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How do you benchmark? and decide unis?

Our son is currently in Y11, and if January mocks are a guide, likely to score 9 in most subjects and perhaps 8 in 1 or 2 (Eng. Lit & Spanish) GCSE. He already scored 9 in Math which he did a year earlier. He goes to a good private school in outer London which on average send 15 students/yr to Oxbridge and several students to Imperial/LSE and to medicine (highly popular course of choice in this school for some reason).

He is dead set on doing Comp. Science and is taking F.Math, Math, Physics and Chemistry. He is pretty good at coding and joint top in CS at school in the GCSE mocks. Done/doing tones of CS super-curricular.

To us, he has been always good at studies, above average but we didn't had too many expectations for him (certainly didn't regard him as some genius). But in the last couple of years someone flicked a switch and he is intend upon doing best he can, studies a rather too much - (nearly all hours that he is at home) and super focused on achieving nothing but the top grades. His Math and science teachers love him for that and told me that he'll do really well in A level subjects.

We really don't want him to end up disappointed, as the more I look CS seem to be the most competitive subject in the last few years (acceptance rates lower than Medicine etc), it will only get more competitive for the Oxbridge/Imperial etc. We didn't grow up in this country so find it hard to benchmark and to suggest whether he (and we) should get our hopes up and apply for Oxbridge/Imperial etc.

So the question is, how do you know if you are up for it?

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Reply 1
Original post by nirajn123
Our son is currently in Y11, and if January mocks are a guide, likely to score 9 in most subjects and perhaps 8 in 1 or 2 (Eng. Lit & Spanish) GCSE. He already scored 9 in Math which he did a year earlier. He goes to a good private school in outer London which on average send 15 students/yr to Oxbridge and several students to Imperial/LSE and to medicine (highly popular course of choice in this school for some reason).

He is dead set on doing Comp. Science and is taking F.Math, Math, Physics and Chemistry. He is pretty good at coding and joint top in CS at school in the GCSE mocks. Done/doing tones of CS super-curricular.

To us, he has been always good at studies, above average but we didn't had too many expectations for him (certainly didn't regard him as some genius). But in the last couple of years someone flicked a switch and he is intend upon doing best he can, studies a rather too much - (nearly all hours that he is at home) and super focused on achieving nothing but the top grades. His Math and science teachers love him for that and told me that he'll do really well in A level subjects.

We really don't want him to end up disappointed, as the more I look CS seem to be the most competitive subject in the last few years (acceptance rates lower than Medicine etc), it will only get more competitive for the Oxbridge/Imperial etc. We didn't grow up in this country so find it hard to benchmark and to suggest whether he (and we) should get our hopes up and apply for Oxbridge/Imperial etc.

So the question is, how do you know if you are up for it?

I have recently just gone through the application process for uni so I will walk you through it and ultimately answer your question - how do you know if you are up for it?

So firstly you get 5 uni choices that you can apply for.
Each uni will have different entry requirements, which will help you determine whether you "are up for " the uni.
Say your son was predicted AAA this is what I would advise.

Uni 1 - Aspirational - Oxbridge - A* A* A
Uni 2 - Less Aspirational - Top Russel Group - A* AA
Uni 3 - Current Predicted - Russel Group - AAA
Uni 4 - Less Than - Russel Group- AAB
Uni 5 - Insurance - Outside Russel Group- ABB

The aim is to essentially have a great uni available no matter what grades he gets. If he comes out with outstanding results he can also apply to a higher uni through clearing.
Computer science is being saturated however it is a great route to go down, it is competitive however there will likely always be a job available due tot he transferrable skills
Reply 2
Original post by pips1242
I have recently just gone through the application process for uni so I will walk you through it and ultimately answer your question - how do you know if you are up for it?

So firstly you get 5 uni choices that you can apply for.
Each uni will have different entry requirements, which will help you determine whether you "are up for " the uni.
Say your son was predicted AAA this is what I would advise.

Uni 1 - Aspirational - Oxbridge - A* A* A
Uni 2 - Less Aspirational - Top Russel Group - A* AA
Uni 3 - Current Predicted - Russel Group - AAA
Uni 4 - Less Than - Russel Group- AAB
Uni 5 - Insurance - Outside Russel Group- ABB

The aim is to essentially have a great uni available no matter what grades he gets. If he comes out with outstanding results he can also apply to a higher uni through clearing.
Computer science is being saturated however it is a great route to go down, it is competitive however there will likely always be a job available due tot he transferrable skills

Thank you, and you answered my question really well.

From talking to his teachers in the recent options evening, I get a feeling that its highly likely he'll get A*A* in Math and Physics, others I am not going to speculate for now and see how we get on over next year.

I don't think I can/want to talk him out of CS so it is not really up for debate as such. I wish he was more open to engineering (even if that's information & systems eng. as the specialisation later on), but things may change over the next year - you never know.
Reply 3
Original post by nirajn123
Thank you, and you answered my question really well.

From talking to his teachers in the recent options evening, I get a feeling that its highly likely he'll get A*A* in Math and Physics, others I am not going to speculate for now and see how we get on over next year.

I don't think I can/want to talk him out of CS so it is not really up for debate as such. I wish he was more open to engineering (even if that's information & systems eng. as the specialisation later on), but things may change over the next year - you never know.


I'm currently doing an degree apprenticeship for ict, it covers a range of things from cyber security, software engineering, data analytics etc- so I would encourage him to find an a degree apprenticeship in cs if possible. It's competitive but he sounds intelligent, and with the grades he will be fine.
I personally don't think you should talk him out of cs at all, engineering could always be a possibility for later on, but i would encourage him to try and get a foot in the door for cs. Its definitely the way the future is heading, more job opportunities and the skills he will learn are invaluable
Original post by pips1242
I have recently just gone through the application process for uni so I will walk you through it and ultimately answer your question - how do you know if you are up for it?

So firstly you get 5 uni choices that you can apply for.
Each uni will have different entry requirements, which will help you determine whether you "are up for " the uni.
Say your son was predicted AAA this is what I would advise.

Uni 1 - Aspirational - Oxbridge - A* A* A
Uni 2 - Less Aspirational - Top Russel Group - A* AA
Uni 3 - Current Predicted - Russel Group - AAA
Uni 4 - Less Than - Russel Group- AAB
Uni 5 - Insurance - Outside Russel Group- ABB

The aim is to essentially have a great uni available no matter what grades he gets. If he comes out with outstanding results he can also apply to a higher uni through clearing.
Computer science is being saturated however it is a great route to go down, it is competitive however there will likely always be a job available due tot he transferrable skills

I disagree...

For Oxbridge, basically every applicant would have the predicted grades or more. If you don't have the predicted grades for Oxbridge then don't bother applying. Not to mention the admission tests and interviews.

For G6/upper RG unis, if you don't have the predicted grades you're probably out. There are some admission tests and interviews for top RG unis for CS.

If son comes up with A*AA or above, unfortunately the top unis probably won't be in clearing, except a few courses.
Reply 5
Original post by nirajn123
Thank you, and you answered my question really well.

From talking to his teachers in the recent options evening, I get a feeling that its highly likely he'll get A*A* in Math and Physics, others I am not going to speculate for now and see how we get on over next year.

I don't think I can/want to talk him out of CS so it is not really up for debate as such. I wish he was more open to engineering (even if that's information & systems eng. as the specialisation later on), but things may change over the next year - you never know.


I would be cautious about those A level grades - I'm an experienced teacher but you just cannot tell until they start A levels how they will cope.

CS degrees should include a year in Industry so not Oxbridge and Imperial is toxic and best avoided. Please be more open to looking at what compannies need if he wants to work in CS ... it's not just knowledge it's application.
Reply 6
Original post by pips1242
I'm currently doing an degree apprenticeship for ict, it covers a range of things from cyber security, software engineering, data analytics etc- so I would encourage him to find an a degree apprenticeship in cs if possible. It's competitive but he sounds intelligent, and with the grades he will be fine.
I personally don't think you should talk him out of cs at all, engineering could always be a possibility for later on, but i would encourage him to try and get a foot in the door for cs. Its definitely the way the future is heading, more job opportunities and the skills he will learn are invaluable

Yes, he is considering a degree apprenticeship. School hosted an evening on this topic with few past students who are are currently doing these and few who are currently going through the process. My worry though is he might just want to focus on big brand tech companies (likely super competitive) rather than in other industries where they do hire for CS. There are also mixed reviews/messages around the universities that are associated with these? Is this degree beneficial in the long run?
Original post by justlearning1469
I disagree...

For Oxbridge, basically every applicant would have the predicted grades or more. If you don't have the predicted grades for Oxbridge then don't bother applying. Not to mention the admission tests and interviews.

For G6/upper RG unis, if you don't have the predicted grades you're probably out. There are some admission tests and interviews for top RG unis for CS.

If son comes up with A*AA or above, unfortunately the top unis probably won't be in clearing, except a few courses.

So there is no point in applying for top unis if you don't have the predicted grades - which makes sense and I believe it might be the right thing for the student too - better to be top of your class than struggle in a well known university.

I didn't quite follow that last point, are you saying there is no point in aiming too low (figuratively) and wasting one slot if your predictive grades are decent?
Original post by Muttley79
I would be cautious about those A level grades - I'm an experienced teacher but you just cannot tell until they start A levels how they will cope.

CS degrees should include a year in Industry so not Oxbridge and Imperial is toxic and best avoided. Please be more open to looking at what compannies need if he wants to work in CS ... it's not just knowledge it's application.

Yes, understood, these are teachers that know him for last few years and were at the subject choice evening. We can only plan at the moment, if he doesn't get right predictive grades I'll certainly be advising him to not apply to Oxbridge.

I didn't quite follow that point about Oxbridge & Imperial being toxic - are you referring to the level of competition once you are in it and/or lack of practical experience? He does huge amount of coding already, built several sites/programs for Crest and Arkwright etc. He will be super keen to get summer internship when he gets a chance.
Reply 7
Original post by justlearning1469
I disagree...

For Oxbridge, basically every applicant would have the predicted grades or more. If you don't have the predicted grades for Oxbridge then don't bother applying. Not to mention the admission tests and interviews.

For G6/upper RG unis, if you don't have the predicted grades you're probably out. There are some admission tests and interviews for top RG unis for CS.

If son comes up with A*AA or above, unfortunately the top unis probably won't be in clearing, except a few courses.


Yes but when regarding her situation in particular, her son will likely get the grades required for Oxbridge therefore it is worth him applying?
Reply 8
Original post by nirajn123
Yes, understood, these are teachers that know him for last few years and were at the subject choice evening. We can only plan at the moment, if he doesn't get right predictive grades I'll certainly be advising him to not apply to Oxbridge.

I didn't quite follow that point about Oxbridge & Imperial being toxic - are you referring to the level of competition once you are in it and/or lack of practical experience? He does huge amount of coding already, built several sites/programs for Crest and Arkwright etc. He will be super keen to get summer internship when he gets a chance.


Even students I have taught from Year 7 sometimes surprise me and reach their peak at GCSE ... don't pay any attention to those predictions until Easter of Year 12.

Imperial is well-known for the lack of student support.

Summer internships are not enough - do a full year and you'll get your own projects and possibly a job. Don't be swayed by the school wanting to push Oxbridge - it isn't the best for CS.[or Engineering].
Reply 9
Original post by Muttley79
Even students I have taught from Year 7 sometimes surprise me and reach their peak at GCSE ... don't pay any attention to those predictions until Easter of Year 12.

Imperial is well-known for the lack of student support.

Summer internships are not enough - do a full year and you'll get your own projects and possibly a job. Don't be swayed by the school wanting to push Oxbridge - it isn't the best for CS.[or Engineering].


The summer school i think its for a week at oxford, it would look great at work experince however and would be fun for your son to participate within
Reply 10
Original post by pips1242
The summer school i think its for a week at oxford, it would look great at work experince however and would be fun for your son to participate within

Why are you replying to me?
Reply 11
Original post by Muttley79
I would be cautious about those A level grades - I'm an experienced teacher but you just cannot tell until they start A levels how they will cope.

CS degrees should include a year in Industry so not Oxbridge and Imperial is toxic and best avoided. Please be more open to looking at what compannies need if he wants to work in CS ... it's not just knowledge it's application.


Have a number of friends on the CS course at Imperial who enjoy it immensely. Perhaps an unnecessarily dismissive attitude to a respected institution.
(edited 10 months ago)
Reply 12
Original post by Muttley79
Even students I have taught from Year 7 sometimes surprise me and reach their peak at GCSE ... don't pay any attention to those predictions until Easter of Year 12.

Imperial is well-known for the lack of student support.

Summer internships are not enough - do a full year and you'll get your own projects and possibly a job. Don't be swayed by the school wanting to push Oxbridge - it isn't the best for CS.[or Engineering].

Yes, wrt grade we will review closer to application stage and decide. School is not in picture yet.
Original post by pips1242
The summer school i think its for a week at oxford, it would look great at work experince however and would be fun for your son to participate within


Pls. can you share some specifics? Is this open for private school pupils? Also, are you able to share more info on your degree apprenticeship?
Reply 13
Original post by Kibser
Have a number of friends on the CS course at Imperial who enjoy it immensely. Perhaps an unnecessarily dismissive attitude to a respected institution.


Nope - seen many students failed by Imperial ... it now tends to be avoided by many schools.
Reply 14
Original post by Muttley79
Nope - seen many students failed by Imperial ... it now tends to be avoided by many schools.


Can you expand on this? Not heard of it being avoided by schools given it's a global top 10 university?
Original post by Kibser
Can you expand on this? Not heard of it being avoided by schools given it's a global top 10 university?

Yeah! And it's significantly easier than Oxbridge to get into, while prestige-wise it's basically as good.

Original post by pips1242
Yes but when regarding her situation in particular, her son will likely get the grades required for Oxbridge therefore it is worth him applying?

Oxbridge needs other things like interview and admissions test. But there's nothing stopping her son from applying, and there's always a chance, even if a very slim chance

Original post by nirajn123
Yes, he is considering a degree apprenticeship. School hosted an evening on this topic with few past students who are are currently doing these and few who are currently going through the process. My worry though is he might just want to focus on big brand tech companies (likely super competitive) rather than in other industries where they do hire for CS. There are also mixed reviews/messages around the universities that are associated with these? Is this degree beneficial in the long run?

So there is no point in applying for top unis if you don't have the predicted grades - which makes sense and I believe it might be the right thing for the student too - better to be top of your class than struggle in a well known university.

I didn't quite follow that last point, are you saying there is no point in aiming too low (figuratively) and wasting one slot if your predictive grades are decent?

Yes, understood, these are teachers that know him for last few years and were at the subject choice evening. We can only plan at the moment, if he doesn't get right predictive grades I'll certainly be advising him to not apply to Oxbridge.

I didn't quite follow that point about Oxbridge & Imperial being toxic - are you referring to the level of competition once you are in it and/or lack of practical experience? He does huge amount of coding already, built several sites/programs for Crest and Arkwright etc. He will be super keen to get summer internship when he gets a chance.

Depends on what you want to get out of degree apprenticeships. Your son can earn money while doing the degree, so if finances are an issue, that's a good option. However the reputation may not be as good.

The vast majority of applicants to top universities have at least the predicted grades. This means if you don't have the predicted grades, you're out. Top unis are extremely oversubscribed so to stand a strong chance, you need more than grades. Fill up that PS with supercurriculars.

My last point is if his predicteds are only AAA yet he gets A*AA or above, if son wants to "upgrade" university during Clearing, it's going to be next to impossible to do so. This is because the top unis usually don't enter Clearing
Reply 16
Original post by Kibser
Can you expand on this? Not heard of it being avoided by schools given it's a global top 10 university?

It's not top 10 - don't trust league tables they are so flawed.

When you've seen amazing students coming back at the end of a year a shadow of their former selves then questions are asked. The studen support is poor and the teaching not as great as you might expect ... They were extremely resistant to going back to in-person lectures.
Reply 17
Original post by nirajn123
Yes, wrt grade we will review closer to application stage and decide. School is not in picture yet.


Pls. can you share some specifics? Is this open for private school pupils? Also, are you able to share more info on your degree apprenticeship?


I am not extremely knowledgeable about the Oxford Summer School as I didn't attend personally, however my friend did. I think it was a duration of about 3 days, and I am pretty sure it is open to both public and private school students. In terms of my degree apprenticeship what else would you like to know?
Reply 18
Original post by justlearning1469
Yeah! And it's significantly easier than Oxbridge to get into, while prestige-wise it's basically as good.


Oxbridge needs other things like interview and admissions test. But there's nothing stopping her son from applying, and there's always a chance, even if a very slim chance


Depends on what you want to get out of degree apprenticeships. Your son can earn money while doing the degree, so if finances are an issue, that's a good option. However the reputation may not be as good.

The vast majority of applicants to top universities have at least the predicted grades. This means if you don't have the predicted grades, you're out. Top unis are extremely oversubscribed so to stand a strong chance, you need more than grades. Fill up that PS with supercurriculars.

My last point is if his predicteds are only AAA yet he gets A*AA or above, if son wants to "upgrade" university during Clearing, it's going to be next to impossible to do so. This is because the top unis usually don't enter Clearing


I guess the recommended alternative, if he were to get above and beyond in his grades and his desired university course isn't within clearing is to take a gap year and reapply with his grades the next year
Original post by pips1242
I guess the recommended alternative, if he were to get above and beyond in his grades and his desired university course isn't within clearing is to take a gap year and reapply with his grades the next year

I agree, although he could instead work very hard in the undergrad course to "upgrade" for Masters/PhD.

Or if there are personal reasons to not take a gap year

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