A world of possibilities

Seren graduate, Joseph Hinchcliffe, 19, is looking forward to starting university in the US after being a part of the Seren programme opened his eyes to all of the opportunities available both in the UK and America. Here, Joseph shares his experience of Seren and the US applications process, as well as his advice to other learners thinking about studying abroad.

“This summer, I moved from my hometown in North Wales to America to start my dream degree at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill – an opportunity that wouldn’t have presented itself if it wasn’t for Seren. I had never previously considered studying abroad but after I attended Seren’s Academy cohort launch event in 2018 my eyes were opened to the huge possibilities out there. At the event, I was able to network and chat with representatives from a range of universities around the world, including US institutions, as well as Seren alumni who had studied in America themselves.

Through Seren, I was made aware of the 2019 year 12 Harvard summer school  in the US which really peaked my interest. It sounded like an amazing experience so I decided to have a go and put in an application, not really expecting to get a place due to the fact it has a very competitive selection process. So, as you can imagine, when I found out that I had secured a place on the programme, I was over the moon!

I spent two weeks on campus at Harvard studying criminal law, attending three hours of classes each day covering a variety of related topics. Attending the summer school was incredible – I made plenty of new friends and got a taste of university life. Being alongside other talented students showed me that I was deserving of getting a place and took away the doubts I had about my ability to apply to top universities. The experience also gave me an insight into the US curriculum and education style which I felt suited me. From then on, I knew that I really wanted to attend a US university and was determined to secure a place.

Due to the large difference in the application process between UK and US universities, I took a gap year to do my research and really focus on my applications. At the Seren launch event, I had met Rowena Boddington from the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which is home to the EducationUSA team for the UK. EducationUSA provides guidance and resources to help UK students apply to US universities and the organisation has partnered with Seren to ensure Welsh students like me, from any background, have the opportunity to study abroad.  As applying to US universities was completely new to me, having Rowena support and guide me through the process was invaluable.

I ended up receiving offers from Harvard, Stanford, Vanderbilt and the University of Oxford as well as University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill where I was offered a four year scholarship from Morehead-Cain – a US-based merit programme which provides full funding for high calibre students to study at UNC-Chapel Hill. The scholarship will cover the cost of my tuition, accommodation, meals, books and supplies for the duration of my course. Getting offers from universities of this calibre was definitely an amazing feeling. I ultimately chose to accept my offer from UNC due to its strong sporting community (I’m a keen footballer myself) as well as the balance it offers between academia and the social aspects of university life.

I am the first generation of my family to go to university so getting my place at UNC has been a proud moment for all of us. Applying to top universities is highly competitive but working with Seren and its partners helped me believe in myself that I had what it takes to follow my dreams of studying at a leading US university. Being from a state school and not being a solely academic person when I grew up, I didn’t think somewhere like Oxford, Cambridge or an American Ivy League would ever have been an option for someone like me. Speaking to Seren alumni who had gone on to study at such institutions helped me realise that I did have what it takes to attend the university of my dreams and this pushed me to keep going.

I’m now excited to start my degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish. Although I initially studied criminal law as part of the summer school, I decided to instead combine all of my subject interests from A levels in one place. I’m also passionate about climate change and helping build a better future for generations to come. Once I graduate I’d like to pursue a career in environmental policy to mix my love of the environment and law.

I would like to say thank you to Seren as the programme opened up opportunities that I hadn’t previously considered and gave me the confidence to aim high. Without Seren, I wouldn’t have found out about the Harvard summer school, nor would I have met staff and Seren alumni from US universities, which kickstarted my interest in studying abroad and my journey to securing a place at UNC.

My advice to Seren learners would be to make the most out of all opportunities offered to you  – subject masterclasses, summer schools, application tutorials and mentorship. Each of these will give you valuable insights, skills and knowledge that will allow you grow and develop as a well-rounded university candidate. So work hard and believe in yourself – you will get out what you put in.”

Joseph Hinchliffe

Seren graduate 2020 – Studying Environmental Science and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish at UNC-Chapel Hill

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