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Chances at Oxford/Cambridge/ICL/UCL?

elzillaelzilla Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
edited March 2013 in United Kingdom
Hi CC community
Haven't posted in the longest time - I'm a junior hoping to apply to some UK schools next year from Canada, so I'm an int'l student :/
I'd love it if you guys could take some time to chance me. I get that some of these schools are a crapshoot, but any input would be great.

Intended undergrad: Engineering (chemical or electrical)
GPA: 4.0
WGPA: 4.6
Secondary School Diploma Avg : 98%

IB Score: 44/45, HL Math 7, HL Chem 7, HL physics 7, SL Lit. 6, SL French 7, SL World History 7

SAT: 2350 - 800 math, 780 CR, 770 W
Rank: Our school doesn't do ranking, but top 5% of grade since gr 10, most likely 1st or 2nd
Income: low, ~40k
Special Awards: AIME (AMC) Invitation x1, VEX World Robotics Tournament invitation x2, PSAT Commended student score req., Ranked top 50 in NA for MUN, 4 Gold Scholastic Keys, 12 Silver Scholastic Keys, 4 Hon. Mentions, Various Poetry Contests, Poetry Publications, Multiple Math contest awards (Waterloo contests, Mathematica Contests, AMC Contests), 2nd in province for DECA, qualified for ICDC, Canada Wide Science Fair Silver Medal, Intel Science and Engineering Fair - Team Canada, 4th place grand prize award, Various MUN awards

EC's: Head of Computer Building Club, Head of Robotics Club, Head of Programming Club, Sec-Gen of MUN, Head of Math Society, Head of Science Club, Head of Literary Publication, Tutor Leader at Horizons (tutoring/comm service program), Varsity Crew (2 years as a cox), Varsity Badminton (2 years), Head of World Affairs Conference

Summer activities:
Grade 10 Summer - Lab research at University of Toronto with an oxford, harvard, stanford alumnus
Grade 11 Summer - Further Lab Research at U of T on science fair topic

Job/Work Experience: Tutor for several math programs, Tutor for SSAT Programs, internships
Volunteer Experience: ~400 hours, attended Canadian youth volunteer summit, consistent volunteering at an old age home

Country: CANADA
Hooks: serious 1/10,000,000 allergy condition... though i don't know if this works in my favour
Ethnicity: African - indian (3 generations in africa, before that; browntown!)
Sex: M
Post edited by elzilla on
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Replies to: Chances at Oxford/Cambridge/ICL/UCL?

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,214 Senior Member
    I really don't like to be snarky, but....your post is the worst kind of CC post. It is basically a brag-fest, and your false modesty does not become you.

    On a more practical level, you have also clearly not done the slightest research on any of the unis, or the UK system in general. If you had, you would know that the UK admissions system is based on national testing, not the portfolio approach of testing, continuous assessment, ECs, and 'hooks' of the US. So, out of your whole long post, the only relevant bits are:

    IB Score: 44, HL Math 7, HL Chem 7, HL physics 7
    SAT: 2350

    ECs, except as you relate them specifically to your course in your Personal Statement, are irrelevant (unless you are a Blues level rower).

    And your rare, serious allergy- really? besides your mum, who would care, and why would that make you a better choice as a candidate?!

    Really, truly, if you are half as smart as the picture you painted, much less a viable Cambridge or Oxford candidate you need to be able to do a little research. There is plenty of information online.
  • cupcakecupcake Registered User Posts: 1,703 Senior Member
    ITA with collegemom in every way!

    Whether you mean it to or not, your post comes across as bragging. You want praise, but you're not going to get any as nothing in the above post is relevant to admission to any UK uni, apart from IB scores. Even these scores are not relevant if we don't know what subject you are applying for.

    You are considering going to university - and that means living there for at least 3 years - in a different culture. Don't expect anything to be the same. The UK values focussed academic students. The less "well-rounded" your application the better. They would look at the above and think "spends no time studying at all".
  • elzillaelzilla Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    Well, thank you for your feedback.
    I'd like to say that I had no intention of being "braggy" at all, I simply tried to model my post in a similar fashion to the posts in University Results threads seen in other parts of the forum (perhaps see other stats threads).
    I suppose more research on the UK system is in order, as what I understood was similar to what Cupcake said, that they only really care about things that are related to the field that I would like to go into. And at the top, I said Chemical Engineering (possibly electrical), but I will most likely apply for chemistry.

    Sorry, I guess I'm more used to the US schools forums :/ UK forums seem to be pretty harsh.
  • boomtingboomting Registered User Posts: 716 Member
    What has been said above is correct, and I would point you in the direction of The Student Room and UCAS to do some more research.

    As part of your application you will need to write a 4000 character personal statement. This should be focused on why you want to study the subject, and no more than 25% should be about any ECs you have. Any ECs should be related back to the subject you want to study where possible.

    And hooks don't exist in UK applications, and nor does any sort of ethnic diversity thing. The only real active strive towards diversity is in terms of helping bright, working class UK kids to get to the application stage, and helping with the application itself. They won't give a tuppeney damn what your skin colour is.
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,214 Senior Member
    Ironically, I find the student room to be a nicer place overall than CC, mostly b/c there is less bragging...

    to be fair to you elzilla, your post was in line with CC style- you just didn't do anything at all to inform yourself about the differences between the US and UK systems. Because the UK system is so numbers driven, chancing is easier (up to a point). Good numbers will get you an interview unless your reference & personal statement are weak.

    The interview is also very different than what you are used to- a cross between an oral exam and a tutorial (class). You are given problems on material that you are unfamiliar with and asked to solve them, the objective being to see how you approach it, how you problem solve and how you respond to the tutorial format. There is absolutely no way to know what your chances are from that point on- people who think that their interviews went horribly often get offers, and people who think that they want perfectly often don't.

    The interview stuff is for Ox & Camb, obvs-
  • elzillaelzilla Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    Tuppeney damn :D I have to say, I've read some british literature, but never seen that expression!

    @Collegemom, As i read up a bit more on the UK system, I was a bit confused. It seemed easier, and harder in a way. Easier in the sense that the bare "requirements" were a lot lower than Ivy leagues, but the personal statement and interviews carried so much weight (not to say that US schools' interviews don't).
    Also, to clarify. Among my EC's, which ones do you think carry the most weight?
    I'd think Robotics, Math, Science, and possibly Comp Building + Programming? The first set of EC's kind of lead into my math and science awards, which is why I thought they might be pertinent.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    hate to butt in, but how are you gonna afford it?


    there's no financial aid in the UK, tuition for internationals starts at 12 grand, and engineering programmes typically run higher.

    also, UCL for engineering? never heard of such a thing.

    but your academic stats are good. the interview does carry a huge amount of weight, but there are individual kinds of every school to be considered as well. for instance, if you interview well, apply to cambridge over oxford because oxford dings 2/3 of applicants before interview, whereas cambridge interviews the majority. if you're serious, i'd find somebody who has experience with the british system to guide you.
  • elzillaelzilla Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    Thanks for the advice :)
    It seems like the 'rents may procure a higher paying job this year, but if not, I read something about student loans on the oxford website, for canadians. That may be an option, though it will be cumbersome after uni!
    Of course, there is always the chance that I'll pursue something in the US, like MIT, Berkeley, Yale, Caltech, etc.
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,214 Senior Member
    elzilla, in some ways the UK system is actually easier than the US system for US students (it is more cut-and-dried upfront) but don't be fooled by the minimums. They *say* 3 5's on APs, but all the US students that I know with Oxford offers have at least 6, and usually more.

    Also, in some (but not all!) ways it can be less stressful for a North American candidate than a UK candidate, because many NA students already have enough AP / IB / SAT scores by autumn of final year to get an unconditional offer, whereas only UK students who have actually finished final years will be in that position. However, if you get a conditional offer it is harder, b/c all your friends will be done, and you will still have exams- and you have to get the required marks. I know an international applicant who had an offer for Physics at Cambridge last year; she met her conditions- which were tough- but fell 2 points short on their Physics Aptitude Test and lost her place (Cambridge gives their PAT at the end of final year, whereas Oxford uses it to make cuts before interviews/offers, which I think is kinder).

    Although it is true that Cambridge interviews more people, you are more likely to get a place if you make it to interview at Oxford. In either place, you will want a little help- find somebody who knows with *relevant* experience to role play an interview. There is absolutely no comparison with US & UK interviews: in the US they are almost always alumnae interviews these days, and they are only given weight if they throw up something astonishing. At Oxbridge, the interviews are with the people who will be your tutors (professors)- the people with whom you will spend an hour/week alone (or with one, max 2, other students) in intense discussion. As noted above & elsewhere, what they are looking for is really good minds that they will enjoy teaching. Go to itunes and look for the Oxford application series (free)- very useful.

    As for which of your ECs are best, this is a good summer project (also a good time to write your PS). You will want to pick the *exact* course you want- so read the description of the course at Oxford, Cambridge, wherever. Look at the courses you take, etc. Then line up the subject that you want to apply to with your academic and EC work and make your case: show why you want to study that subject intensively for the next 3 years. Use your ECs to show how your interest and understanding in the area have developed.

    As for costs, depending on your financial circumstances, a UK uni could well be as affordable as a US uni. It is unlikely to be worse!

    Spend on time on the student room site (lurk a bit to get the feel of it before you jump in)- you will learn everything you need to know, and you can get feedback on your PS from current students (free).
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    The original post didn't strike me as "bragging", it just seemed like a typical cc post. And yes, almost entirely irrelevant for UK admissions. I don't see how the rest of us can be angry at a Canadian kid (a junior in High School, so probably 16-17) for not understanding the UK admissions process, that's what we are here to discuss and help with questions. It's very hard for young people who have lived their whole lives in the same country to understand how different other countries are.

    The ONLY ECs (including jobs, volunteering, awards, etc) that will be relevant for admissions are those directly related to your intended major (as the Brits say, the "course" that you will be "reading"). So no sports, or poetry/literary, or anything not directly related to Engineering.

    Also remember that it is really not practical to apply to BOTH Oxford and Cambridge, you will need to pick one or the other.

    KEVP
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,214 Senior Member
    ...actually, it's not just impractical to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge: it is explicitly forbidden, and the UCAS form won't allow it.

    Also, not angry at a kid for not understanding the UK system- just impatient with people who don't do even rudimentary homework before asking questions.

    Also, also, anybody thinking of going to the UK does need to learn that 1) CC style self-promotion does not go down well in the UK and 2) there is much less-hand holding in the UK, so you have to take the initiative. Frankly, anybody with all the accolades he has listed should have been able to to do a bit more research in the first place.

    But- perhaps a bit harsh, hence the more helpful follow-ups :-)
  • kilojoulekilojoule Registered User Posts: 66 Junior Member
    OP, I think you have decent stats, though bear in mind on UCAS you can only choose one from either Oxford or Cambridge, not both. Plus, UK degrees tend to be quite specialized, so you would have to choose between chemical and electrical (which are quite different), unless you manage to get into Cambridge, where you can take general engineering courses in first year before specializing later on. Your grades look great, so it would come down to how you perform in the interview (though some UK schools may not do interviews outside the EU). Put those ECs and how they relate to your intended major in the personal statement, get good references and you should be fine.
    also, UCL for engineering? never heard of such a thing.

    UCL does have an engineering faculty, and quite prominent at that. Though of course, probably less well known in North America than in Europe. I would especially recommend the electronic and electrical engineering department here.
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,214 Senior Member
    Many international applicants do go to the UK for interviews, but Oxford at least will do them by Skype as well.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    UCL does have an engineering faculty, and quite prominent at that. Though of course, probably less well known in North America than in Europe. I would especially recommend the electronic and electrical engineering department here.

    UCL has everything under the sun, of course. however, it's more of a league with nottingham than imperial. i'm about as far from engineering as you can get, but i don't remember people ****ing themselves about getting into UCL for engineering.
  • TheRealKEVPTheRealKEVP - Posts: 986 Member
    It is worth pointing out that because of cultural differences between the USA and the UK, something which is considered "normal speech" in the USA can be considered "bragging" in the UK. I would imagine Canadians might have the same problem. It is something that people visiting or living in the UK need to be aware of. And people in the UK tend to a bit insular (living on an island and all) so often they don't realize that there are these cultural differences, and they think that foreigners are intentionally "bragging" or otherwise being rude, when they are just behaving normally according to their own culture.
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