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Gap year, extenuating circumstances in applying for Oxbridge, private candidate!

Hello! I need some advice! I’m about to take a gap year to retake my A levels and am keen to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But which one is more likely to accept me due to my circumstances?

Here’s my story!

At GCSE, I got 99976554. The 6 in Physics, 5 in Biology and Computer Science and the 4 in Chemistry. Which is super unfair - we had exams at the start of Year 11 which I did get 4, 4 and 3 in (because of moving schools in Year 11 + the whole Covid situation) then in our second set of mocks in the spring, I’d managed to get the mock grade up to 8, 7 and 7. However they averaged out my grade and I achieved 6, 5 and 4 in the end 🤧 and as for computer science, I had to start it in Year 11 since I moved schools and had to learn the entire syllabus in a year. Considering my situation I was kinda proud of my results at the time but I don’t think they’re Oxbridge level.

I then started sixth form, took maths, physics and further maths and worked moderately hard (although looking back I could’ve done more) and was predicted ABB. My top choice was Kings College London, plus a few others. Then a really really terrible thing happened - I was SA’d in Y13 and it completely messed with my mental health. I was seriously considering dropping out. But I pulled myself together before exam season - however, by then the damage was kinda already done and it was too late. I came out with DEU respectively (plus an A in EPQ).

I now am taking a gap year. Since my exams ended, I knew I messed it up severely so I got to work, and started revising. All day, almost every day of the summer. I also got a tutor from Superprof who did the same A levels, and she’s helped me immensely. My problem was - I knew pretty much all of the content, I was just TERRIBLE at applying the knowledge. I’ve been doing those topic questions on physicsandmathstutor, watching tutorials, past papers, and my tutor has been setting me work too. And in almost 3 months, I’ve made tremendous progress, in past papers I’ve been getting As consistently and even A*s (although when I do get A*s, admittedly its just sheer luck when my most practiced topics all appear in one paper) my tutor believes I can achieve A*A*A* by June 2024.

So yeah. The gist is that I am retaking my A Levels this year. Will I just be seen as an unintelligent girl with emotional baggage and will I be rejected? 😭 Im scared because my GCSEs were not strong either. So I don’t have anything to back up the fact that I am academically capable apart from my tutor’s word. Will Oxford or Cambridge be more well suited for reviewing my application holistically? Shall I just resit my A levels, and even my GCSEs and just wait till the year after? Help 💀
Reply 1
Also! I didn’t ask. Can I get two references? My tutor as one, and then my old sixth form tutor at my college who knew about my extenuating circumstance? Or am I only able to get one?
Reply 2
Bump
Original post by Anonymous
Hello! I need some advice! I’m about to take a gap year to retake my A levels and am keen to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But which one is more likely to accept me due to my circumstances?

Here’s my story!

At GCSE, I got 99976554. The 6 in Physics, 5 in Biology and Computer Science and the 4 in Chemistry. Which is super unfair - we had exams at the start of Year 11 which I did get 4, 4 and 3 in (because of moving schools in Year 11 + the whole Covid situation) then in our second set of mocks in the spring, I’d managed to get the mock grade up to 8, 7 and 7. However they averaged out my grade and I achieved 6, 5 and 4 in the end 🤧 and as for computer science, I had to start it in Year 11 since I moved schools and had to learn the entire syllabus in a year. Considering my situation I was kinda proud of my results at the time but I don’t think they’re Oxbridge level.

I then started sixth form, took maths, physics and further maths and worked moderately hard (although looking back I could’ve done more) and was predicted ABB. My top choice was Kings College London, plus a few others. Then a really really terrible thing happened - I was SA’d in Y13 and it completely messed with my mental health. I was seriously considering dropping out. But I pulled myself together before exam season - however, by then the damage was kinda already done and it was too late. I came out with DEU respectively (plus an A in EPQ).

I now am taking a gap year. Since my exams ended, I knew I messed it up severely so I got to work, and started revising. All day, almost every day of the summer. I also got a tutor from Superprof who did the same A levels, and she’s helped me immensely. My problem was - I knew pretty much all of the content, I was just TERRIBLE at applying the knowledge. I’ve been doing those topic questions on physicsandmathstutor, watching tutorials, past papers, and my tutor has been setting me work too. And in almost 3 months, I’ve made tremendous progress, in past papers I’ve been getting As consistently and even A*s (although when I do get A*s, admittedly its just sheer luck when my most practiced topics all appear in one paper) my tutor believes I can achieve A*A*A* by June 2024.

So yeah. The gist is that I am retaking my A Levels this year. Will I just be seen as an unintelligent girl with emotional baggage and will I be rejected? 😭 Im scared because my GCSEs were not strong either. So I don’t have anything to back up the fact that I am academically capable apart from my tutor’s word. Will Oxford or Cambridge be more well suited for reviewing my application holistically? Shall I just resit my A levels, and even my GCSEs and just wait till the year after? Help 💀

It's difficult for us to say how Oxbridge will consider your circumstances. You shouldn't worry about the "emotional baggage", they're not going to discriminate against you for that. You can only have one reference on UCAS, and they recommend you make your extenuating circumstances clear in it. When you've sent off your application, I would definitely email your chosen college explaining your situation. The admissions offices are usually lovely and they've been really understanding from my experience. Both Oxford and Cambridge are serious about opening access to disadvantaged students, and I definitely think you should give it a go. I applied to Oxford with worse GCSEs than you, with lots of "emotional baggage", and I was accepted. If they hadn't taken my circumstances into account, I doubt I would've been successful.
(edited 7 months ago)
Original post by Anonymous
Hello! I need some advice! I’m about to take a gap year to retake my A levels and am keen to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But which one is more likely to accept me due to my circumstances?

Here’s my story!

At GCSE, I got 99976554. The 6 in Physics, 5 in Biology and Computer Science and the 4 in Chemistry. Which is super unfair - we had exams at the start of Year 11 which I did get 4, 4 and 3 in (because of moving schools in Year 11 + the whole Covid situation) then in our second set of mocks in the spring, I’d managed to get the mock grade up to 8, 7 and 7. However they averaged out my grade and I achieved 6, 5 and 4 in the end 🤧 and as for computer science, I had to start it in Year 11 since I moved schools and had to learn the entire syllabus in a year. Considering my situation I was kinda proud of my results at the time but I don’t think they’re Oxbridge level.

I then started sixth form, took maths, physics and further maths and worked moderately hard (although looking back I could’ve done more) and was predicted ABB. My top choice was Kings College London, plus a few others. Then a really really terrible thing happened - I was SA’d in Y13 and it completely messed with my mental health. I was seriously considering dropping out. But I pulled myself together before exam season - however, by then the damage was kinda already done and it was too late. I came out with DEU respectively (plus an A in EPQ).

I now am taking a gap year. Since my exams ended, I knew I messed it up severely so I got to work, and started revising. All day, almost every day of the summer. I also got a tutor from Superprof who did the same A levels, and she’s helped me immensely. My problem was - I knew pretty much all of the content, I was just TERRIBLE at applying the knowledge. I’ve been doing those topic questions on physicsandmathstutor, watching tutorials, past papers, and my tutor has been setting me work too. And in almost 3 months, I’ve made tremendous progress, in past papers I’ve been getting As consistently and even A*s (although when I do get A*s, admittedly its just sheer luck when my most practiced topics all appear in one paper) my tutor believes I can achieve A*A*A* by June 2024.

So yeah. The gist is that I am retaking my A Levels this year. Will I just be seen as an unintelligent girl with emotional baggage and will I be rejected? 😭 Im scared because my GCSEs were not strong either. So I don’t have anything to back up the fact that I am academically capable apart from my tutor’s word. Will Oxford or Cambridge be more well suited for reviewing my application holistically? Shall I just resit my A levels, and even my GCSEs and just wait till the year after? Help 💀


Firstly Im so sorry for everything you've been through I can't even imagine pulling my self together for exams after going thru that, and secondly I think you should just call the universities up and directly explain your situation to them before going ahead with any applications not only can they outline the chances of you getting in but can also help you verbally by telling you on what they're looking for in an application. and finally your GCSE grades are not at all bad Oxbridge take a more holistic approach in assessing their applications so don't be let down by them and just focus on getting those really good A-levels. Good luck for the future I hope you get into the unis you want!
Reply 5
Original post by emilyalexandria
It's difficult for us to say how Oxbridge will consider your circumstances. You shouldn't worry about the "emotional baggage", they're not going to discriminate against you for that. You can only have one reference on UCAS, and they recommend you make your extenuating circumstances clear in it. When you've sent off your application, I would definitely email your chosen college explaining your situation. The admissions offices are usually lovely and they've been really understanding from my experience. Both Oxford and Cambridge are serious about opening access to disadvantaged students, and I definitely think you should give it a go. I applied to Oxford with worse GCSEs than you, with lots of "emotional baggage", and I was accepted. If they hadn't taken my circumstances into account, I doubt I would've been successful.


This has inspired me SO MUCH. thank you :smile: if you don’t mind me asking, what course did you do and what A levels? did you need to resit any exams?

Also, who do you recommend that I get to write my reference? My sixth form tutor knew about the whole situation during A Levels, helped contact the police, etc. However my new tutor knows about my academic capability to the fullest; so I guess I could tell her to write it in?

Thank you so much though. I was discouraged but I will definitely apply this year !<33
Reply 6
Original post by darklingswife
Firstly Im so sorry for everything you've been through I can't even imagine pulling my self together for exams after going thru that, and secondly I think you should just call the universities up and directly explain your situation to them before going ahead with any applications not only can they outline the chances of you getting in but can also help you verbally by telling you on what they're looking for in an application. and finally your GCSE grades are not at all bad Oxbridge take a more holistic approach in assessing their applications so don't be let down by them and just focus on getting those really good A-levels. Good luck for the future I hope you get into the unis you want!


I will do this! Thank you so much for your advice :smile:
Original post by Anonymous
This has inspired me SO MUCH. thank you :smile: if you don’t mind me asking, what course did you do and what A levels? did you need to resit any exams?

Also, who do you recommend that I get to write my reference? My sixth form tutor knew about the whole situation during A Levels, helped contact the police, etc. However my new tutor knows about my academic capability to the fullest; so I guess I could tell her to write it in?

Thank you so much though. I was discouraged but I will definitely apply this year !<33

I'm studying history and politics now, but I did IB before. Fortunately I didn't have to resit any exams. The reference is tricky, as it needs to be from someone trustworthy who knows you well. They might not take your extenuating circumstances seriously if your only proof is a private tutor's word from Superprof, even if they trust their prediction and academic reference. It's easy to tell a tutor that something happened years ago - how do they back it up?

I think your best option here would be to submit a separate reference from your sixth form tutor directly to the university. You can't do this through UCAS, and not every university will let you submit additional evidence. You'd have to contact each university you're planning on applying to, explain your situation, and ask if they'd allow for a second reference due to your severe extenuating circumstances. I would make it clear that this second reference is only addressing this situation, so it doesn't seem like you have an unfair advantage over other applicants.

If they don't give you permission for that, I would recommend asking your old school if they could act as your referee. They can contact your tutor for academic information, predicted grades, etc. This would let your sixth form tutor write the relevant part in your reference, while still allowing you to apply with predicted grades, and with up to date information. They might also refuse to give permission, in which case you'd probably be stuck with your tutor's reference.

Good luck with your application, and feel free to message me if you have any further questions.
Original post by emilyalexandria
I'm studying history and politics now, but I did IB before. Fortunately I didn't have to resit any exams. The reference is tricky, as it needs to be from someone trustworthy who knows you well. They might not take your extenuating circumstances seriously if your only proof is a private tutor's word from Superprof, even if they trust their prediction and academic reference. It's easy to tell a tutor that something happened years ago - how do they back it up?

I think your best option here would be to submit a separate reference from your sixth form tutor directly to the university. You can't do this through UCAS, and not every university will let you submit additional evidence. You'd have to contact each university you're planning on applying to, explain your situation, and ask if they'd allow for a second reference due to your severe extenuating circumstances. I would make it clear that this second reference is only addressing this situation, so it doesn't seem like you have an unfair advantage over other applicants.

If they don't give you permission for that, I would recommend asking your old school if they could act as your referee. They can contact your tutor for academic information, predicted grades, etc. This would let your sixth form tutor write the relevant part in your reference, while still allowing you to apply with predicted grades, and with up to date information. They might also refuse to give permission, in which case you'd probably be stuck with your tutor's reference.

Good luck with your application, and feel free to message me if you have any further questions.




Hey there, do you mind if I ask what college you applied for :smile:
Reply 9
Original post by Anonymous
This has inspired me SO MUCH. thank you :smile: if you don’t mind me asking, what course did you do and what A levels? did you need to resit any exams?

Also, who do you recommend that I get to write my reference? My sixth form tutor knew about the whole situation during A Levels, helped contact the police, etc. However my new tutor knows about my academic capability to the fullest; so I guess I could tell her to write it in?

Thank you so much though. I was discouraged but I will definitely apply this year !<33

Usually more than one teacher contributes to your reference. In my school each teacher writes a paragraph and then they are all pulled together.
(edited 7 months ago)
Original post by Anonymous
Hello! I need some advice! I’m about to take a gap year to retake my A levels and am keen to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But which one is more likely to accept me due to my circumstances?

Here’s my story!

At GCSE, I got 99976554. The 6 in Physics, 5 in Biology and Computer Science and the 4 in Chemistry. Which is super unfair - we had exams at the start of Year 11 which I did get 4, 4 and 3 in (because of moving schools in Year 11 + the whole Covid situation) then in our second set of mocks in the spring, I’d managed to get the mock grade up to 8, 7 and 7. However they averaged out my grade and I achieved 6, 5 and 4 in the end 🤧 and as for computer science, I had to start it in Year 11 since I moved schools and had to learn the entire syllabus in a year. Considering my situation I was kinda proud of my results at the time but I don’t think they’re Oxbridge level.

I then started sixth form, took maths, physics and further maths and worked moderately hard (although looking back I could’ve done more) and was predicted ABB. My top choice was Kings College London, plus a few others. Then a really really terrible thing happened - I was SA’d in Y13 and it completely messed with my mental health. I was seriously considering dropping out. But I pulled myself together before exam season - however, by then the damage was kinda already done and it was too late. I came out with DEU respectively (plus an A in EPQ).

I now am taking a gap year. Since my exams ended, I knew I messed it up severely so I got to work, and started revising. All day, almost every day of the summer. I also got a tutor from Superprof who did the same A levels, and she’s helped me immensely. My problem was - I knew pretty much all of the content, I was just TERRIBLE at applying the knowledge. I’ve been doing those topic questions on physicsandmathstutor, watching tutorials, past papers, and my tutor has been setting me work too. And in almost 3 months, I’ve made tremendous progress, in past papers I’ve been getting As consistently and even A*s (although when I do get A*s, admittedly its just sheer luck when my most practiced topics all appear in one paper) my tutor believes I can achieve A*A*A* by June 2024.

So yeah. The gist is that I am retaking my A Levels this year. Will I just be seen as an unintelligent girl with emotional baggage and will I be rejected? 😭 Im scared because my GCSEs were not strong either. So I don’t have anything to back up the fact that I am academically capable apart from my tutor’s word. Will Oxford or Cambridge be more well suited for reviewing my application holistically? Shall I just resit my A levels, and even my GCSEs and just wait till the year after? Help 💀

I'd reach out to Oxford/Cambridge and ask! I'm also applying in a gap year with poor 2023 grades due to mental health. when I asked an admissions person at the open day she said any poor mental health sounds like mitigating circumstances. I've heard Cambridge is more holistic and they seem to take more into account - I don't know if this is entirely true though. Maybe they'll weight your admissions assessment (if there is one - what are you applying for?) more heavily.
Good luck!
Original post by Anonymous
Hello! I need some advice! I’m about to take a gap year to retake my A levels and am keen to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But which one is more likely to accept me due to my circumstances?

Here’s my story!

At GCSE, I got 99976554. The 6 in Physics, 5 in Biology and Computer Science and the 4 in Chemistry. Which is super unfair - we had exams at the start of Year 11 which I did get 4, 4 and 3 in (because of moving schools in Year 11 + the whole Covid situation) then in our second set of mocks in the spring, I’d managed to get the mock grade up to 8, 7 and 7. However they averaged out my grade and I achieved 6, 5 and 4 in the end 🤧 and as for computer science, I had to start it in Year 11 since I moved schools and had to learn the entire syllabus in a year. Considering my situation I was kinda proud of my results at the time but I don’t think they’re Oxbridge level.

I then started sixth form, took maths, physics and further maths and worked moderately hard (although looking back I could’ve done more) and was predicted ABB. My top choice was Kings College London, plus a few others. Then a really really terrible thing happened - I was SA’d in Y13 and it completely messed with my mental health. I was seriously considering dropping out. But I pulled myself together before exam season - however, by then the damage was kinda already done and it was too late. I came out with DEU respectively (plus an A in EPQ).

I now am taking a gap year. Since my exams ended, I knew I messed it up severely so I got to work, and started revising. All day, almost every day of the summer. I also got a tutor from Superprof who did the same A levels, and she’s helped me immensely. My problem was - I knew pretty much all of the content, I was just TERRIBLE at applying the knowledge. I’ve been doing those topic questions on physicsandmathstutor, watching tutorials, past papers, and my tutor has been setting me work too. And in almost 3 months, I’ve made tremendous progress, in past papers I’ve been getting As consistently and even A*s (although when I do get A*s, admittedly its just sheer luck when my most practiced topics all appear in one paper) my tutor believes I can achieve A*A*A* by June 2024.

So yeah. The gist is that I am retaking my A Levels this year. Will I just be seen as an unintelligent girl with emotional baggage and will I be rejected? 😭 Im scared because my GCSEs were not strong either. So I don’t have anything to back up the fact that I am academically capable apart from my tutor’s word. Will Oxford or Cambridge be more well suited for reviewing my application holistically? Shall I just resit my A levels, and even my GCSEs and just wait till the year after? Help 💀

I’m sorta in the same position as you. I struggle with a very manic depression (my lows are low and my highs are high lmao) and last year my low was literally in hell :’) so I came out with ABCC in classical civilisation, maths, further maths and physics. They’re not bad grades but I know I can do better when I’m feeling more like myself.

I think you should just apply and explain your situation in the extenuating circumstances form. Regardless, you should feel incredibly proud for what you’ve managed to achieve so far. I really hope you‘ve applied, oxbridge offers are a bit finicky anyway, nothing is ever really certain.

If you don’t mind me asking where have you applied to and for what?
Original post by Anonymous
I'd reach out to Oxford/Cambridge and ask! I'm also applying in a gap year with poor 2023 grades due to mental health. when I asked an admissions person at the open day she said any poor mental health sounds like mitigating circumstances. I've heard Cambridge is more holistic and they seem to take more into account - I don't know if this is entirely true though. Maybe they'll weight your admissions assessment (if there is one - what are you applying for?) more heavily.

Look at all of us twinning :smile:

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