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    Navigating the Oxford Application Journey: Every Step Counts


    19 Jan, 2024

    17 : 30

    Last week, we shared wonderful news about admission offers from prestigious universities around the world for our YCYW Class of 2024. For example, Tony from YCIS Hong Kong, Bella from YWIES Guangzhou, and Eason from YWIES Shanghai Lingang all received conditional offers from the University of Oxford.


    The aura of the University of Oxford is undeniable. It is one of the world's oldest universities and currently holds third place in the "2024 QS World University Rankings". According to Mr Nick Strong, Division Head of Careers and University Guidance Office (CUGO), "To apply for the University of Oxford is an outstanding achievement, to get an interview is quite remarkable, and to get an offer puts the student in the top echelon of students globally. "


    Bella, Tony, and Eason have different feelings about their journeys to join the ranks of the world's top students, but they also have something in common. Gaining access to the University of Oxford demands not only academic prowess, but also consistent honing of skills in communication, perseverance, critical thinking, and information processing. In short, every step in the application process matters.

    • Bella

      |YWIES Guangzhou

      |Fine Art, the University of Oxford


      In her application, Bella wrote, "I view art as a way to express the inexpressible."


      Bella has loved drawing since her early childhood. At the age of four or five, she started taking lessons at an art studio. The teachers nurtured Bella's sensitivity and independent creativity rather than merely teaching specific painting skills. This became Bella's first inspiration for her journey as an artist.


      When asked to describe her experience applying to the University of Oxford. Bella used the word "relaxed". At first, the mere mention of "University of Oxford" put a lot of pressure on Bella. She had expected that the application process would be very difficult. She gradually realised, however, that many aspects were well within her ability, and she gained the self-confidence to "take a leap and grab the chance to study at Oxford."


      "The application was a step-by-step process, from writing the essays to preparing her portfolio. It was very demanding, but the stress didn't come from the pressure of applying to Oxford. Instead, I focused more on the quality of the work that I wanted to present to them. This period provided a valuable opportunity to refine my own abilities," Bella explained.


      The "relaxed" feeling that Bella described came not only from the change in her perspective on the application process. It was also the result of honing her comprehensive learning skills over the years. For example, in the project-based learning for courses such as Chinese and Global Perspectives, Bella developed skills for research, critical thinking, and systematic writing.


      After she entered the IGCSE stage of her studies, she actively participated in art projects both within and beyond the regular curriculum. She explored various creative materials that were part of the courses in the regular curriculum. In addition, she actively took part in planning art exhibitions on campus. This included not only creating the artworks, but also writing and preparing the exhibition descriptions, and deciding how the works would be presented at the venue. This development of skills enabled her to prepare an impressive portfolio for her university applications.


      Bella will consciously maintain her focus on the field of art. She believes that after she has learned more about the field of art, and has absorbed a vast amount of  information in both text and images, her artwork will be different. Bella cautions against excessive reliance on second-hand information, such as relying on the insights and interpretations of others to understand art. She thinks that such an approach stymies independent thought.


      Bella explained how the school's CUGO counsellor had helped her, "The counsellor played a crucial role in the initial phases of the application process. Before I wrote the essays, we had various exercises to formulate ideas and summarise my experience. These exercises helped me to understand myself better and to choose the right school."


      Looking forward to her university life, Bella hopes to explore new ways of expression, to continue to step out of her comfort zone, and  to "do something unique that I haven't seen others do."

    • Bella's artwork for school art exhibition

    • Bella introduces students' artworks to Dr Betty Chan Po-king at a school event

    • Tony

      YCIS Hong Kong

      |Biomedical Sciences, the University of Oxford


      Tony has always been certain that he wanted to pursue a career in research.


      Even as a Year-10 student, Tony enjoyed reading professional medical journals such as The Lancet, and had a deep interest in human diseases and their treatments.


      "I am really interested in the pathogenesis of human diseases, and I also like researching new methods to better tackle and treat diseases. There are still many diseases that are incurable, and the treatments used are far from ideal," he noted. Tony is such a dedicated student; he sometimes even skips lunch to devote more time to his study of biomedical science.


      At YCIS Hong Kong, Tony found a learning environment that matched his interests. The school's curriculum encourages students to think critically, and courses like the IGCSE Global Perspectives, the IB Internal Assessment (IA), and the Extended Essay (EE) have strengthened the students’ skills in research, analysis, and critical thinking. "Although these courses might not be directly related to my major at Oxford, I think the courses taught me how to examine issues from various perspectives," he said.


      The influence of his teachers has been profound. Tony is especially grateful for the guidance of his biology teacher, Ms Caroline Morgan; his math teacher, Mr Edmund Kam; and his chemistry teacher, Ms Teresa Au Yeung. All three teachers have encouraged students to think deeply, and have allowed students to explore and analyse concepts on their own before introducing the problem sets. With the support of his teachers, Tony achieved outstanding results, including Global Gold in the UK Chemistry Olympiad, Global Gold in the British Biology Olympiad, and National Gold in the National Science League (Biology) in the United States.


      Reflecting on the application process to the University of Oxford, Tony chose the adjective "dichotomous" to describe his experiences, because his mood kept swinging between "absolute desperation and a glimmer of hope". Whether it was writing his personal statement, taking written tests, or having interviews, Tony experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from confidence to desperate despair and then back to confidence again. Whenever he faced difficulties, he encouraged himself by thinking, "Just try your best."


      Compared to frontline medical workers, the calm and collected Tony prefers to delve quietly into research at a laboratory, so he applied for Biomedical Sciences at the University of Oxford. In the near future, he will be exploring the secrets of human health in the Oxford laboratories, just like a true biomedical science researcher.

    • Eason

      YWIES Shanghai Lingang

      |Engineering Science, the University of Oxford


      Eason graduated from a public elementary school in 2017. He and his parents were attracted by the comprehensive campus facilities and the strong English learning environment at YWIES Shanghai Lingang. Consequently, they chose the school as the place for Eason to continue his studies. Over time, Eason realised that students in this environment were self-driven, both in academics and other pursuits.


      Eason is interested in physics and engineering, At YWIES Shanghai Lingang, he found the ideal environment for his interests to flourish. Eason thrived, earning many honours, such as: Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award (Top in the World for IGCSE Mathematics (without coursework); Gold Award in the British Physics Olympiad Online Senior Physics Challenge; Top Gold in the British Physics Olympiad Round 1; Distinction award in British Mathematical Olympiad Round 1; and the Madam Tsang Chor-hang Memorial Scholarship (the school's most prestigious scholarship).


      Eason described the application process for the University of Oxford as "running fast in small steps". He explained, "I started preparing my application materials in the second semester of Grade 9, and the process went relatively smoothly at first. Although I encountered unexpected challenges, and some were quite tricky, I was able to move forward steadily, running fast in small steps. I took one step at a time, and finally reached my destination."


      External and internal factors enabled Eason to stay calm under pressure. Externally, the strong support of the CUGO team played a crucial role. The CUGO counsellors, with years of experience, always provided timely guidance and assistance, and Eason was able to navigate the complexities of the process when challenges arose. Eason's own stable mindset also helped. He was elected Head Prefect last year, after a selection process involving campaign speeches, interviews, and evaluations. Eason successfully managed the dual challenges of time management for his university applications and the student leadership responsibilities. He thus developed the mental composure to interact confidently with the professors during the university application interviews.


      When asked about his plans at the university, Eason said that entering the  university is a new beginning for a learner, and he wants to delve further into his  exploration of physics, mathematics, computers and other subjects. Looking further ahead, he hopes to start a business to advance science and technology and to make significant contributions to humanity and society.

    • Eason with other Secondary Student Leaders

      Eason with other Secondary Student Leaders

    We would like to thank Bella, Tony, and Eason for sharing their experience with us. We have felt their joy in overcoming challenges, and we have been even more gratified to learn about their aspirations. They will be lifelong learners with high ambitions. Congratulations to Bella, Tony, and Eason! We wish them great success, and may their remaining days at YCYW campuses bring them cherished memories.