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Can I get an interview at Oxford?

LimmionLimmion 10 replies2 threads New Member
I'm a soon to be high school senior from the United States looking at applying to overseas universities. Reading about oxford, it seems like the first hurdle is getting an interview, so I wanted to know if my current stats are enough. I want to study biology.
GPA
~3.7.5 unweighted
~4.25 weighted
APs:
Biology - taking this exam in 2021
Physics 1 - 4
Physics 2 - 5
Calculus BC - 5
Calculus AB subscore - 5
Psychology - 5
Statistics - 5
World History - 4
Environmental science - taking this exam in 2021
Macroeconomics - taking this exam in 2021
gov - taking this in 2021

SATs:
SAT - 1520
Biology - 800
Chemistry - 730
world history - 710
Physics - 800
Math 2 - 800.

Extracurriculurs:
County science fair winner in health science
State science fair qualifier (canceled due to coronavirus)
Intern at oncology lab
VP of 2 school clubs
4 years track and field

I'm mainly concerned about the fact that I won't have an AP bio test score by the time admissions role around. I know about conditional offers, but I don't know if they apply to US applicants. I'm also looking into imperial, ucl, and edinburgh, along with LSE if I decide to major in economics.
15 replies
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Replies to: Can I get an interview at Oxford?

  • HazeGreyHazeGrey 272 replies4 threads Junior Member
    There is no written work or admissions test for Biology, so your application is going to need to really "pop" in order to get shortlisted for interview.

    You meet the minimum criteria for US students with your SAT/AP/SAT2 scores. The 5s in BC and Physics 2 will help as will the 800s on Bio & Math 2 as UK students are expected to show results in Bio as well as either Math, Physics or Chemistry.

    You are going to need a strong personal statement about your dedication to bio and why you want to study it. Have you done any extracurricular/independent research that you can talk about? You're also going to need a strong LoR (in the Oxford style), so you will need to think about who could do that for you.

    Oxford just initiated a four year undergraduate masters in bio this year, so you can apply for that or the traditional three year undergrad program.

    Lots of info on the Oxford website.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    Agree entirely with @HazeGrey.

    Re: conditional offers- yes, US students can and do get "conditional" offers. Given that it's Biology that you are applying for I wouldn't be surprised to see that score as part of a conditional offer.

    ps, that you aren't sure whether you want to study Bio or Econ is a concern, partly for admissions but mostly for the course itself.

    For admissions, you only write one personal statement (PS) that *all* of the places you apply to see. I am hard pressed to think of a PS that would be equally compelling as a 'why I am suited to this course' for both Bio & Econ.

    For the course, UK courses are highly structured (especially in England- you get a little more wiggle room in Scotland, thanks to the extra year). You don't "major" you "read" your specific subject- you can see what you study year by year on each uni's website. Do not expect to see much in the way of options in Y1, and only limited ones in Y2 & Y3. Do expect to see meaningful differences in the courses. Both Oxford and Imperial are famously intense- if you aren't really committed to your subject it can be hard going.

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  • LimmionLimmion 10 replies2 threads New Member
    Thanks for the replies, I have indeed done independent biological research (for science fair), and I can get either my biology teacher or my PI during my time at a lab to write me a letter of recommendation, I'm sure both will write me a great one, but I do know that my relationship with my PI is a lot stronger than my teacher. As for my indecision with biology or econ, I'm genuinely interested in both. As of now, I'm wholeheartedly interested in reading biology
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    You only get one LoR & it has to come from your school
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  • LimmionLimmion 10 replies2 threads New Member
    ok thanks, I can ask my biology teacher for one. Truth be told, I already took AP bio my junior year, however, because of coronavirus, and how important the exam was to me, I decided to cancel it and take it in 2021. I really do enjoy biology, and I'm confident in my knowledge and reasoning in the field. I know that the real hurdle is the interview, and nothing can fully prepare me for that experience, as it is designed to test you, but I do hope that my experience in an actual lab designing experiments and forming hypotheses can help me. Thank you so much for the help you'vs given me so far.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    Keep coming back as you go- there are a bunch of parents with students in the UK on the forum, so lots of info and support available.

    Have you looked at Durham? Collegiate (like Oxbridge), great college experience, well ranked, and their (very strong) biological sciences course is more flexible than many.
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  • LimmionLimmion 10 replies2 threads New Member
    I've heard a lot about Durham, and that they're particularly strong for STEM, I have it as one of the universities i'm applying to on UCAS. The reason I am interested in oxford in the first place is because of the tutorial system, which seems like a great and more intimate method for nurturing students and developing skills. From what I know about US colleges, especially the more reputable ones like the UCs, the professors don't care about students and care more about independent research. I genuinely love biology and I hope to develop myself as much as possible during university, and I'm honestly open to attending any university that can develop me as a student.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    Ime it's a bit more nuanced than that - on both ends.

    Probably true that, in general, profs at very large state unis are not as involved with students, esp at the first level (eg, Bio 101/201)- but that is as much a function of size as anything (hence TAs). At a very big school, in general, it will take a bit more push from the student to develop the relationship with the prof.- but it happens regularly. More importantly, the degree of prof involvement with students varies tremendously by college & program- as does the degree of support from the college. At US colleges profs have regular office hours, where you can go and get support/academic help, as well as an advisor, who is meant to follow you all the way through your undergraduate years..

    Those does not exist in the same way in the UK. Yes, there is the direct interaction of the tutorial (which for bio I think is 1x/week)- but the rest of your experience will be *much* more independent. Both the faculty and admin are much more hands-off than is typical in the US.

    I have studied, worked and had collegekids in both systems, and both have their pluses and minuses. If you are looking for more involved support from professors you will find it best at US LAC (eg, Pomona, Williams - which has tutorials btw) or a not-huge university (for ex, Duke, Rice). If you are self-directed and like to work very independently the UK is a great option. Your stats say that you will develop well as a student in either system, so go for what fits you best.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2257 replies21 threads Senior Member
    "Nurturing" is not a word that comes to mind to describe Oxbridge tutorials/supervisions. "Intellectually challenging" would be closer to the mark. Grading is much harsher than in a US college environment (typically you need 70% to get a first, which is much tougher than the 90% needed to get an A in the US). It wouldn't be surprising to fail to solve 20%-30% of the problems on a problem set. Doing math, even the supervisors would occasionally fail to solve one of the problems (since they weren't provided with solution sheets by the lecturer).

    And as @collegemom3717 says, outside the tutorials, you have to be very independent. In many ways it is quite like the experience at places like UCLA, where everything is student run and you have to be self motivated (and competitive) to get involved in things. And in the UK strong relationships with professors aren't that common as an undergraduate (except perhaps social ones with the tutor responsible for your welfare or a club you run).
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  • HazeGreyHazeGrey 272 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I would second @Twoin18 's view. Only one tutor in his college comes to mind where my son has a close relationship. As you get to higher level classes with smaller enrollment, tutors are often in a different college, so you will only see them in tutorial. No experience with it as my son is a mathmo, but would guess that things differ somewhat between essay based classes and problem sheet based classes.
    Much more important for him is the relationship that he has developed with his peers on the same/similar course. In his year, out of the 15 admitted in his college for maths & joint schools, seven are living together next year (plus one token earth scientist).
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  • LimmionLimmion 10 replies2 threads New Member
    I'm not concerned about the relationship I may build with tutors, I just want an experience that will actually allow me to learn. I have many friends and relatives who have gone through the UC/UT/Private school systems not having learned anything, with the administration not even acknowledging complaints lodged by students against professors who don't even bother to properly teach. Both my parents are professors/work for UC schools and both have criticized the system as being bad for students but good for professors, with a horrible bureaucracy that enables this.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    edited July 17
    lol "token earth scientist" !

    @HazeGrey makes a good point: the comparatively hands-off approach at the 'adult' (tutors/admin) level is balanced by the tight bonds that develop between students, by subject one way and college the other. The students watch out for each other to an extraordinary degree.
    edited July 17
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2257 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Just like in many research universities, Oxbridge academics are not hired or promoted for their teaching abilities but for their research pre-eminence. Any ability to teach effectively is a fortunate coincidence, so the experience will be hit and miss regardless of format. In many cases research ability is negatively correlated with teaching ability, I remember some notoriously bad lectures from Fields Medal winners.

    That’s a major difference with LACs in the US that do recruit for teaching ability.

    And as far as learning goes, the key skill you need for success in the UK is the ability to revise and remember vast quantities of information for your end of year exams. You’ll literally spend a couple of weeks just revising the years work on your own, all day every day before the exam. No easy continuous assessment or open book tests like in the US. You need to realize that U.K. students have had years of practice doing that as the entire school system is geared to high stakes long tail testing. So you’d better enjoy (and be good at) that style of work if you are going to do well.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8161 replies87 threads Senior Member
    edited July 17
    @Limmion, sorry to hear that your relatives & friends have had such bad experiences.

    I don't want to push either the US or UK system- as I posted earlier, they both have their strengths. Oxford collegekid *loved* the full-on, intense focus on the subject she has loved since she was quite small. LAC collegekid *loved* the small classes of smart, engaged students- and the ability to take a wide variety of classes across disciplines. Small uni collegekid *loved* the collegiate experience- a middle ground between the independence of the UK approach and the up-close & personal LAC. Too early to say for large uni collegekid! (coming up this autumn). It's horses for courses, and obviously nobody on CC knows you well enough to know what will suit you best.

    That said, I wonder if LACs like Swarthmore / Vassar / Wesleyan, or a smaller unis like UChic or Barnard might be environments that would suit you?
    edited July 17
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  • TigerleTigerle 715 replies6 threads Member
    edited July 27
    I’ve actually had what I’d call nurturing relationships (and horrible relationships) with Oxbridge tutors.

    Note that my frame of reference at the time was continental European universities, where people would tell you that if you want nurturing, go to nursery school. In fact, other continental European students would liken the experience at Oxbridge to nursery school in jest - “handholding“ and “spoon-feeding” were other terms being used. (For the record, I never felt this disparaging, but simply enjoyed the difference in experience).

    Students from the US, on the contrary, tended to be disappointed, feeling their tutors at Oxbridge were cold, distant or indifferent.

    Agree that if you want nurturing, you should probably look at US LACs, too.
    If you want more independence, Oxbridge may be the Goldilocks experience for you that it was for me.
    edited July 27
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