Jessica Cox once figured she’d tread the typical path of a bright young Kiwi – graduate high school, pick a local university, finish a degree, then get out and find a job.
By the time of Year 12, however, she realised she was bound for greater things.
“You take the bare minimum that most people do and multiply it by four and then you get me.”
Now the Auckland teen is making a path from Remuera’s Baradene College to the University of Oxford.
With alumni ranging from world leaders and groundbreaking scientists to household names from literature and the arts, Oxford is also one of the world’s most competitive and selective tertiary institutions.
It received, on average, nearly six applications for each available place – making Jessica’s achievement all the more impressive.
She said her self-professed love of biology formed the basis of the personal statement she was required to write as part of her Oxford application, and she believed her unique Kiwi perspective contributed to her success.
“I think we have such a rich history, especially because I’m studying biology, a lot of what I was personally interested in was the different issues related to biology in New Zealand,” she said.
“We have so much native wildlife that there is so much to care about. We go overseas with a different kind of perspective. It’s more holistic.”
Another aspiring biologist, 17-year-old Freyberg High School graduate Josie Greenston, has meanwhile just been accepted into the UK’s Bath Spa University, where she’ll also study music.
Described as “a leading educational institution in creativity, culture and enterprise,” Bath Spa boasts such notable alumni as Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and luxury shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.
Like Jessica, Josie expected to attend a New Zealand university, first undertaking a biology degree and then going into medicine.
“And then in the last year of high school, one of my friends was going to Germany,” Josie said.
“That’s where he was from, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s really cool. I should explore other options’.”
In her personal statement that helped to secure her admission to Bath Spa, Josie took inspiration from one of her science heroes.
“Albert Einstein has a quote that says, ‘Science and music requires a thought homogeneous’,” she said.
“‘Homogeneous’ is sort of a biology word, and seeing that, I thought, ‘Okay. This is exactly what I want.
“This is what I want my personal statement to be about.’ I definitely wanted to show that I connect biology and music.”
The two are among 86 students who have gained acceptance to top UK universities this year – including five to Cambridge and six to Oxford – with the help of mentoring company Crimson Education.
The Auckland-based global firm was notably co-founded five years ago by millionaire entrepreneur Jamie Beaton, while he was still a teen.
Beaton, who himself has just been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, said the company was created to break down geographical barriers that could prevent students from finding their best-fit university.
It wasn’t just Crimson clients landing entries at top UK and US universities – record numbers of young Kiwi students have gained spots over recent years.
For other high school students who might be considering pursuing an overseas academic pathway, Josie had only words of encouragement.
“Check it out and don’t be afraid,” she said.
“There’s really no harm in looking.