Eighteen year old Stuart Jennings is headed to Oxford University, marking a first not only for his family but also for his school for the past six years, St. Ignatius.
Stuart ompleted his IGCSE qualifications at St. Ignatius in 2008 and stayed on to do two years of Sixth Form, earning the Advanced Diploma this June. He’ll be the first ever St. Ignatius graduate, and first ever member of his family, to his knowledge at least, to attend the prestigious university.
Whatever he did, he did it right.
After finishing his IGCSEs at the end of Year 11, Stuart had to choose his A-level subjects. Planning on applying to Edinburgh, Durham, Cardiff, and St. Andrews universities, he knew he officially needed at minimum 2 As and a B at the AS level.
“But you pretty much need 3 As,” says Stuart.
He thought his grades could be good enough to give Oxford a shot as well.
He had begun mentally preparing for the possibility of attending Oxford well before.
“I visited a few summers ago and really liked it,” he says
At Oxford, a student must be accepted by a college first before gaining acceptance to the university itself. He applied at Magdalen College, because, in his words, it was the nicest.
It also offers studies in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology.
“I never studied classics in school, I chose the subjects because I think they are very interesting,” says Stuart.
“Plus, it is a family interest,” he notes, a fact seemingly confirmed by a book on ancient Greece lying on the kitchen counter of his family’s South Sound home. Odds are, however, that it might also be evidence of some light summer reading before classes get started.
Which brings us to another aspect of applying to Oxford.
“The advantage over the other universities is that Oxford does interviews,” Stuart says.
Many universities use interviews to decide whether to accept students on a variety of merits along with academics. But Stuart’s Oxford interviews were purely academic, and tough.
“First I had to read a very complicated passage to do with Ancient History and discuss it,” he says, noting that he eventually reasoned out that it was written tongue in cheek.
In his Archeology interview, he was given an ancient Roman coin and a modern Syrian banknote and asked to figure out their relevance.
More than indicating whether Stuart knew much about either discipline, these brain teasers told Stuart’s interviewers a lot about the young man’s potential, and apparently they liked what they heard.
“I did the interview last December and found out in January, while I was at the regatta in the Bahamas actually,” he says.
Further prodding reveals that, an avid windsurfer and sailor, along with teammate Mike Weber, Stuart was participating in the 2010 Seiko 29er World Sailing Championships in Freeport, Bahamas, actually. They weren’t top three, but they weren’t l ast, either.
Extremely self-possessed, Stuart doesn’t fully let on how thrilled he was when he found out Oxford wanted him.
“My parents were very excited,” he offers.
“They have been very supportive.”
It shows in proud mom’s eyes, as she describes their imminent trip to England to get settled and to purchase the wardrobe Oxford students must don to attend functions and write exams.
Confirming his driven nature, she says Stuart required little motivation to study for his exams, as his eye was clearly on the prize after being offered conditional acceptance.
Supported by dedicated teachers at St. Ignatius, including Karen Whyte, who tirelessly marked a continuous stream of essays he gave while preparing for exams and Jen Artuch, Head of Sixth Form, Stuart got some added motivation, when given the chance to meet some potential classmates.
“After I got provisional acceptance, in the spring I went to Oxford to do a study session in preparation for the exams, which was really good motivation,” he says.
“I knew to get in I needed to have 3 As.”
He did even better. This past May and June, Stuart walked away from his A-Level examinations with A* grades in Literature and Physics as well as a grade A in Mathematics. The A* grade in Physics is a new grade awarded only to candidates that exceed 90% in the examination. The A* grade in Literature is also a new award this year.
A few friends are also going to university in the UK as well, and though Stuart admits he’ll probably miss Cayman’s weather, he’s planning on joining the University sailing club.
In life and in school, we have a feeling he won’t have too much trouble steering a successful course.