Seren Prospectus – Class of 2020/2021

Featured

Download our latest prospectus for students and parents/carers and learn more about how Seren helps Wales’ brightest learners reach their academic potential.

Being a Seren student means you will be offered an extensive range of activities that you can take part in, resources to download, webinars and masterclasses to log into, and summer schools to apply for. All of which are designed to support your ongoing studies and help you realise your ambition of furthering your education at a leading university, if that’s where you want to go next.

We encourage you to grab as many opportunities as you can, but what you choose to get involved with is up to you.

You all have aspirations, ambitions, and goals. Seren is here to help you reach for the stars!

From Ceredigion to Cambridge

What should I study at university? It’s a common question for many starting Year 12, so don’t worry if you’re still unsure.

Read how Seren helped Lucy explore and develop her passion for languages and gave her the boost in confidence to apply to study at Cambridge.

Lucy Hill (18), Studying Modern and Medieval Languages at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

“Even when I still had a fair few years of secondary school ahead of me, I would often browse university courses online. By the start of year ten, I had settled on studying languages and was particularly interested in the combination of French with Classical Latin, both of which were subjects I was fortunate enough to be already studying for GCSE at the time. The obscure nature of this course meant that it was only offered by a handful of (predominantly Russell Group) universities, inspiring me to work hard.

The fruits of my labour were what brought me to my first Seren event in the autumn of 2018. Having just started studying for my A levels in Latin, French, English Literature, Maths and Fine Art at Ysgol Bro Pedr in Ceredigion, the prospect of university applications was becoming more tangible.

Although I really enjoyed the variety of experiences offered by the open and inclusive environment of my school, Seren provided me with a space that was acutely academic and gave me the opportunity to explore the idea of university with more concrete goals in mind. A real turning point for me was my visit to the 2018 Seren Conference in Newtown.

There, I was able to speak with a representative from the University of Cambridge who was linked to my local hub. It was his reassurance and enthusiasm which ultimately gave me the boost I needed to book a place at a Modern and Medieval Languages open day in Cambridge the following March. Despite some apprehension and shyness on my part, I really enjoyed my day at the university and decided there and then that I would apply.

Seren supported me with this application, helping me with my personal statement and providing me with interview workshops. At the time, I was really nervous and started to doubt whether I should be applying to Cambridge at all, but having the opportunity to interact once again with representatives from top universities and hearing their advice gave me the confidence I needed to take the plunge and apply.

Following a series of tests and interviews, I was accepted to study Modern and Medieval Languages at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

As much as I have enjoyed my upbringing in Ceredigion, I feel that the dizzying academic heights of top universities can seem so far removed from the humdrum reality of day to day life for a secondary school student in rural Wales.

The real value of Seren for me has been the way it bridges this gap for students, the way it connects them to the supportive human face of these revered institutions.

If I am to leave you with any advice, it would be to make every effort to cross that bridge – to capitalise on every opportunity presented to you by Seren and also to make your own opportunities, no matter how distant or elusive the other side might seem as you take your first steps.”

Seren-US summer schools for Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), Harvard, and Chicago Universities for 2020.

Unfortunately, we are in the throes of COVID-19, which has changed our landscape beyond any comprehension. We’ve had to make some very tough decisions over the last few days, including school closures and cancelling exams.

One difficult decision has been to cancel the Seren-US summer schools for Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS), Harvard, and Chicago Universities for 2020.

Working within the guidelines and advice provided by the World Health Organisation, it is absolutely paramount to safeguard staff, parents, and young people. Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are restricting students to travel internationally, and of course there are clear restrictions for UK citizens entering the United States. Whilst we don’t have definite details of the timescale associated with the pandemic, we do know that the Welsh Government, and Governments across the world, are preparing to cancel events and unnecessary travel for all their citizens.

The latest guidance from Welsh Government is always available on our website at gov.wales/coronavirus

The Minister has been clear that the continuity of education and the wellbeing of all learners has been at the heart of her decision making. This will always be the case.

SEREN & Aberystwyth University Partnership Event

Blas ar y Talwrn (A Taste of the Talwrn)

17 March 2020

at Aberystwyth University

In partnership with Seren, Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies is hosting ‘Blas ar y Talwrn’ – a fun team-based Welsh poetry workshop.

Aimed at Key Stage 3 (Year 9) students, the one-day activity is a Welsh medium enrichment event introducing the ‘talwrn’ interactive workshop.

The event can provide valuable experiences: As the day concludes, a hugely exciting and unique element of the workshop is the opportunity for the students and teachers to be part of the live audience of BBC Radio Cymru’s recording of ‘Talwrn y Beirdd Ifanc’.

Three schools that took part in Aberystwyth University’s ‘Blas ar y Talwrn’ project last year are taking part in a recording for BBC Radio Cymru on the same day.

Teamwork will form an essential part of the workshop component of this event, therefore ‘Blas ar y Talwrn’ is open to teams of 8 to a maximum of 10 students from participating schools. Although there is flexibility to accommodate smaller groups to the event.

The funded event is structured for a maximum of 50 student places with one accompanying teacher per school.

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Programme: ‘Blas ar y Talwrn’ (17 March 2020)

10.00–10.35  Arrival, registration and welcome. What is a ‘talwrn’? An introduction to the ‘talwrn’, its history and conventions.

10.45–12.15  Team-based poetry workshop with Eurig Salisbury, with the support of two guest poets who are highly experienced talwrn practitioners; group work on a theme included in the day’s BBC Radio Cymru recording.

12.15–13.30 Packed lunch and refreshments; transport students to Arad Goch Centre in the middle of town.

13.30–14.30  Attend the recording of BBC Radio Cymru’s ‘Talwrn y Beirdd Ifanc’.

15.00–16.00  Refreshments and a reflective workshop: A critical and reflective discussion of their own compositions and those performed in the BBC recording.

Event Booking

To secure your school’s place, please complete the attached Booking Form

Booking Deadline

Please register your booking by Wednesday 11 March. However, there is some flexibility in this as we appreciate the late notice, due in part to  the inclusion of a hugely exciting and unique opportunity for the students and teachers to be part of the live audience of BBC Radio Cymru’s recording of ‘Talwrn y Beirdd Ifanc’.

Seren Jesus College Summer School: Guest blog from Dr Matt Williams

Applications for this year’s Seren Jesus College Summer School open on Tuesday 3rd March 2020. The Summer School is taking place 17th to 21st August and will be based on the theme ‘Intelligence: Real and Artificial’. We spoke to Dr Matt Williams, Access Fellow at Jesus College, who shares what’s on offer during the exclusive week-long programme and explores this year’s theme.

Here’s what he said:

What can I expect from this year’s Summer School?

This year will be our fourth Seren Jesus College Summer School. As ever, all expenses will be paid for 75 students and 11 teachers to come and stay with us for a week. You will live in our Oxford College rooms in the centre of the city, eat in our 17th Century dining hall, and learn something new that could help you get into leading universities like Oxford.

You will be offered Oxford’s world-class lectures, seminars and tutorials on the inter-disciplinary theme of “Intelligence: Real and Artificial”. To be eligible, you don’t need to be studying any particular subjects at A-level, and you don’t need to be planning on applying to Oxford. We’ll cover a range of subjects and methods, because our research has shown this melding of disciplines is of benefit to anyone thinking of applying to competitive universities and courses, regardless of their plans after school. We have, for example, worked with prospective medics, lawyers and physicists in the same summer school.
We will look, in particular, at:
• The promises and perils of artificial intelligence
• The neuroscience of intelligence
• A modern history of the secret intelligence services
• A history of genius in art and music
• Forms of intelligence in plants

What is the theme ‘Intelligence: Real and Artificial’?

What is intelligence? It’s a slippery concept, making it frustratingly (even ironically) tough to analyse.

Some essentials leap out. Intelligence is efficient and accurate problem solving, achieved by adapting memories. But embellishing further than this is tricky, to say the least.

Take professional footballers. I would consider them to be intellectually brilliant. The ferocious speed in which they compute environmental conditions to score goals puts slovenly types like me very much to shame.

Standardised testing (notably IQ) used to dominate our understanding of intelligence. It was a ready way to compare ourselves with other people, but it left much to be desired. Intelligence tests occupy shady past associations with eugenics and totalitarianism — from cranial measurements to patently unfair literacy tests. And, more recent research has shown how narrow and often inaccurate IQ can be.

Botanists have even effectively described intelligence in plants. Not only in their computational abilities (such as in phototropism), but even the capacity to create and store memories in species such as the Venus Fly Trap.

Intelligence has also been defined by some (myself very much included) so as to include emotional acuity — adding skills such as empathy and resilience to the roster of the intellectual.

Arguably this generation’s most important contribution to the concept has been a rapid development in artificial intelligence. “Artificial” intelligence confusingly implies that it is somehow different from “real” or “natural” intelligence, simply because its memories and computations are binary rather than fleshy.

There is clearly much we simply do not know about intelligence. But Oxford intends to be at cutting edge of 21st Century research. It will do so with its £150 million Schwarzman Centre to study the ethics of AI, and a new Parks College devoted, in particular, to AI and Machine Learning.

And you could be a part of this most exciting stage in humanity’s Information Age!

Applications will open 3rd March 2020. For further information: http://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/jesus-college-seren-summer-school

Spotlight on: University of Cambridge

Elin Evans, 18, from Caerwys in Flintshire is currently in her first year at University of Cambridge, studying Engineering. Here’s what she had to say about her exciting university experience so far:

Since starting in September, I have had one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have I become more independent, but I have also had the chance to explore my subject like never before. I have had so many opportunities to express myself and develop my interests.

I chose the University of Cambridge because you study general engineering for the first two years of the course before specialising in the third year. For me, this was important as it gives me the opportunity to explore the subject more before deciding which field I want to go into.

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In my first few days, I was really nervous as I didn’t know anybody but the small, family-like environment of the college ensured I had the opportunity to mix with others from the beginning. Freshers’ week was the perfect opportunity to meet and get to know people from all around the country and across the world.

I was originally sceptical of living and sharing a bathroom with five other people, as we all live busy lives and have different timetables, but I have not yet had to wait more than five minutes for a shower! Also, having your best friends less than five steps away from your door is one of the best remedies for homesickness.

I am really enjoying my course as I’m developing a well-rounded understanding of engineering. I was nervous about being a female in a male-dominated course, but this really wasn’t anything to worry about. Some of the most inspiring engineers I have met so far at my college have all been female!

Elin Evans - 2

The University of Cambridge is really nothing like I expected it to be – everyone here is ‘normal’ and I am yet to meet anyone from Eton! The atmosphere is very unique and there is always someone up for a chat if you’re ever feeling stressed or just in need of a break. At the weekend there are a lot of tourists patrolling the streets, but most weekdays I will only meet a handful of people on my way to morning rowing.

My first term at university has been a very full one – from early morning rowing to late night dinners and parties – I have enjoyed every minute. I will admit, there have been times which are hard due to homesickness and stressful workloads. However, there is so much support provided for every student here that you never feel like you’re alone in your struggles and there is always someone to turn to.

Without Seren, I am pretty sure I would not have had the confidence to apply to the University of Cambridge in the first place. Through embracing the opportunities offered, it allowed me to learn more about how to apply and gave me the confidence to successfully make it through the application process.

If I were to have any advice for someone thinking to apply to Cambridge, the most important thing I have to say is “just go for it!” You never know what will happen if you don’t try.

How to stay organised in 2020

We’re half way through February, and exams are starting to creep closer.

We spoke to Tomos Mather, 18, from Y Felinheli in Gwynedd who is currently in sixth form at Ysgol Tryfan, who has a few tips and tricks on how to keep yourself on track and not get overwhelmed with school work.stay organised blog

Be tidy

If you’re anything like me, after Christmas your room and workspace area will be a mess, with piles of papers, books and folders everywhere. After your mock exams or at the start of a new year, spend an afternoon tidying and decluttering your workplace to reset and get ready for the rest of the year.

Plan ahead

Plan ahead and keep track of what needs to be done. I write down what I expect I need to complete. I find it motivating to know that I need to complete set tasks on a particular day. This also helps me keep up with what needs to be done and means I don’t fall behind on my work.

Keep a calendar

I keep major deadlines on a physical calendar. I find a countdown helps me stay motivated to achieve my goals.

One task at a time

When you’ve got a lot on your list, it’s tempting to start half a dozen things at once in order to finish them all in time, but it’s often more effective to start a task and complete it before getting onto the next one. Focusing on one thing at a time also helps increase the quality of your work.

Place of work

Finally, find a location that you work well in. Finding a place to work away from where you relax will help you keep your schoolwork and home life separate. This could be your desk, a place at the dinner table or a library. You’ll find it easier to concentrate, especially if you try not to use your phone here.

How the Seren Conference inspires me to strive for the best

Last December we were in celebratory mood in more ways than one as we hosted our 3rd annual Seren Conference at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown.

Welcoming 1,288 students from all over Wales, it was the biggest Seren Conference yet, with three days packed full of workshops, seminars, speakers, and practical sessions. Representatives from 34 leading universities across the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge, overseas universities, and teaching professionals from across Wales were showcasing the wealth of exciting undergraduate opportunities and academic pathways available to students after their A Levels.

The Seren Conference 2019 has been inspirational to the students that joined us. Heading home, they were buzzing about the possibilities ahead of them, what they can strive for, and what can be achieved as they get ready to embark on the next stage of their education journey.

Here’s just some of the feedback…

Seren Conference

Millie Hore, Year 12, Ysgol Penglais School

I attended the Seren Conference to see what opportunities are available and to be inspired on what my next steps could be.

The day delivered a vibrant atmosphere through various seminars and workshops full of information. Beforehand we were able to select which sessions to attend, which was great as it meant the schedule was tailored to each students’ interests.

At the sessions, information was given on engaging with student life and applying for university, as well as academic content. A variety of representatives from Russell Group Universities and US Summer School programmes were free to speak to us and enthusiastically answered all of our questions – it was great!

A personal favourite of mine was speaking to the US Summer School alumni, who eagerly shared their experiences from the previous year and sparked an interest in me to apply for similar opportunities. Also, the academic seminar on ‘Natural Science’ left me intrigued with a desire to find out more about this field of research as a potential university degree.

Coming away from the conference, it was clear that to strive to be the best we must embrace all opportunities available to us, regardless of the challenges they may pose. The bus journey home was filled with an eager buzz as we all read the literature and university prospectuses obtained from the day.

Reflecting on the conference, I would definitely encourage all future Seren students to attend this conference to enhance their knowledge and understanding of future career pathways.

Ilona Hoffmann, Year 12, Ysgol Penglais School

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Seren Conference! A highlight for me was having the opportunity to talk to Russell Group Universities face to face and to find out more about what they offer and how I can get involved.

The first session I chose to attend on the day was ‘Applying for bursaries and scholarships’. I found this really helpful and I learnt a lot about what is available to students my age and in my situation. It was also great to see how easy it is to apply!

 I also went to the ‘Studying in the USA’ session which was one of my favourite sessions. I’m very interested in studying abroad and this session really opened my eyes to the education system in the USA. Being able to hear from previous students who had attended the summer schools was very helpful as it gave me first-hand experience of what studying abroad is like.

 Another session I attended was on the ‘Creative Industries’ and I found it highly insightful! I am very keen to pursue a career in the performing arts so going to this session helped answer all my questions. Lastly, I attended the Philosophy session which helped me understand the full breadth of the subject and also included a talk from an American lecturer who was even more fascinating.

 Overall, I found the day very, very useful and it gave me a lot to think about for the future. Being able to hear from past Seren students was reassuring as many of them were also indecisive on what to pursue in the future, which gave me hope in knowing there is time to consider my options and that the perfect degree is out there for me!

New Summer School scholarship announced!

A new year brings the chance for new experiences, and that goes for the Seren Summer School programmes as well.

In 2020, four Seren students will have the chance to attend the University of Chicago Summer Session – a three-week programme which allows students to experience studying and living like a real Chicago student.

Four scholarships of $7,100 covering programme fees are available. These fees include tuition, accommodation, board, activities and health insurance. Students will be responsible for raising funds to cover the cost of flights, plus any additional spending money.*

The University of Chicago Summer Sessions is just one of the many Summer School experiences available to Seren students and it’s important that you choose to apply to the one which will benefit you the most.

Information on all Summer Schools can be found here and further information on the international opportunities is here, along with details of how to apply.

If you’ve always dreamed of going to the University of Chicago now is your chance to experience it!

The deadline for applying to the University of Chicago Summer Session is 22nd January 2020. Good luck with your application and let us know if you have any questions.

To read our blog on our other Summer Schools click here: https://serennetwork.blog.gov.wales/2019/12/20/2020-summer-opportunities/

For more information, including deadlines and details of how to apply, click here: https://serennetwork.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/seren-international-2020-opportunities.pptx

 

*Additional funding is available for students most in need and is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Balancing revision and fun over the holidays

The festive holidays are a great time to unwind from a busy term. So, when you find out you have to revise for exams in the new year it can become a challenge trying to give yourself a well-earned rest and keep on top of your work at the same time.

We spoke to Katie Thorpe, a 21-year-old who is in her third year studying History at Exeter University. She shares her top tips on how to balance revision and fun over the holidays.

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Be organised

My first piece of advice is to make sure you are organised. At first, the amount of work you have to do can be very overwhelming but getting up early and splitting your revision will help break it up. Make a realistic timetable to ensure you don’t need to cram any last-minute revision. If you start revision early, you will reduce stress and improve your chances for your exams.

Plan your revision around Christmas activities by being sensible and realistic about how many social activities you want to go to. During the festive holiday, plans can change so remember to be flexible with your revision but also be strict enough to make sure you finish everything that needs to be done.

Stay focused

Create a quiet study area as this means you’re less likely to be disturbed and you can avoid distractions. It’s a good idea to leave your phone somewhere outside of your study area as having time off your phone will help you be more productive in the long-term.

When planning your revision, make sure you have short revision sessions with regular breaks and are constantly eating and drinking water as this will help you concentrate. Implementing a reward session such as treating yourself to a biscuit or some chocolate at the end of each topic will keep you going.

Prioritise and spend longer on things you don’t understand. If you’re struggling with a topic, then vary your revision techniques – try mind-maps and using past paper questions.

Stay motivated

It’s important to maintain a good work-life balance but that will only happen if you are organised and have mapped out a schedule. Knowing that you are out with friends in the evening should be motivation to get what you need done during the day.

Busy people get a lot done so stay motivated and pace yourself for the long haul. Give yourself targets to help you avoid doing all-nighters. If you work hard, it will pay off.

Take care of yourself

Get out of the house and have some fresh air. Simple things like going for a walk can help release stress and give you a clear head. It’s important to remember to rest, don’t overdo the revision or you risk wearing yourself out. If you’re feeling stuck, have a change of scenery, for example revising in a coffee shop or a library, as this can help boost your motivation, productivity and wellbeing.

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Remember to have fun

Finally, don’t feel guilty! If you have a positive attitude throughout the holidays, including while doing your revision, it will help to make it more enjoyable.

You can also make your revision more fun by involving your friends or family e.g. using flashcards. Everyone around you wants you to do the best you can do, so don’t feel guilty asking for help.

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The exam season doesn’t last long, and when it is finished, normal life can quickly resume.

Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!