How the ‘Above and Beyond’ conference helped me to help my students

Llŷr Evans
Key Stage 5 Leader
Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg

Mr Ll?r

“We all know what a difficult position being Leader of 6th Form is. We deal with a huge gamut of abilities and preferred destinations. These range, of course from job opportunities and apprenticeships to the most demanding of entry requirements into the most prestigious   universities in the world.

“Giving time to the most able has never been a huge priority as they are far too often referred to as the ones that ‘can’ and therefore ‘will’. We would always as a matter of course strive to assist these students but with all the requirements of running a 6th Form, these individuals receive much less time as we would like to allocate them.

“The ‘Hwb Seren’ project has completely transformed our day to work with these exceptional young people and this starts with the initial conference in Cefn Lea.

“The opportunities to understand and visualise these ‘destinations’ were superbly orchestrated. It afforded me a rare opportunity to engage with professionals in universities and understand a little more about assisting my learners in gaining access to these institutions. The lectures were invaluable for me and the students. I obtained insight into Oxbridge Applications and further understood the often complex entry requirements. I was able to utilise this information directly with several of our students.

“I was fortunate enough to also ‘drop in’ on many of the lectures available to the students. This allowed me to develop a series of ‘follow on’ workshops at school. We set up on-site interviews with input from Hwb Seren for the first time. We could tailor these to include the demanding questions which are asked by highly selective institutions.

“We rarely have students who to apply to ‘Oxbridge’ but this year we had two. One was a very close call but was still nonetheless offered a place at Durham University (which is in itself highly selective) and the other gained a place at Wadham College, Oxford. He is a featured in the Hwb Seren Pamphlet by the way!

“Without the assistance of the Hwb Seren conference, I am not even sure these two pupils would have contemplated even applying to ‘Oxbridge’ or any other highly selective institution. They are the first to admit that ‘Oxbridge’ was not even on their personal radar!

“The conference is an opportunity which is too good to miss. It empowers us to properly assist the talented young people with whom we work with every day.

“When I see our students gaining access to some of the most prestigious universities, I know that I have the best job in the world!”

Bookings have been flying in. If you haven’t booked yet, don’t leave it until the last minute as places are limited.

Closing date: 16 November


The Royal College of GPs: How to apply to Medicine

By Dr. Robert Morgan, Royal College of GPs

Deciding on a career in medicine is probably the easiest choice you’re going to make this year. It’s once you’ve made this decision that the work truly begins, as you’re taken on a journey that offers you a course and a job unlike any other.

There are 33 medical schools in the UK and it’s important you select the right one for you. This will depend on many factors, but a very useful resource is the medical school’s council website ( This will have all the information you need regarding entry requirements, course structure and expectations of your personal statement and interview. And don’t forget to visit the websites of any universities you’re interested in.


Dr. Robert Morgan

Preparing to go to university should involve doing some sort of work experience upon which you can reflect in your personal statement. Work experience does not have to be in a clinical setting such as a hospital or a GP practice, but it should provide an opportunity to develop an understanding of how the skills and attributes you have used in your work experience will be applied to a career in medicine. It may be useful to keep a reflective diary of your work experiences that you can use when writing your statement.

Most medical schools will require you to take either the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) and attend an interview. Both UKCAT and BMAT websites are useful in giving an overall picture of what you need to do for these tests and which universities use them. Remember though, like any test, practice will always help and both websites have practice questions.

Similarly, before you go to your interview, it’s important to find out what type of interview you will get and prepare for it in advance . All universities web pages will give you details of the type of interview you are likely to have. You should also try to go to Open Days to find out more. Some universities offer what you and I might think of as a traditional interview i.e. being asked questions by a panel. However, more and more universities, are adopting multiple mini interviews whereby applicants rotate round a number of stations, each lasting a few minutes and each exploring the personal qualities and attributes important in developing good doctors for the future.

All interviews, regardless of the format, will test your ability to think, interpret data and communicate your ideas. Once you know you have an interview and what type it is, you should practice as much as possible as this will make it go better on the day. For further information visit:


Max Rees, former Seren student now studying Medicine in UCL, says:

“When it comes to applying to Medicine, preparation is key and remaining both calm and focused through the remaining few months of A-Levels will get you through. Applications are due in early October of Year 13, and by then you should have completed either the UKCAT or BMAT (or both) entry examinations.

“Year 13 can be very stressful, more so at the beginning of the year, because there is quite a big jump up from the difficulty of Year 12 but keep up-to-date with the work and try to forget about your application after you’ve sent it off as much as you can. You should start getting offers for interview around Christmas time up until March, and hopefully after your interviews you’ll begin to get your offers of places.

“If you don’t get offers, however, don’t let this affect your performance in you’re A-Levels because good grades will stand you in good stead to reapply with more experience the following year.”

Why go above and beyond at this year’s Seren conference?

I’m Matt Williams from Oxford University, and this December will be my third time coming to the amazing Seren conference in Newtown. I can’t wait to meet you all!

But what will you get out of it? And why should you go ‘above and beyond’? Aren’t you doing enough already?!

Well, most likely, yes, you are very busy at school and with activities outside the classroom. So when we suggest you go ‘above and beyond’ we don’t mean you have to do loads more work. Instead it means that you should be more focused on what you’d like to achieve after school, and push yourself to do your best.

Thinking about university, apprenticeships or jobs after school can be pretty scary. The processes for applying are competitive, and that can be demoralising for some of us (and I do include myself) who are not particularly confident in their abilities.

But I want to share something I realised a few years ago. I could push myself to be competitive and fight off other applicants — or I could just push myself further because I enjoyed doing so and do it all for myself. Constantly fretting about what everyone else is doing is so draining. But doing something you love for your own pleasure is wonderfully energising.

So go above and beyond for you. Be the best *you* you’re capable of being.

And this is where the conference can really help. There’s going to be fantastic academic sessions run by the Brilliant Club that will take you way beyond your school work. Go along to these sessions and drink in the content for your own pleasure. Try and have some fun learning something new about the universe.

There’ll also be stalls with loads of universities represented — including a really friendly bunch of us from Oxford! Come and talk to as many people as possible. We want to talk to you. We won’t ever make you feel small or silly. There are no bad questions you could ask us. Sometimes the practicalities of applying to uni can be complex and daunting. So that’s why we’ll be there, to help you through it.

There’s also going to be drop in sessions to talk you through money matters, such as uni debt. We know that’s a common cause of anxiety amongst school leavers, but we’ll have loads of top tips and friendly advice to put your mind at rest.

So by the end of the Seren conference you’ll have gone ‘above and beyond’ because you’ll have learnt something new about the universe, and you’ll be more confident in how you can explore the subjects you love even further. And we will be more the happy to help you be the best *you* you’re capable of being!

Numerous bookings have already been received. Reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment!

The Social Mobility Foundation is coming to Wales!

We are the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), and we are very excited that this year we are opening an office in Cardiff which means we can deliver our Aspiring Professionals Programme to students from across Wales. Applications are now open and the deadline to apply is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018.

Every year, we help more than 1,600 high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds realise their potential. Our programme supports those who may not have the knowledge or networks to access top professions. We work with young people from Year 12, right through university and into top jobs.

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There are a few different ways that we support students once they join our programme. Firstly we will help you with getting into a top university. That includes help on your personal statement, how to make an informed decision about which university you go to and all the other stages of your application like tests and interviews.

When you join the programme we will ask you all about your career aspirations and to pick a professional sector that you are interested in, from then on the programme will be tailored to that career sector. You will get matched up to a professional mentor who is currently working in the sector you have chosen. Our mentors are an amazing source of information and can give you a real insight of what it’s like to work day to day in their job. We have mentors from leading businesses such as KPMG, BBC, Amazon, Bank of England, Google, Linklaters and many more.

“Mentoring gave me an opportunity to explore my interests. If I hadn’t had a mentor my ideas for the future would be much more uncertain.” – Aspiring Professionals Programme Student.

Throughout your time on the programme you will also be offered lots of interesting workshops and skills sessions. During sixth form these are focussed on giving you an introduction to your career sector, and how to conduct yourself in a professional setting so that you are able to make the most of all your opportunities.

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The final part of the programme is the internship placements we provide. We have links with the leading law firms, banks, hospitals, engineering firms and many more and we can sort you out with fantastic internships. One student on the programme last year told us “The internship was so much more than I could have asked for. From networking to insight sessions… it provided me with incredibly valuable experiences that helped me in developing my professional skills and general confidence.” You won’t be photocopying and filing on any internship organised by us. Instead, you’ll shadow professionals to gain first-hand insight into your chosen area of work and, at the same time, strengthen your university application.

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Once you get to university our support will continue. We will help you prepare for the world of graduate recruitment, practise for interviews, perfect your C.V. and get into the top jobs!

We are so excited to be coming to Wales, and we want to support lots of Seren students this year. If you are interested then head over to our website to read all about the different programmes you can apply for:

And make sure you check the eligibility criteria by clicking here.

Remember the deadline is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018. In the meantime if you would like to get in touch, or for us to come and visit your school just contact us using the details below.

Phone: 020 7183 1189


My experience applying to a French University

Elin Roberts is a former Seren student that is now a first-year student at Sciences Po Paris Politiers.


Never had I imagined that I would be attending to university in France, let alone Sciences Po Paris, Poitiers. Two years ago, I wasn’t even aware the university existed. I had only really considered two options: either studying in the UK or possibly the US.


When I was considering studying in the UK, I was primarily interested in Law. For this reason, I applied to study Law and French Law. However, I also had a love for Politics, History, Economics and foreign languages, and worried that the UK universities were limiting my opportunity to pursue all of my academic passions. I therefore began looking into universities in other countries in the hope of widening my academic opportunities.

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I first heard about Sciences Po Paris when I interned in my MP’s office in Westminster. There was another intern who had studied at Sciences Po Paris, but at the Dijon campus. She spoke about how she was able to study all of the social sciences in her degree, including History, Law, Politics, Economics, Sociology and languages. I became intrigued at this and was eager to learn more.


From my research I discovered that Sciences Po Paris is made up of 7 regional campuses. Each campus focuses on different areas of the world. At the beginning I was interested in Le Havre (Asian & Chinese Affairs) and Dijon (Eastern European affairs). However, I quickly changed my mind after visiting Patagonia, Argentina later that year and becoming mesmerized by Latin American affairs. Hence, I decided to apply Poitiers, which is where I’m studying now.

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The application process for Sciences Po Paris was very different from that of UCAS. I was the first student from my college to apply to the university, so the process was very unfamiliar to us all. In the Sciences Po application one writes a lettre du motivation, similar to a personal statement, but in a different style of writing. There are also separate spaces to include the following: extra-curricular activities, internships, international experiences and a CV.


After completing the application, I was invited for an interview in London, which was in French. The Sciences Po interview differed from my Oxford interview. In the Sciences Po interview I analysed a French newspaper article on Latin American affairs and then presented this to the interviewer. I then answered various questions regarding my presentation and my application.

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To prepare for the interview, my college (Coleg Meririon-Dwyfor) provided me with numerous mock interviews, as well as any extra oral sessions to discuss Latin American affairs in French. The Seren Network was also very helpful, for instance arranging a mock interview for me with a doctorate student at Oxford University.


Applying to Sciences Po Paris has highlighted the importance of extra-curricular activities to me, something I’m grateful the Seren Network flagged to us at the beginning of year 12. If you’re in year 12, this year I urge you to participate in extra-curricular activities. Look for summer internships and apply to summer schools. Look for opportunities within the PRIME Scheme, Social Mobility Business Partnership and Social Mobility Foundation. You might not be successful with every application, but unless you try, you’ll never know. And the benefits you’ll experience personally, as well as towards your university applications, will be so worth it. So, this year give yourself a challenge: try something new and dive into the unknown!

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I would like to thank the Seren Network for their support over the past two years in aiding with my university application and exploration higher education of choices. I would also like to thank Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, especially Dr. Gareth Lanagan, for their support from applying for summer internships to applying to university.

Reminder: Bookings are open for Seren 2018: Above and Beyond

We’re pleased to say that we’ve already had bookings rolling in for our next national conference; Above and Beyond, which will be held again on 4th, 5th or 6th December 2018 at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown.

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Here’s a reminder as to why you should book your place…



  • How will you go above and beyond the academic confines of your A-levels to gain a place at a top university?
  • How will you stand out when you write your personal statement?
  • What steps do you need to take to apply to the most competitive courses?
  • What questions do you have about university life, finance, preparing for your career while at university?


Universities are looking for students that have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their subject passion. At the conference, students from Seren hubs across Wales will take part in Academic Masterclasses that will provide a new perspective on broader areas of study beyond the A-level and Welsh Bacc curriculum. You’ll also have the opportunity to speak directly with leading universities from the UK and overseas to answer any questions you may have about student life, finance, scholarships, bursaries and getting career-ready while at university.



  • Have you thought about how will you undertake your professional learning and demonstrate your strong leadership skills within your profession this year?
  • How will you equip yourself with all the information required to support your high fliers and their progression to university?
  • How will you navigate university admissions tests and plan stretch and challenge support to help your students reach their full potential?


With new sessions, the professional development strand of the Seren conference has been designed to assist you in helping your A-level students and to help you become champions of university access within your schools and colleges. The conference will also will enable you to meet other professionals who are also going over and above to support their students and to share best practice.


Bookings are open – reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment!

Our experiences with the Sutton Trust US programme

We spoke to three Welsh students who, with the help of the Seren Network, were part of the Sutton Trust US Programme this summer; a programme designed to encourage bright, state school students to consider applying to American universities.

Three groups of students spent a week in different areas of the US, learning more about life in higher education in America while also visiting some of the country’s best universities.

The programme is free of charge for the selected students.


Thomas Evans, from Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron travelled to New York, visiting Yale University, Skidmore University, Connecticut College and Wesleyan University.

“Once upon a time, spending a whole week at Yale University and being presented with so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, was a dream.


“Due to the Seren Network’s relationship with the Sutton Trust US programme, my dream has become a reality.


“I have learnt so much during my time in the US, from speaking to American admissions officers from over 30 different institutions in Harvard University to being mentored by members of the Fulbright commission.


“This programme has allowed for me to realise my own academic potential, which has significantly increased my confidence for both my UK and US admissions.


“More importantly this programme has surrounded me with like-minded people who have become like family to me and are solely responsible for catalysing my success in the process of American admissions so far.


“I’d encourage everyone to apply – even if you are not admitted into the programme, the actual application process is very similar to the American university application process, and many of the skills you will acquire merely through your application process are extremely valuable ones.”


Yale University


Elli Rees from Gower College Swansea went to Boston, visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth University, Smith University, Bowdoin University, Amherst University and Babson University.

“If I could sum up my week in Boston, staying in MIT in but a few words I would simply say it was an unforgettable, lifechanging experience that I would encourage everyone to apply for.


“MIT’s campus was incredible; the architecture was amazing and quirky.


“It wasn’t necessarily my favourite university – there were too many to choose from, from Dartmouth the ‘baby Ivy League’ where Dr Seuss graduated, to Bowdoin where they do amazing marine biology research and finally Amherst, a beautiful university which looks like it’s come out of a fairy tale!


“The best thing about the week was how every day was amazing, hilarious and intense, yet still managed to prepare us all for the college fair.


“In the college fair we met a vast amount of colleges ranging from small liberal arts colleges, to women’s colleges and ivy league universities – giving us the opportunity to find so many more universities to fall in love with.


“On top of this, it also taught us so much about talking to admissions officers and getting started on our university applications for after the week had ended.


“We also formed great friendships and became a true part of the Sutton Trust family – I can’t wait to see where I go with the Sutton Trust and my brilliant friends from around the UK’s support.”


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Naomi Gauden from Heolddu Comprehensive travelled to Philadelphia, visiting Princeton University, Bryn Mawr University, Swarthmore University and Lafayette University.

“The Sutton Trust US programme is an experience that I will forever be grateful for.


“It has allowed me to develop myself into a more confident and aspirational young woman.


“I was worried I wouldn’t fit in but every aspect of the programme such as the Fulbright staff, the team leaders and each other applicant were welcoming and made me feel at home instantly.


“I have made some amazing friends and the list keeps growing with every experience the programme provides.


“I visited some of the most breath-taking universities and had an insight as to what being an American student would entail – something I will hopefully get to experience myself one day.


“I would encourage anyone to take advantage of this programme if US study is a dream of yours.”


Princeton University


For more information on the programme and how to apply visit: