Oxbridge numbers through the roof!

Dated: 7 February 2024

Principal Sugra Alibhai (L) with (just some!) of our 43 Oxbridge hopefuls
 
Last week, Woodhouse College students and staff were stunned to hear that an incredible 43 students have been offered a place at Oxford or Cambridge. An unprecedented number from our already successful Oxbridge application support programme.
 
The offers, split fairly evenly between the universities, come from a diverse range of subjects including Ancient and Modern History, Biochemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Classics, Economics, English Language and Literature, Law, Music, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Philosophy and Theology, PPE, Engineering… the list goes on.
 
Principal Sugra Alibhai said “It is just so wonderful to see such a jump in the number of Oxbridge offers. 43 of our students have an offer and we couldn’t be more delighted for them. It is a testament to their hard work, intellectual curiosity, and resilience. It is also a reflection of the support offered by teachers, heads of department and our fantastic Oxbridge coordinators at Woodhouse."
 
Woodhouse physics teacher and Oxbridge coordinator, Razi Hassan, told us “My role is to prepare students for Oxbridge applications, by providing information, resources, and guidance every step along the way, to make sure their applications are as strong as possible. This includes running workshops and 1-1 sessions with UCAS personal statement, exam preparation and interview guidance.
 
I also run Oxbridge Academy where like-minded students can get together and form study groups and discuss super-curricular activities, and I give advice to students and parents about choosing a course and a college. We also run regular trips to Oxford and Cambridge so students can get a real sense of what studying at Oxbridge is like.
 
The principal Sugra Alibhai and maths teacher Nimrod Nehushtan are also part of the Oxbridge coordination team. Nimrod currently looks after the Lower Sixth and will be seeing them through to their application in October. I’ve been looking after the Upper Sixth this year and next year, will take the new lowers through the cycle. Sugra oversees the team as well as taking personal oversight over the humanities hopefuls.
 
Why do we have so many offers this year? There’s no simple singular answer to this – it’s a combination of the many aspects of the programme that we’ve been putting into place over the past few years. Having 1-1 guidance at key points in the cycle has been a definite help, along with targeting external help when needed. We work hard to understand the Oxbridge applications process and this expertise is really starting to pay off. It also helps to have amazing students who are hardworking and dedicated and so willing to take advice on board.
 
Laila, 17 from Hatfield, has an offer from the University of Cambridge to study History and needs to get A*AA (A* in History). She came to Woodhouse from Sherrardwood School. She told us…
 
“The application process was challenging as there are a lot of extra steps for applying to Cambridge. For my college I had to submit two essays and do an admissions test. Woodhouse was honestly so helpful, the history department hosted weekly lunchtime sessions for history Oxbridge applicants where we discussed the topic of history as a discipline and some university level topics. We also practiced analysing primary sources (for the interview), had admissions test prep, and interview practice. My history teacher also helped me choose the essays that I submitted, and multiple teachers from the department gave me advice on my personal statement.
 
I was balancing a lot during the process, I was doing history coursework, English coursework and my EPQ in the run up to my interview so that was really challenging. The period between my interview and offer day was also really nerve-wracking.I was convinced that my second interview had been a trainwreck. I know everyone says that but genuinely, I was convinced that I would be rejected, so I was shocked, but I was beyond happy. It meant a lot to my family here and back in Egypt, being the first generation to grow up here. My parents are Egyptian immigrants, my mum went to Cairo University and my Dad went to one in 6th October city (near Cairo). They were really proud, it was just a dream come true, especially since they have all sacrificed a lot for me to be here.
 
I would like to take my studies further and get a masters. Afterwards, I’m not really sure, maybe writing and conducting research working at a university, or journalism.I am so grateful that I came to Woodhouse, I honestly don’t think that I would have even applied to Cambridge if I hadn’t come here. I’m really going to miss it when I leave in June.”
 
Nenye, 17 from Mill Hill, has an offer from the University of Oxford to study Law and needs to get AAA. She came to Woodhouse from St Mary's & St John's C Of E High School. She told us…
 
“How do I feel about getting an offer? Absolutely ecstatic! I was so pleased with myself for taking the chance and applying. And for having all my hard work recognised and shine through in my application (both from myself and all those that took the time to help me every step of the way) despite uncertainty on how well I had done in my interviews. This offer means a lot to me (a dream come true) and I, along with my family, are so happy! My next step is to work just as hard to meet and exceed my offer.
 
Applying to Oxford was very challenging but also an interesting learning opportunity that made me even more passionate about law. I started from early on in year 12, doing a mix of super curriculars - reading law books, watching lectures, and going to law events, from which I got to explore and develop my interest in specific areas of law. Afterwards, it was a race against time to practice for my LNAT, finish writing my personal statement, submit my UCAS application and prepare for interviews.
 
I was very stressed and quite overwhelmed throughout as I had to juggle my 4 A level subjects with their associated workloads, assignments, and coursework - as well as revise for my November mocks whilst trying to make sure to stay on top of all it, including reading and doing any other super curriculars at the time.
 
That said, I was very well supported and I couldn't have gotten through it all without the help of Woodhouse law teacher Ms Schaffer (who helped me on everything from personal statement to interview prep), Ms Tweed (who helped me with my personal statement and extra reading), Ms Alibhai (current form teacher), Ms Hagi (previous form teacher), Ms Foster (Careers Manager / UCAS Coordinator), friends (both within college and outside) and family - they all helped me to improve my application and make it the best it could be.
 
I hope to put my law degree into practice by eventually becoming a solicitor at an international law firm, helping clients on a day-to-day basis with all their legal problems and perhaps later, I can work towards becoming a judge on the Supreme court.
 
Woodhouse is an amazing, friendly and welcoming college that has really helped me grow into my own as an individual - I'm more independent, confident and sociable. I have had amazing support here - both through friendships and teachers/staff, and I wouldn't change anything about my time here.”
 
Anais, 18 from Belsize Park, has an offer from The Queen’s College in Oxford to study English. She came to Woodhouse from Parliament Hill School. She told us…
 
“I need two A’s to get in because I already received an A in my German A level last year. (I did apply for both Classics and English joint but was only offered a space for English).
 
My application process was quite stressful, but my teachers were so incredibly reassuring and helpful. Teachers Ms Conaghan and Miss Snoad gave me so much help with the interview prep. and with the admissions tests. The admissions test workshop the school set up was also incredibly useful I learnt completely new ways to analyse texts and really enjoyed it. It made me realise that I had picked the right subject and made me really excited about going to uni.
 
I also feel like it should be noted that Ms Conaghan isn’t even my actual teacher - she just set up the ‘English at university’ teams, meaning she took time out to help a random student with multiple interview practices and organized weekly admission test meetings. This didn’t just help us in a practical way, it also allowed all the English applicants to just sit and talk about any new information we’d learnt and support each other in general.
 
Ms Snoad also gave me so much of her time, she would mark some of the practice admission tests that didn’t have online answers and gave me a space to practice one in timed conditions on a school computer which really allowed me to have a proper experience of what the admission test would be like, giving me so much confidence on the actual day (even though the test was not considered for both classics and English in the end).
 
After my degree I hope to either work in film or theatre, possibly as a writer or director, but I’m also very interested in publishing and would love to work as an editor. I don’t really mind; I just love the idea of being able be a part in the creation of new stories and ideas.
 
I really do actually love Woodhouse, I just love how much I’ve learnt from such a variety of teachers, even the ones who don’t actually have me in their classes like my Woodhouse Plus teacher.”
 
Aleya, 17 from Enfield, has an offer from the University of Oxford to study History and needs to get AAA. She came to Woodhouse from Kingsmead School. She told us…
 
“My mum passed away of breast cancer in December 2021, so I’ve had to complete my application alongside going through the grieving process which has come with its fair share of difficulties.
 
I completed my GCSE exams shorty after my bereavement, hence whilst I received good grades and was proud of my performance due to the circumstance I was under, I have always felt that those grades were not an accurate reflection of my performance. I wanted A levels to be my opportunity to actually demonstrate my capabilities. This was definitely a huge motivator for my application, and it meant so much to me to be successful in my efforts.
 
My application process was definitely stressful, it felt never-ending to be totally honest – there were so many different things to complete. But it was also pretty enjoyable, getting to collate pieces of work I’m especially proud of and discuss in greater depth why I’m passionate about my subject. I felt supported by the college - my history teachers were really supportive in helping me prepare for my admissions test (HAT) which was so greatly appreciated.
 
My Woodhouse experience has been highly positive so far, I’ve been lucky enough to have been supported by great teachers, but also my lovely friends who have been nothing but enthusiastic throughout the process.”
 
Kate, 17 from Barnet has an offer from the University of Oxford to study Biochemistry and needs to get AAA*. She came to Woodhouse from St Michael's Catholic Grammar School. She told us…
 
“I'm not sure what I want to do with my degree, I've just picked a subject which really interests me, and is something I think I'd like to study for four years of my life.
 
Applying was very stressful in my opinion, but only because I did everything so last minute. The college helped me with mock interviews; however, I did not accept much other help since I wanted to do a lot of it independently. I also wrote my personal statement in only nine days before the Woodhouse deadline, though I do not recommend that approach.
 
How do I feel about getting an offer? Kind of stressed, since it is a little bit of added pressure. My family are really proud of me, but if I choose not to go Oxford, they will support my decision.”
 
Roxy, 17 from Potters Bar, has an offer from the University of Cambridge to study Land Economy and needs to get A*AA (A* in economics). She came to Woodhouse from Bishops Hatfield Girls' School. She told us…
 
"I was initially thinking I would go down the banking and finance route after uni, however the good thing about Land Economy is that it's a very broad subject which allows me to go down a range of other routes like law and jobs to do with environmental sustainability. So, if I get the grades I need and take Land Economy, I will likely see what bit of the course I enjoy the most and go into a job in that field.
 
The application process was relatively straight forward for me as I saw my sister (currently in second year Cambridge) go through the same thing, so I knew what to expect. Land economy also got rid of their entrance exam two years ago which made it even easier.
 
The college was helpful in sending out extra-curricular stuff to do for your personal statement. For example, the Caius Explore Land Economy essay competition was posted on the Oxbridge teams, which meant that I could write about it in my personal statement and go to a celebratory lunch. The geography department also sent round a separate Cambridge geography competition.Together, these competitions gave me a lot to talk about in my personal statement and the interview.
 
I also had multiple practice interviews with my teachers at Woodhouse. Land Economy has elements of both geography and economics, and teachers from both departments gave me separate interviews to prepare for. I think this really helped as they gave me feedback and helped me feel comfortable when talking in front of different people.
 
The most stressful parts of the application process were waiting to see if I would get an interview, the interview itself and waiting for the final decision. However, it was good because Woodhouse is a high achieving school which meant a lot of other people had applied were in a similar situation. This also meant that I could practice preparing for the interview with other students.
 
I had mixed feelings about my offer because I had been pooled to another college that I thought I didn't particularly like - Murray Edwards, an all-girls college that arguably looks like a high security prison from the outside. However, I know it is a big deal getting the offer and I am proud of myself. Since then, I've seen the college and have, surprisingly, really grown to like it, which means that my excitement has grown.
 
My Woodhouse experience is going great! It's a great sixth form because it's a lot easier to be a high achiever academically - due to the great support and teaching. It is also a good atmosphere. It is such a large college that you can talk to lots of people and find people like you, which makes the experience very enjoyable. It also made the transition into the second year easy.” 


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