“We covered topics from metaphysics to globalisation – a real mix.”
The Summer School of Ideas kicked off on Monday at OA’s offices in New Bond Street. Students applying for English and PPE at university spent the day with our fabulous tutors, Brian and Jess, discussing and debating hot topics in preparation for their applications this Autumn. PPE tutor, Jess Bowring, shares her observations from the day, and provides some top tips about how to make the most of the School of Ideas and the long summer vacation. Don’t forget that the History, Economics and Medicine School of Ideas will be taking place in July and August. Click here to secure your place – limited spaces available!
“Timing your preparation for your application to Oxford and Cambridge is really rather difficult. Sure, your interviews are unlikely to be until December, but two months in advance of that, you’ve got to get your UCAS application in, and in a brief personal statement you’ve got to display a broad understanding of your subject, as well as a few topics that you’ve got a particular passion for and have read widely on. That actually means that, ideally, you’ve got to get a lot of reading in, and most importantly, you’ve got to put some energy into thinking critically about it. In Monday’s PPE School of Ideas session, we looked at some of key topics in Philosophy, Politics and Economics – introducing some new concepts, and re-examining some that perhaps it might be easy to think a little lazily on. We covered topics from metaphysics to globalisation- a real mix.
What’s fantastic about these seminars is that, by taking a whole day, we get to allow for spirited debate on the topics on that day’s syllabus, but also add in a little flexibility to adapt to the individual interests of those who have come along. As part of our discussion on democracy, for instance, it very quickly transpired that people were passionate about the topic of whether or not prisoners should get the vote – an obvious opportunity for an impromptu debate, and one which only added value to the rest of our discussions on the measure of a ‘good democracy’. As well as being an example of how important it is to identify the topics that you’re passionate and work on them, it was also one of many moments throughout the day that highlighted the value of questioning your beliefs and engaging with others who perhaps think a little differently from you.
The interesting thing about a PPE application is that you really do have to be passionate about all three topics. You also have to display evidence of this passion. I went to a fantastic school, but one which didn’t focus too much on giving us structured preparation for applications to top universities. Luckily, I read around Philosophy and Economics (the subjects which I hadn’t studied at A-Level) on my own watch, however, if I’m honest, looking back, it was a bit of a ‘scattergun’ approach and whilst I read around the topic generally I didn’t get a feel for the authors or schools of thought that I might identify with. That’s one thing that we touched on during Monday’s session, finding a few authors that you think you might agree with and using them as your starting point for reading on a new topic. Of course, as you get to know these authors a little better you’ll be in a great position to get to know a selection of their fiercest opponents, find a few points of criticism and disagreement, so that you can forge your own path. That’s something that takes time, and the one thing I’d recommend above all others is just to get started as soon as you can. That way, you’ll have the time to mature and develop as a philosopher, economist and political scientist or theorist, ahead of that all-important deadline.”