This week, Ffion Wyn Jones from Ysgol Dyffryn Taf tells us about her hub trip to Oxford.
I remember being ecstatic when I received the email confirming that I had been nominated by my head of sixth form to attend a three-day residential at the University of Oxford in July 2017. However, once the initial excitement wore off I began to feel a little nervous. “I’m not some insanely clever super genius!”, I thought, “will I feel awkward and out of place?”. Despite the Seren Network’s best attempts to dispel the idea that Oxford is only accessible to those who have 27 A*s and are taking 7 or 8 A levels I couldn’t shake the idea that I wouldn’t be ‘good enough’ for Oxbridge. I also had my own notions that Oxford would be full of public school educated Bullingdon members. However, over those three days those misconceptions were torn to pieces.
From the moment I stepped onto the coach I enjoyed being surrounded by likeminded students from all over the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire hub and the trip just got better and better from there. Everyone at all of the colleges we visited was friendly and welcoming and they seemed very happy to show us around and tell us all about their colleges. The sample lectures we attended were a fantastic introduction to how students are taught at Oxford. They were also incredibly informative and engaging. One of the lectures from the Physics department was on superconductors, I want to study English Literature and I honestly thought I would be a little bored, but it was fascinating! The other lecture, on language in politics, totally blew my mind! It was essentially an hour of discussing why and how words have the power to be weapons and it made me consider concepts I had never even thought about.
We were also taken through the major parts of the Oxford applications process. It was confirmed that what Oxford really wants is students who are passionate about their subject and who can demonstrate academic ability and potential. We took a short sample Thinking Skills Assessment (which wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I anticipated!). Although the TSA is not used for all subjects, it was useful for all of us as many subjects use similar admissions tests. We were informed that the hardest aspect of these tests is the timing; and that the best way of preparing ourselves is to familiarise ourselves with the tests by practicing the past papers available online.
In addition, we attended workshops on personal statement writing and interview preparation. It was again reiterated that the most important thing was that we showed motivation, enthusiasm and a genuine love for our chosen subjects. We practiced writing the first sentence of our personal statements (a surprisingly difficult task!) and we all received specific feedback on how they could be improved or how we could continue our statements. There was also time for us to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and visit colleges.
I would personally like to thank Jon Jones for organising the trip, Maxine Thomas and Cheryle Barker for supporting us throughout the trip and Dr Matthew Williams for being so helpful, welcoming and providing invaluable information. I am incredibly grateful for this awesome opportunity and for everything else the Seren Network has done to aid me in applying to university.