Students aspiring to Oxbridge should develop their intellectual abilities around subjects they are passionate about – even if they are perceived to be common and unimpressive.
The advice comes from an academic who has spent five years training students for the Oxbridge admissions process.
Dr Christopher See, who teaches in the Faculty of Medicine at Manchester University, says that displaying a genuine interest in a subject is better than doing something for the sake of an admissions form.
For example, he argues that a passion for playing video games can be developed into academic study looking at the socio-cultural behaviour in online groups, while budding stand-up comedians might look at the linguistics and origin of humour or the neuro-biological mechanisms of laughter.
He says that genuine originality, commitment and curiosity of this kind will impress Oxbridge admissions tutors much more than a faked interest in traditional subjects. Dr See, a Cambridge graduate himself, explained: “People excel in what they are passionate about. Don’t do things for the sake of an admissions form, but for your own personal growth.
“Pupils of this age are often very poor actors and are easily found-out if they pretend to be interested in something they are not.
“The Oxbridge application is about hard work, but also passion and enthusiasm. I help pupils take a seed of interest and develop it in ways they may not have considered before. It’s this love of what they do that will sustain them when they are overworked and pushed to their limits.”
Dr See, who is also a medic at University Hospital Aintree, is the author of a new book, entitled How to Get Into Oxbridge, which was published last month.
He also suggests regular meetings to help handle the intense pressure that candidates often feel. He outlines an “Oxbridge strategy” for family, friends and teachers, with weekly parent-student meetings to avoid regular interrogation from parents, and codes of behaviour that guarantee glowing teacher references.
How to Get into Oxbridge (Kogan Page) costs £14.99.