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Let's talk about Oxford!

shoboemomshoboemom Registered User Posts: 2,058 Senior Member
The once active thread about Oxford is an older thread. I think the topic could use a fresh start. :-)

I'd love to know more about the vibe at Oxford, social life, academics, transition to main, etc.

We visited last year, both the main campus (which D loved...found it vibrant and exciting), and the Oxford Campus (visited when there were no students there, so it was quiet, but D did like the concept of the smaller, more discussion based classes, etc).

Now she has been accepted to both, with merit for Oxford! Financially, that makes Oxford the logical choice. We'll go back to visit, with students there, soon, but want your input!

Have you attended Oxford? Chime in! Are you on the main campus, but have input from friends at Oxford? let us know!

D started out looking for a small LAC type environment. She wanted small classes, with discussion based classes, in a more supportive, less cut-throat, type environment. Then she visited Emory and loved it. The vibe there was exciting, with a lot going on. The students seemed active and involved, and she was hooked. That visit got her looking at other, larger research Universities.
Since Oxford is marketed as being like an LAC, with research possibilities, starting there seems like it could be the best of both worlds. Is it?

Replies to: Let's talk about Oxford!

  • aigiqinfaigiqinf Registered User Posts: 4,032 Senior Member
    I actually started the Oxford thread you're referring to back when I was applying to Oxford. I graduated from Oxford, Emory College, and now am in graduate school. Over those last five years now, I have done my best to answer questions here and have been effectively the only Oxford student to do so. If you have specific questions, I am more than happy to answer them.
  • shoboemomshoboemom Registered User Posts: 2,058 Senior Member
    @aigiqinf, thank you. I have seen your posts and appreciate the input on Oxford! Right now I am wondering about the environment there, how stressful/ intense it is and how supportive the students are with each other and how supportive admin and the professors are. I read recently some reviews that talked about Oxford being particularly stressful and work intense, particularly compared with the main campus, which surprised me. It is advertised as an LAC approach, which is typically more collaborative, and often more nurturing than one might expect at a larger research U. My D doesn't really want hand-holding, but a supportive environment that encourages exploring new things, and allows the flexibility and time for that ( not swamped with work) is something she is drawn to.
  • aigiqinfaigiqinf Registered User Posts: 4,032 Senior Member
    I don't think Oxford is more stressful due to coursework, it's more because you live on the quad and it's harder to get away from campus.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 12,218 Senior Member
    Glad you started this thread. D hasn't been accepted to either yet but this is something I'm very curious about. Her reaction to Oxford was negative but there were also no students there and Covington just felt too quiet for her - she's doing big cities otherwise. She loved Emory in Decatur.

    Seems to me to be a best of both worlds thing, but she's not so sure.
  • CalifBchDadCalifBchDad Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    My son attended Oxford his first two years, and then Emory's Goizueta Business School. He found Oxford to require more work than high school, though not overwhelmingly so. His first semester was more demanding as he hadn't yet figured out the level of commitment required to achieve his academic goals. Those entering as premed students were often very challenged, and some students that highly achieved in H.S., essentially readjusted their premed goals after confronting the level of work required. Others just bore down and ultimately succeeded. I sense this rigor is more a response to the amount and difficulty of the material than any cut-throat competition between students.

    To maintain merit money commitments, Oxford has raised the minimum GPA requirements of students while in residence. But, my son reported knowledge of only one such student losing merit money, and then only by anecdote.

    Oxford students do go into Covington and Walmart to visit. Scoops, an ice cream parlor in central Oxford, is frequented, as well as some other eateries in the local area. But, they also use school and personal transportation to go to the main campus to see Jimmy Carter and the Dali Lama talk, and to visit Greek parties and regional attractions. On campus entertainment includes a limited number of Div. III athletic teams, intramurals, school organized plays, musical events, lecturers and the like. At Oxford, you don't seek autographs from star athletes, they are more likely down the hall from you and one of your friends.

    My son did find Oxford academically challenging, but also stimulating. He left Oxford with close ties to professors and others in administration. He found time to participate in intramurals and admissions related activities that furthered his public speaking.

    After continuing to the main Emory campus and taking a summer school class, many Oxford students report they are more challenged and better prepared than their peers that commence their education at the main campus. Goizueta is very much a challenge as the business school grades on a stricter curve depriving some of the higher grades they are used to. Goizueta does not appear to flunk students out with the curve. The school appears to only seek a better differentiation between the performance of its students.

    My son traveled to Costa Rica as part of a school sponsored spring break program that included social involvement and travel related elements. Other students have participated in school sponsored spring break events in U.S. based sites. Like many schools, a number of Emory students have traveled as part of their regular school program to a number of countries to study.

    Oxford is indeed quite small, with an entering class of about 450. Many students are more intimately knowledgeable of other students' affairs than would apply at a larger school with the anonymity associated with size. But, Oxford friendships seem to endure onto main campus, while they also widen their circle of friends and associates once at Emory main.

    My son also received merit money which made the decision easy. I don't think he has regretted his Oxford/Emory choice of school. Neither have his parents.
  • shoboemomshoboemom Registered User Posts: 2,058 Senior Member
    @CalifBchDad, Thank you for posting about your son's experience at Oxford / Emory! I do worry about the workload for my D. At some points in HS, it seemed to be just constant very late night studying...starting right after school, and that took its toll. If is a similar workload, it may be fine, since it will also be fewer classes at a time (from 6-7 down to 4-5), and since it isn't every class, every day. Part of what has made it harder in HS is that her program has a very specific set of classes that are required, so often what she had to spend time on were things she has little interest in. She is hopeful to have more flexibility in college.
  • CalifBchDadCalifBchDad Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    @Shoboemom: Any LAC or major university worth its salt will make demands on students, demands to read, research, write and explore an academic topic - they will impose a degree of rigor in the study they call for. I have heard it commonly reported that for every hour in class, three hours outside class on reading, papers and the like is required to succeed. If you have 15 - 16 hours of classes, this amounts to 60 - 64 hours of work per week. Spread over six days, that is 10 - 10.5 hours per week with a day to rest, and at Oxford that is without the need for commuting further than across a quad for study, food, sleep and extra curriculars. Many students do stay up late, even all night. At 60 + years of page, I certainly remember doing so when in college.

    Also, while there are schools that offer a very free form educational structure, with no grades, and very student directed study, most do not. Some that did, e.g., UC Santa Cruz, gave it up. I suspect this is because grades do provide motivation for many and a way to assess achievement. They give a school gravitas with grad schools and employers. Nevertheless, Emory and other schools do offer pass/fail to a limited degree to encourage student exploration into areas they might be interested in but feel insecure about.

    Oxford also requires a certain breadth of study to assure students are exposed to a variety of areas of study. Thus, it is well argued that a science student has reason to know a bit about history, how to research and write a paper. A pre-business student, such as my son, can also benefit from exposure to astronomy or some other science. If all a student studies is a very narrow area of current interest to the student, the student ignores possible areas of interest they haven't even considered. Of course, a narrow area of study is what is pursued in many English universities. American higher education seems more committed to facilitating student growth through a broader exposure to areas of inquiry.

    There necessarily are a certain number of students at Emory and Oxford that are gunning for grades. As you appreciate, that is needed for grad school, it is needed to get into the business school for one's junior year. But, schools like Emory and its Oxford campus are searching through their admissions processes for students that are interested in learning and likely to contribute to that goal and other values the school embraces for the whole academic/student community. As you suggest, a student would be less likely to be exposed to a grade hungry pursuit of academics in courses not frequented by pre-professional students. But, I suggest you overstate the degree to which an Oxford student would feel burdened by such peer students. And the most academically proficient students - those with the highest grades - will be those that want to learn the material, for the sake of learning, to consider different ways the things they learn relate to their world and related learning.

    I have understood an IB course of instruction is indeed rigorous. I suspect that is part of why your daughter was offered merit money. If Oxford admissions staff think that much of her, I suggest she likely has not only the ability to succeed academically without destroying herself, but while still having a rich college experience outside of academics. Indeed, Oxford generally requires that student's live no campus out of an understanding that the education experience is about a lot more than taking classes, doing papers and performing on tests. It is about living in the college environment, being exposed to people from all over the world, to say nothing of the U.S., and exploring a variety of interests beyond one's classes with these new found classmates.

    But, to get more input, I suggest a call to the Oxford admissions office, by your daughter, not you. The tour guides are Oxford students, and many of the admissions counselors are former Oxford students. They will understand the concerns you express and can best advise your daughter concerning those concerns.

  • shoboemomshoboemom Registered User Posts: 2,058 Senior Member
    @CalifbchDad, Thank you so much for that thoughtful response. I appreciate the perspective, particularly in considering the workload. I will definitely be sharing that with my D. I do think she wants an experience that is immersive, and that will require long hours and projects. On the other hand, of her current classes, her biology class has the least homework, but is also the one where she feels she learns the most.

    My concerns specific to Oxford's workload come from reading posts on CC about the Oxford classes perhaps having a heavier workload, and harsher grading, than the same courses on the main campus. That concerns me for the workload itself, and for the effect on the overall GPA for grad school. If the classes start out putting the students at a disadvantage in their grading, then that lends itself to stressing about those grades, and I really don't want that to have to be her focus.

    I think she is very much looking forward to that overall campus experience, beyond the classroom.

    In choosing the classes, I completely agree with the idea of having a variety of courses for liberal arts degree. In her current HS program, the choices are extremely limited, sometimes non-existent. To simply have options for which history class she will take may help quite a bit! Not having to be up everyday for 7:20 am classes will also help!

    We did a tour this past week, and liked what we saw. We appreciated that there were student ambassadors along with the tour guide, and D also went off on her own and spoke to several students in the dining hall, so get a more candid response to her questions. ;-)

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,812 Senior Member
    edited March 2015
    shoboemom, sometimes it helps to remember the source and the forum. Virtually nobody will have taken the same class in both Oxford and Emory, so evidence of 'harsher grading' and 'heavier workload' between campuses is likely to be largely anecdotal. Even a statistical analaysis (eg, saying that more people get As in Subject X at Emory than at Oxford) is not useful, because the student populations are not identical: the entry statistics are different between the two.

    The function of Oxford is to give students who prefer a smaller, LAC, environment a home for the first two years of college. For many students a big part of that is the transition from high school to university, and all that that can imply. For example, capable students who come from weaker high schools have a place to adjust to what is expected in an academically competitive environment, on a more individual basis- and realistically, that adjustment can feel hard to the student. The step-up to the level of work required (and managing the independent work), can be tough. You can be very sure that Oxford's goal is NOT to disadvantage their students- indeed, they love it when their students shine after the transition to Emory!

    If your daughter has been struggling with course requirements that don't suit her, and workloads that don't seem to relate to the amount of actually learning, pretty much any good college is going to feel wonderful. But- she should look at the GenEd/Distribution requirements for the colleges that she is applying to, to be sure that they are not too similar to high school. There are students who find Oxford/Emory's requirements constricting.

    She should be also be clear that Emory has a strong pre-professional emphasis, and with that goes a lot of competitiveness for grades.
  • shoboemomshoboemom Registered User Posts: 2,058 Senior Member
    Thank you @collegemom3717. This is such an emotional ride. Sometimes it is hard to maintain a very logical perspective. Reading reviews, hearing stories...sometimes that's all you have to go on, and that can make for some wild swings in how you view a school! lol

    We will definitely look closely at the general education requirements. Thank you!
  • bernie12bernie12 Registered User Posts: 5,293 Senior Member
    I don't know if I would buy anything about the admissions statistics as they aren't really but so different (standardized testing wise at least, GPA, that is a slightly different story). Courses are primarily governed by the instructor and the syllabus they make. I'll give an example from my perspective, the sciences. What one will notice (this is definitely relevant for those who are pre-health) is that introductory courses (the 100-level ones) tend to be more difficult at Oxford simply because of the design of the syllabus and the lab component (though the lab for say, biology on main, has changed quite a bit and is much more rigorous, though still not like Oxford), but what is interesting is that say, the chemistry department on main has some "rigor" strongholds, some in general chemistry (but much lesser so) and many in organic and analytical chemistry. The organic chemistry instructors I speak of write exams more akin to what you would expect to see at a place like MIT, Harvard, or Caltech (in fact, they may honestly be flat out more difficult), but these are exceptions....In general, intermediate courses are probably very similar at either. I cannot comment on other disciplines, but I would imagine Oxford having more rigor by virtue of size and having a solid student body. Having rigor in large lecture classes in say...anthropology, cost more time and resources (mainly because of grading). This is naturally less of a problem at Oxford. But again, that is only speculation on the non-science courses at one versus the other. The idea is that main will be more hit or miss due to the large variation in size of courses (this is not to say that a large social science or humanities class can't be particularly rigorous, but it is just to say that it is less likely especially when the course is taught by a tenure or tenure track instructor). A lot of rigor and workload honestly just comes down to some mixture of politics and convenience.
  • xyxx97xyxx97 Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me about the social scene at Oxford? What is there to do on weekends? I understand that Emory has frats so what do Oxford students do instead
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