Monday, July 07, 2008

Percentages are an excuse

Right now, my entire family is in the throes of my eldest son deciding where he wants to apply for university. He has just been to the Open Days at Oxford and Cambridge. There are several more universities to come next week. And the house is groaning with information about courses, how to fill in applications, etc etc. Unlike in the US, in Britain, generally you apply to study a particular course say English and it can be hard to change courses later on.
As a parent, I have learnt that it is far harder to watch your child go through this process than to go through it yourself. You have to step back and allow things to happen.
Last night, however, after he downloaded various bits of information about how many students each of the Oxbridge colleges had taken recently and the percentages, I said enough.
One lesson that I have learnt through my writing is that while tempting you can not think about percentages.
The chance of succeeding with Harlequin Mills and Boon (indeed any large publisher) is far less than getting into any university or any university course. However, every year people do. Each person is an individual. Each manuscript is judged on its merits. The mere fact that they take people on/buy unpublished authors' manuscripts was enough to make me try and eventually I succeeded. Recently my tenth book -- Impoverished Miss, Convienent Wife was accepted for publicatin March 09.
And as applying is also about putting yourself on the line for rejection, I did point out that no one, unless they choose to, goes around with such and such university reject stamped on their forehead. You cross bridges when you come to them and you live your life accordingly. But until it happens, you do not know the outcome.
I reminded him of my friend's daughter who last year applied to do medicine (in the UK, you can study medicine straight from high school) and did not even get an interview at any university, despite being qualified and choosing universities that were supposedly easier to get into. she held fast to her dream. Spent time doing things, including volunteering at clinic and rewriting her personal statement. She received three offers to study medicine and will be going to Leeds in the autumn.
My son nodded and said he would try to find the university that appealed to him most as looking at the lists showed him that each college did take people in his course and that the quality of the applicants mattered. He promised as well to give it his best shot. And he muttered that he was well aware of the deadlines and their importance.
We will see what happens, but at least he is going to try.
If you do not try, you are doomed to failure.
And when you try, statistics become meaningless.
Hopefully, this will also give someone the courage to finish their manuscript and submit it. Just do not think about the percentages!


Donna Alward said...

I spent 2 years at the "right" uni and my last 2 at a smaller one. The quality of my education and my learning environment were much better my last 2 years. It is about the RIGHT fit and not percentages.

Just have faith he'll do the right thing. THings have a way of working out the best way. :-)

Pat Cochran said...

My eldest granddaughter is entering
her senior year in high school. For
the past year, she has been in a
search for a university here in the
States that teaches her major:
Japanese Studies. She has found
one here in Texas and eight in this
country. Now she has to decide
which she will attend. We are all
anxious to know where she will go!!

Pat Cochran

Michelle Styles said...

OH I try to have faith. Actually, I know that where ever he goes, he will be fine.
When God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere, but it is hell in the hallways sort of thing.
It is just another phase of parenting. And problem is that I can clearly remember my own experience...The British system throws up new twists, but..

Pat -- Good luck to your grand daughter. There used to be a post grad programme in HI which concentrated on Japanese studies.

Ray-Anne said...

Thank you for the post Michelle - I am on my third submission with Mills and Boon UK and have just received the most terrific and encouraging coaching letter on revisions from an editor.
It would have been far too easy to give up my goal after the last submission and turn to another genre or publisher - just accepting the reality that the chance of acceptance was too low.

Thank you for sharing your story and kind regards, Ray-Anne

ilona said...

Congrats on your son deciding to go to Uni - so far four out of five of my children have done so and I know how difficult the whole process can be.

One thing my husband told all the kids was that percentages only count if you know what they started with as the 100%. If they start with 4 then 75% is only 3, but if they had 400 to start with then 75% is 300. That is a big difference in numbers :D

Maureen said...

Best of luck to your son. I know that if you want to do something and the traditional route doesn't work then there are always other ways to go about it.