4 Questions 4: Katharina Kunze (Oxbridgebewerbung.de)

Today, next up in my series of Q&As with business founders, Katharina Kunze of Oxbridgebewerbung.de.

1) You previously worked at mymuesli, one of the most well-known German startups, in the mass-customization space. Is that what you really got you started in entrepreneurship, or did you always consider starting your own business?

When I started working at mymuesli I already had a desire to start my own company someday and also the intention to work on oxbridgebewerbung.de – I had secured the URL, completed a web development course, read UX books and tutored Oxbridge applicants on the side well before then!

However, my experience at mymuesli was invaluable for helping me learn about online marketing, was my first point of contact with Google Analytics and Adwords, and gave me some behind-the-scenes perspectives on how a young company can operate.

2) In 2008, you graduated from Oxford. How does your own, personal Oxford-story relate to the idea of Oxbridge Bewerbung?

Studying at Oxford was quite a coincidence for me. It did not cross my mind that it was even an option until my boss at an internship commented that Oxford would fit my academic interests. I did not take the idea seriously at the time, but credit him now with planting the idea in my mind.

The application time was a confusing one for me. I managed to get a handle on the application documents, but feel lucky I passed the interviews that are so critical for many international applicants. I had previously competed at the World English Debating Championships, so luckily I was comfortable engaging in the academic debate required at interviews.

Based on the challenges with my application, I realised why so few German and other international undergraduates are admitted to Oxford and Cambridge University. At Oxbridge Bewerbung we see two main problems:

1. Lack of information and encouragement for German and international students about the possibility of studying at Oxford and Cambridge University

2. Lack of information and experienced support to help applicants successfully complete the application process

At Oxbridge Bewerbung we tackle both areas first by informing and encouraging students to apply in group workshops, and then working on their applications with them individually in tutoring sessions.

Current admission of international vs UK applicants for an undergraduate degree at Oxford University:

20150311 Oxbridgebwerbung international acceptance rates

Data source: Oxford University, undergraduate admissions statistics, applications for entry in 2013

Graphic: Oxbridge Bewerbung

3) In Germany, there is some discussion among academics and in the media about “Helikopter-Eltern” – “helicopter parents”, who get overinvolved in the academic activities of their children, sometimes including their university education. Does this also affect your work in some cases? 😉

This is an interesting question because in my experience students with supportive parents tend to have stronger applications. Sometimes parents will join the first tutoring session and I find their input invaluable, as they often offer a second perspective on their child’s achievements and bring up facts that the child may not have in mind or thought relevant. I am very in favour of parents supporting and being involved with their child’s education.

That said, I see a distinct difference between supportive parenting and helicopter parenting. I believe parents should act as enablers, motivators, sparring partners and sources of advice; not actors on behalf of the child, who speak for or may complete their child’s work for them. Occasionally I do have contact to parents who try to manage their child’s application for them – sometimes even writing their application! However, these children rarely have the same level of success as children who are given more independence. Not only are the latter applicants more confident, they are also better able to handle the parts of the applications where not parental presence is possible, such as aptitude exams and interviews. I hence strongly encourage parental involvement to support – not substitute for – the effort of a pupil.

4) Do you see Oxbridge Bewerbung as something that could grow into a bigger business, for example to also include applications to Ivy Leage universities in the US?

I do: I think it is important for students to take into account all of their international study options, e.g. at Ivy League schools, Oxford or Cambridge University, French Grandes écoles, or Beijing University. Unfortunately, information is currently scattered and effective support to consult on a variety of international university options is rare.

At Oxbridge Bewerbung we have tutors not only from Oxbridge, but also from other top UK, US, French and Asian schools. This helps us consult students on the breadth of international options they have and support them based on our inside knowledge and our own experience at the universities they choose.

 Thanks to Katharina for answering my questions!