, or four years, or five years, to get her three A*s, then they are going to treat that as less of an achievement than Katie's three A*s in two years. I don't think that's unreasonable.

But - and this is probably more applicable to you - they will look at cases individually. Someone like you who basically didn't do the two years that they'd have been expected to be studying for their A levels because they were in hospital, and who has then spent time studying completely different subjects, will not be considered in the same way as multi-resit Susie who took 5 years to get to the same standard that a top student reaches in 2.

Have you considered an OU maths degree and then a masters at a physical university? Going back to start A levels again seems unnecessary. You could also go talk to a maths tutor at Warwick and see if they have any suggestions. If you're helping current maths and CS undergraduates, you're clearly at a pretty high level already.

i really want to a go to a very very good uni for postgrad but also ideally undergrad, and also i really don't want to not be in a physical uni for 3 years :') but good point, i'll consider it. unfortunately the maths professors don't really know how the A level systems and such work for admissions as they are only in charge of looking at applications and not overseeing the application process itself. i'm also wondering how the STEP would work in this case and how i'd get predicted grades, etc etc
Reply 5
I'll give you 2 actual cases I know that are vaguely related to your situation that may give you hope.

Person A gets in to Oxford to read Maths but decides after a term that it is not for him. He gets them to agree that if he does an intensive Italian course he can return the following Autumn and study Italian and Philosophy without taking any further exams.

Person B starts reading medicine and after 2 years decides it really is not for him. He takes FM A level (to add to the Maths, Phys, Chem, Bio and an AS in Computing that he already has) and gets a place at Oxford to read Comp Sci as an undergraduate.

Both these students did have exceedingly good initial A level results but if you have genuine medical reasons that prevented you getting them then you may have a chance.
Original post by EOData
I'll give you 2 actual cases I know that are vaguely related to your situation that may give you hope.

Person A gets in to Oxford to read Maths but decides after a term that it is not for him. He gets them to agree that if he does an intensive Italian course he can return the following Autumn and study Italian and Philosophy without taking any further exams.

Person B starts reading medicine and after 2 years decides it really is not for him. He takes FM A level (to add to the Maths, Phys, Chem, Bio and an AS in Computing that he already has) and gets a place at Oxford to read Comp Sci as an undergraduate.

Both these students did have exceedingly good initial A level results but if you have genuine medical reasons that prevented you getting them then you may have a chance.

The second case sounds quite similar to me actually! One of the things I'm scared of is actually not knowing how to tell the unis that my case is Weird and that I had medical reasons without filling up my entire personal statement :') But! Thank you! I'll still be really really careful but this gave me a little bit of hope.
Reply 7
Original post by academiaisweirs
The second case sounds quite similar to me actually! One of the things I'm scared of is actually not knowing how to tell the unis that my case is Weird and that I had medical reasons without filling up my entire personal statement :') But! Thank you! I'll still be really really careful but this gave me a little bit of hope.

That sort of thing can (and should) go in the reference instead, so don't worry about the personal statement character count. Some universities also have forms you can fill in, like Warwick's AWARDS form for example.

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