How Seren helped Abi set her sights on Oxford

Abi Vukashin is a Year 13 student at Cardinal Newman School, Pontypridd, and has received an offer to study Medicine at New College, Oxford this year.

However, being from a Welsh state school and having no family background in Medicine, Abi doubted her own skills and abilities to secure a place, and was initially very reluctant to apply to Oxford.

But through her own drive and determination, and by making the most of the opportunities presented to her by Seren and other sources, Abi realised that studying medicine at Oxford was an achievable goal…

“As you can only apply to four medical schools in one UCAS application, it was a very big decision to apply to the University of Oxford. I couldn’t help but think ‘would applying to Oxford sacrifice one of my chances of getting into medical school?’ I knew that the success rate of applicants was very, very low and doubted my own skills and abilities to secure a place. Also, overcoming others’ preconceived ideas about what a ‘successful Oxbridge applicant’ looks like was a big hurdle.

So, why Oxford? Having researched the course in Year 11, I was fortunate enough to spend a day on the Oxford Pathways programme, which confirmed that the structure of the university’s course was right for me. The Medicine course at Oxford is very different to those offered at other medical schools. Oxford’s traditional structure and opportunities for tutorials with top academics in their field as well as the college system all appealed to me. It also helped that Oxford really is a beautiful city!

My first involvement with Seren was learning about the Open University’s Young People’s Programme through their Twitter account. This allowed me to undertake a six month Open University short course in ‘Molecules, Medicines and Drugs’, funded by the Welsh Government, which helped me to extend my knowledge and study skills in this area. This contributed greatly to my Oxford application and actually formed the basis of the scientific part of my interview with New College.

Regular contact with my Seren hub through monthly workshops provided me with lots of interesting and relevant presentations and talks by experts in my area of interest. They also provided me with additional contacts to access other opportunities. For example, participating in a workshop with Dr James Matthews introduced me to Cardiff University’s Science in Health programme, which allowed me to view public lectures and apply for a lab work experience placement at Cardiff University. Unfortunately, this ended up getting cancelled due to Covid but I was still able to attend an online session with the department.

Being part of the Jesus College, Oxford Summer School had a big influence on my final decision to apply to Oxford. It not only gave me the opportunity to write and discuss academic work during mock tutorials, but also enabled me to work with and get to know other like-minded students from across Wales who shared the same ambitions as me, and this was invaluable. It really was a supportive, encouraging and reassuring environment. Although the experience took place from the comfort of my own home this year, it was still a great opportunity to learn more about Oxford and experience what life as an Oxford student might be like.

Other support I received from Seren included admissions test prep sessions for both the UCAT and BMAT. Although the UCAT did not form part of my Oxford application, it was still a key element of my Medicine application to other universities. The online BMAT session and Q&A from Seren provided me with guidance on how to answer questions and structure my essays effectively.

The Seren support didn’t stop there. Following my invitation to interview, a mock interview was organised for me with a panel of four academics that would be similar to the Oxford interview structure. This provided me with an excellent chance to practice the skills that are sought in a successful Oxford applicant. This included discussions relevant to topical issues and scientific developments as well as experiences mentioned in my personal statement. The interview and the feedback I received helped me feel so much better prepared and confident going into the real thing.”

If you’re doubting your own abilities but are considering applying to Oxbridge, Abi’s advice would be “If you’ve got the dream, desire and ambition, then go for it! You can do it!”


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