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

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.

Talwrn non branded

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:

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.

Elin Evans - 1

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:

For more information, including deadlines and details of how to apply, click here:


*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.


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.


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.


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!

2020 summer opportunities

The Christmas break is nearly upon us! But like busy elves, we’ve been busy preparing for 2020 and making sure there are plenty of incredible opportunities for our students. Some of the events we have taking place include:

  • International opportunities with Yale and Harvard
  • The return of the Seren-Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University
  • LEDLET Summer Scheme in London/Cardiff
  • Sutton Trust US Programme

Read on to find out what each entails.

International opportunities with Yale and Harvard

Over the past two years, 69 Seren pupils have received full scholarships to attend the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Program at Yale University and the Harvard Summer School Pre-College Program at Harvard University.

Building on this success, Seren is continuing its partnership with both institutions for the summer of 2020.

Up to 30 Year 12 Seren students will receive a full scholarship worth $6,300/student to attend the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Program. In addition to this, up to 20 Year 12 Seren students will receive a full scholarship worth $4,850/student to attend the Harvard Summer School Pre-College Program.

Full scholarships cover Yale Young Global Scholars and Harvard Summer School programme fees (including tuition, accommodation, board & health insurance), but do not cover flight costs. Additional sponsorship may be available to support those pupils most in need of further financial support.

To find out more about both opportunities and how to apply to each, please download the information pack linked to here: Seren International 2020 opportunities We recommend that you do so well in advance as the application process will take some time and require input from your school and parents/guardians.

In addition to this information pack, you are invited to join a live webinar for further advice and guidance on 20th or 23rd December. See the information pack for details of how to tune in.

You can also read several blogs about Seren students’ experiences at Yale and Harvard:

Seren – Jesus College Summer School, Oxford University

Jesus College, Oxford University, in collaboration with Seren, is proud to announce its fourth annual summer school.

Each year, Jesus College welcomes up to 75 students from across Wales to study and live like a real Oxford student. You’ll get to take part in lectures, seminars and the world-famous Oxford tutorial while sleeping and eating in the halls of the leading university.

This year, the theme is ‘Intelligence: Real and Artificial’ and will cover a range of subjects including:

  • The promise and peril 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

Applications will open in May/June 2020; keep an eye on our channels for more information.

LEDLET Summer Scheme in London and Cardiff

Especially for students interested in studying law at university level, the LEDLET summer scheme showcases the different professions available to law students and gives them the opportunity to experience what it really is that lawyers do.

For the first time this year, the scheme will be coming to Cardiff as well as London.

Applications close on 14 February, and you can find more information here:

The Sutton Trust US Programme

The Sutton Trust US Programme is designed to support students from state schools across the UK to explore US study and access leading universities. In the past eight years, they have helped more than 400 British students get places and funding at top US universities.

The programme includes two residentials in the UK before all students spend a week in the US staying on-campus at a leading US university and visiting a variety of other American universities. An optional second year of the programme gives students additional support to apply to US universities alongside their UCAS options.All costs are covered by the programme – including travel, food, accommodation, admissions test preparation and more.

To be eligible to apply, students must:

  • Currently be in Year 12
  • Attend, and have always attended, a state-funded school or college i.e. non-fee paying
  • Not hold US citizenship
  • Be from a low- or middle-income family (generally, this will mean a household earning £45,000 or less)
  • Be interested in US culture and higher education

To apply, and for more information, visit

The application deadline is 19 January 2020. However, we strongly advise you get started earlier, as the application form requires some thinking.


Seren Conference 2019: Thinking of becoming a doctor?

UCAS has recently announced that more people are choosing to study Medicine, with 670 students from Wales applying to study from next September – the highest number in five years.

British Medical Association Cymru Wales is sponsoring this year’s Seren Conference and will be giving students the chance to talk to them about how to get into medicine as well as leading the ‘Applying for Medical Professions’ session.

They’ve also written a guest blog for Seren students which explores the range of career options in the medical sector and what to think about when planning your application. Medical school isn’t just for students that aspire to be doctors, studying medicine can lead to a wide range of health-related careers.

Don’t forget to download the Conference app on the Apple Store here or get it on Google Play here.

So, you think you’d like to study medicine, but worry that it might not be for you? Students often think that they have to be straight A* students or have bags of work experience in a hospital or doctors’ surgery to land a place on their preferred medical course.

But medical schools look for more than just high grades; they want students who are dedicated and can relate to their patients. The same goes for work experience. Gone are the days where only people that aspire to be doctors study medicine, so admissions teams look for students with a range of different skills and experiences.

We’ve put together our top tips for those who want to study medicine at university, to put you in with the best chance of securing a place.

10 things to think about

  1. Plan – think about what you need to do to be an attractive applicant. Getting into medical school is not just about grades, it’s about showing you are an interesting individual who has the foundations of being a good doctor. Demonstrate that you can be a good listener, and are reliable, honest and trustworthy.
  2. Target work experience. Lots of people try to get work experience in nursing homes but it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps you’ve worked in a café managing difficult customers? Think outside of the box.
  3. Get involved – sports, voluntary work, clubs and projects at school or in your local community. This can help you stand out from the crowd as an individual who consistently goes above and beyond and gives you the opportunity to develop the skills mentioned in point one.
  4. Look at different courses – not all medical courses are the same. Some have no patient contact for the first two to three years (traditional course), whilst others include early contact (integrated course). Some universities offer an integrated Bachelor of Science degree. Which one is best for what you want to do?
  5. Take advice from others who have been to medical school or look at online forums and student satisfaction surveys.
  6. Think about where you might like to live. You may want to be close to or far from home. Some universities have a campus on the outside of a town, others are central. There may be financial considerations – cost of rent, transport etc. which will have an impact on where you choose to live.
  7. Have an insurance choice as your 5th option, e.g. Bachelor of Medical Sciences, or a science degree in a university which also offers medicine – you might be able to transfer if your university offers a transfer scheme and you meet their criteria. Or, you can consider applying for a postgraduate medical degree when you have completed your undergraduate course.
  8. Consider taster courses, such as medsix or medism. Most universities run taster courses for medicine, so have a look online and get a taste for what kind of course you’d like to do.
  9. Attend open days – get a feel for the university and the type of students that go there.
  10. Look at requirements and make sure you meet them.

The BMA is committed to providing medical students with essential support as they progress through their studies. We stand up for students studying across the UK both individually and collectively on a wide variety of issues. We lobby for improvements to medical education, student finance, future jobs and the future of the NHS.

If you are fortunate enough to gain a place to study medicine make sure you get ahead of the game by joining the BMA for free in your first year. As a member, students gain free additional study resources, guidance on dealing with key issues and access to our individual advisors. Come and meet us at the Seren national conference to learn more.