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.

What is Seren? A guide for newcomers

You might have heard about Seren but with the initial excitement of the academic year starting to calm down, you might now find yourself wondering what it involves.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Seren, read on for some key information to get you up to speed.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference

In 2014 Paul Murphy, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, noticed a drop in Welsh students being accepted into Oxford and Cambridge (Oxbridge). He found Welsh students had a 19.5% chance of getting into Oxbridge in comparison to 25% from the rest of the UK.

As a result, Seren was established. Designed to increase the numbers of Welsh teenagers getting into Oxbridge, Seren supports Wales’ brightest and best state school students in realising their potential.

Seren is a national network of hubs across Wales which provides opportunities, support and guidance to encourage students to strive to be the best they can be and apply for universities that may have previously appeared unattainable.

At the beginning of each academic year Seren invites the next cohort of students from years 12 and 13 to join one of its hubs with the hope of inspiring them to achieve their full potential.

There are 13 regional hubs across Wales: Flintshire & Wrexham, Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf & Merthyr Tydfil, Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire, Education Achievement Service Consortia, Cardiff, Neath Port Talbot, Conwy & Denbighshire, Anglesey & Gwynedd, Ceredigion, Vale of Glamorgan, Powys and Bridgend.

hubs map english

These hubs are led by a dedicated Seren coordinator who creates a calendar of activities, such as the annual Seren Conference, university residentials like Jesus College Summer School, workshops with leading university professors, subject specific events and advice and guidance workshops.

Seren has also formed partnerships with leading departments at the Welsh Universities, all making strides in their areas of academic specialism and supporting Seren students through workshops, masterclasses and events. These academic specialisms range from engineering at Swansea to international politics at Aberystwyth and dentistry at Cardiff University.

In June of this year statistics showed that the Seren programme is seeing great success, with more Welsh students being offered places at Oxford and Cambridge year on year.

Cambridge University made the highest number of offers this year to state-educated Welsh students, and applications from Welsh state-educated students to Oxford University have increased by 13% since 2016.

Take a look at what past and present Seren students had to say:

“I found out about the Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University on the Seren Facebook page and jumped at the chance to apply. I was amazed when I got offered a place and enjoyed every second of my week there. It gave me an insight into life at the university while also giving me a flavour of what the course would be like” – Darcy Holland studying History at Oxford University.

“Being part of Seren is an amazing experience – it provided me with opportunities I never would have dreamed of.” – Morgan Edwards studying A-Levels at Llantwit Major Secondary School.

“My hub coordinator provided me with a lot of guidance and support throughout the process of applying to uni – it made it so much easier!” – Charlotte Belton studying Maths at Durham University.

“Seren has helped me prepare for university through the tips and advice from various talks I have been to which were put on by Seren.” – Joe Lagorio Price studying Medicine at Cambridge University.

03.07.19 mh SEREN event Cardiff5

And make sure to follow our social channels to keep updated on all things Seren:

Facebook –

Twitter – @RhwydwaithSeren / @Seren_Network

Instagram – @RhwydwaithSeren / @serennetwork

Blog –

Top tips on surviving your first term at university from someone who has been there

Your first term at university can be nerve-wracking and with the excitement of fresher’s week over, the reality of studying at degree level can begin to set in.

We spoke to 20-year-old Maram Eghlileb, a second-year student studying Pharmacy (MPharm) at Cardiff University, who shared her experience of her first term at university with us.

Maram Eghlileb - top tips first term blog

Starting university can be a daunting thought for many people, including myself, but nonetheless so many people have experienced it and were able to ‘survive’ their first term!

Although I’m from Cardiff, just like many people that have moved here for university, I had to familiarise myself with the buildings and the city campus. I think this is one of the first things you should do when starting university as this helped ease the stress of getting lost or being late to my lectures, seminars or placements.

The thought of meeting new people and making friends can be intimidating, however, remembering that everyone is in the same boat and is feeling the exact same makes the process slightly easier. Simply smiling and saying hello can start a great conversation and possibly result in long-term friendships.

One of the greatest aspects of going to university is the fact that you will meet people from varying backgrounds, personalities and nationalities; which you will learn so much from. I can assure you that you will find a group of friends that will be your perfect match.

In addition to making friends in my year group, I found it really beneficial to socialise with people from outside my course. By joining societies and becoming an academic rep I met 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students that were incredibly welcoming and reassuring and offered great advice.

Before starting university, people will most likely advise you to throw yourself at as many things as possible, which I agree with to an extent. It’s great to sign up to societies that interest you and get involved in the university community but be reasonable with the number of societies you join. You don’t want to be feeling even more overwhelmed.

Keeping up with the workload is essential. As tempting as it may be to leave academic study until ‘later’, you risk putting yourself in a difficult situation. Keep up with your notes and write them up while you still remember the lectures rather than leaving them towards the end of the term. The first term will be a great time to figure out what style of revision at university best suits you.

With all this in mind, it’s important to enjoy yourself and to make the most of the opportunities university brings!

Top six reasons for teaching professionals to attend the Seren Conference

Hundreds of Year 12 students from across Wales will be travelling to Cefn Lea next month to take part in an exciting day of educational workshops and interactive sessions, intended to help them on their next steps towards university.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference

But the Seren Conference, now in its fourth year, is not only an unmissable day for students: there is plenty on offer for teachers too. We are running a separate timetable with a choice of nine sessions, just for teaching professionals, all designed to provide relevant and useful information on how best to support more able and talented students.

Last year, 98% of teaching professionals rated the conference as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ and 88% reported they had benefitted professionally in terms of being able to support their most able students.  98% also said they were able to speak to representatives from leading universities, meaning they had up-to-the minute advice on how best to support their students in their application to university.

Here are six reasons why this year’s conference is a must-attend event the teaching calendar:

  • Peer to peer learning: selected sessions will be hosted by teaching professionals who will share learnings and best practice on topics including how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing in school and college and how to meet the needs of students living and learning in rural communities.
  • Meet representatives from universities: teachers will have the chance to speak to staff from the leading universities in Wales and the rest of the UK and ask them questions about the application and interview process.
  • Be in the know about financial support offered to Welsh students: for the first time at the Seren conference there will be dedicated sessions around student finance as well as one on bursaries and scholarships offered by leading universities in Wales, UK and overseas.
  • Find out how the new GCSEs prepare MAT learners for post-16 study: Qualifications Wales will run a dedicated, in-depth session on the new GCSEs, designed to help professionals working in the post-16 sector to identify areas that learners may need additional support in and what skills they can expect MAT learners to have developed through the new GCSE curriculum.
  • Pick up free CPD points: the conference is free to attend and attending sessions counts towards your CPD, helping you to boost your career.
  • A unique opportunity: the conference covers lots of ground in just one day. It’s a chance to take part in a busy, productive and inspiring day so prepare to leave armed with a range of strategies to take back to school or college.

Dr John Roe, director of Sixth Form at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff has been to the conference for the past two years. He said: “There is such a fantastic range of opportunities available for both students and teachers.

“Teachers can choose from a menu of fantastic professional development opportunities including the sessions and workshops plus the chance to network with colleagues from across the educational sector in Wales and the UK.

“The mental health and wellbeing session is particularly relevant to me. Over the last few years, sixth form teams have been seeing an increasing number of students suffering from mental health issues. There’s no doubt that wellbeing needs to be at the heart of any sixth form provision.

“With so much curriculum change happening at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, I think it is really useful for sixth form teams to be able to understand the implications for post-16 learners and how best to support them, so the Qualifications Wales session is also one I am interested in. This is an exciting opportunity to learn directly from Qualifications Wales.

“I would say to teachers who are going this year, look at the programme well in advance and discuss with colleagues who are also attending the conference from their school which sessions they are interested in going to. With so many great sessions, it’s important that you plan in advance to make sure that someone from the school is able to attend all the sessions you feel are most relevant to your school or college.”

Amy Jones, progress leader from Ysgol Calon Cymru, will be attending the Seren Conference for the first time this year. She said: “I am most looking forward to the session on ‘Supporting Seren learners in rural environments’ as our school is situated in Mid Wales where we are challenged by low population and long travel distances.

“Maintaining Welsh medium provision in our area is difficult and recruitment of specialist staff is also problematic. Minimising the impact on student learning and achievement is crucial. I am hoping to take away some strategies to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged by their location.

“I am planning to speak to the universities. I also hope to raise the profile of Welsh Baccalaureate as it seems that more and more institutions are realising its value and including it in their offer. I spoke to a medical school just last week who are going to include it in their offer next year – they just hadn’t realised how valuable a qualification it is!

“Before going to the conference I will be making sure the students are aware of the programme so that they can maximise their Seren experience. I want them to consider what they want to find out and which seminars will benefit the most.”

If you haven’t already, please download the timetable here.

Seren Conference 2019 has gone mobile! Get the app on your mobile device now, for free.

Download on the App Store here.

Get it on Google Play here.

19th Nov

A guide to Oxford and Cambridge admissions

In this blog, Dr Matt Williams, (Access Fellow at Oxford) and, Sandy Mill (Schools Liaison Officer at Cambridge), provide their insights to help you stand out from the crowd in the highly competitive world of Oxbridge admissions.

Matt and Sandy will be running a session at the 2019 Seren Conference in December about ‘Making an Oxbridge application’.

Where should you start when thinking about Oxbridge admissions? 

Matt: How about we start at the finish?! What sort of people get places at Oxbridge and excel there? It’s all about academic ability and potential for us.

We’re not looking for students with a hugely impressive list of extra-curricular activities like DoE Gold or climbing Kilimanjaro. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that stuff, we’re just not able to use it as a means of picking students.

We’re looking instead for a strong (but not necessarily perfect) set of grades and the potential to excel in small group tutorial teaching.

Sandy: It’s not about who is the “smartest” person either.

We do want intelligent students with very good grades, but most of all we are looking for those who are going to learn in the ways that we teach – particularly through the supervisions and tutorials.

We want people who are able to talk about the things that they are passionate about; open-minded individuals who are able to take new information on board and draw their own conclusions; students who are willing to question authority and push back the boundaries of what we know.

People who don’t take ‘I don’t know’ as the end of the story, but who regard that as a challenge to overcome.

Matt: So, we’re hunting for curious minds and people who don’t just parrot information but think for themselves.

How can students become more curious and independently minded?

Matt: People tend to assume Oxbridge students are born a certain way and that it’s impossible to attain that level of intellect otherwise. However, it’s all about curiosity and independent thinking and these qualities, at least in part, can be learnt.

Start with a question about the universe that is personally interesting and do some research on it. For example, how come some trees are so tall? How much does the internet weigh? Why does anyone care how I pronounce the word ‘scone’? — then hunt for answers.

Read books and academic articles, download podcasts, watch lectures and vlogs on YouTube, chat with teachers and friends.

What do you think the answer might be to your puzzle? If someone has a different answer, don’t necessarily abandon yours, work out why you disagree.

Don’t forget, at the outer limits, practically all of academia is guesswork. We don’t have definitive answers to many of the most interesting questions about the world or the wider universe.

Good guesswork is often the name of the game and Year 12 students need to build a bit of confidence in their guessing abilities.

What can you do to make a brilliant, stand-out application?

Sandy: I say this a lot, but quite simply go and geek out! Explore your subjects and engage with them as much as possible. It should be fun, interesting and a great excuse to find out more about the things that amaze, puzzle and stimulate your mind.

If you’re not sure what you’re into, explore different things that capture your interest and dive deeper to see if they are something you are truly passionate about.

Talk with other students about your interests and attend any sessions on application preparation to help you get all of the information you need to navigate applications effectively.

 Matt: The most important resources you need are time and energy.

Pursue a subject that gives you energy! That is, something you find so interesting that you are impelled to look further and deeper into.

How should you decide between subjects, or between Oxford and Cambridge?

Matt: Ask yourself What do you love studying? What could you read about on a day off and not be bored by it?

For me that’s always been politics. I could read and think about politics, even when I don’t have the energy to do anything else. Politics is such a hilarious and grubby soap opera, and it’s got me hooked. It’s like a box set that I can’t binge-watch because new episodes keep coming out!

A lot of students start by thinking about careers. That is sensible, but shouldn’t be the sole consideration. For instance, a lot of people say they want to be lawyers and so they will apply to study Law as a result. You don’t need to study Law as an undergrad to be a lawyer. You can convert from almost any degree (even medicine) to Law. And if you’ve done well as an undergrad at a top uni, law firms will pay for your conversion.

Choose a subject you’re motivated to study.

If you want to get into Oxbridge for Law for example, you need to be enthralled to the academic study of Law — jurisprudence, civil procedure, torts, human rights etc.

Some of you will be thinking of applying for subjects you’ve never formally studied before — such as medicine, biochemistry, or Arabic. Find out what a degree in those subjects entails, read some academic works produced by tutors and ask will it hold my interest for three years of study?

Sandy: Find the course that most suits you and lets you study things you are interested in.

Check the reading lists and modules for courses online. Just because two courses share the same name, doesn’t mean that they have the same content.

If you arrived at university to find the course didn’t have a module on your particular interest, you would be sorely disappointed to be spending all that time and money on a course that didn’t do what you wanted it to.

Matt: As for choosing between Oxford and Cambridge, the first and most important point to consider is whether they offer the right course for you.

There are some major differences in degree programmes between the two — for example, Oxford has courses like PPE, and Cambridge has Natural Sciences rather than individual courses in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. But there are also a lot of similarities — both have fairly similar Medicine degrees, for instance.

Dig deeper and find out what, if any, relevant differences there are. Trust your gut. Which city do you prefer, if you’ve had a chance to visit them?

Ignore the nonsense myths. Oxford is not the one for humanities and Cambridge the one for sciences. They each excel at both. It can be a personal preference.

How should you decide which college to apply for?

Matt: Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, you’re getting a degree from Oxford or Cambridge that counts the same regardless of which college you pick.

The academic experience is practically identical at all colleges, even if the facilities differ a bit.

Look at accommodation options and whether they can house you for the whole degree; what financial support is available; what other facilities they have like sports fields, and music rooms.

It’s also worth noting that Oxford and Cambridge operate sophisticated pooling systems between colleges which means you won’t be any less likely to gain a place at Oxford or Cambridge if you apply to a popular college.

Colleges can share applications around to ensure we take the best, regardless of which college they picked.

Sandy: I absolutely agree with Matt.

Make a list of the things you would like from a college and check to see which ones meet the most of those criteria.

Visit some colleges and see which ones feel like they could be your home for the next three or more years.

You may not receive an offer from your first choice due to the pooling systems, so it’s important not to get your heart too set on one particular college, as you may end up being accepted by a different one.

How can you prepare and plan for admissions test?

Sandy: The first step is to download the relevant preparation materials online, and check if you have an assessment before the time of your interview.

For Cambridge, find this here:

Prepare for these tests like an exam – learning the structures of papers, revising knowledge and practicing skills set on the specifications, and by doing the practice papers we provide online.

The Cambridge assessments are designed not to be able to be coached for but are more about practicing relevant skills and ensuring that you have any required knowledge (especially in the sciences).

Use your preferred exam techniques, look at the types of questions you will face, timings that you will need to follow and the structures of the papers, to help you prepare.

Matt: I’ve made videos on admissions tests (and the TSA test in particular) on our YouTube channel.

These tests need a lot of practice. They are among the most important predictors of who gets in, and practice improves performance.

How can you prepare for your interview?

Sandy: To put it very simply, get used to talking about your subject.

Build in time for discussions with a teacher, parent or guardian who can help you go deeper into your understanding of your chosen field.

Matt: You can do most, if not all, interview prep on your own.

I have two techniques that work well in preparing for interviews —the toddler and the kitten techniques:

The toddler technique:

Look at problems and even everyday items as if you’ve never seen them before and question everything.

If I ask a student to analyse an American flag, they’ll likely start by stating it has fifty stars and thirteen stripes. That’s fine, but a toddler would look at an American flag as something entirely new to them and would ask lots of questions — Why is it that shape and those colours? What even is a ‘flag’? Why do the stars have five points? Why are the stars stuck in a box in one corner? 

The toddler technique can be used on anything. It ensures that you think about a problem for yourself not for somebody else.

The kitten technique:

Is all about tenaciously pulling at threads, like a kitten with a ball of wool!

You need to keep asking yourself ‘Why?’ in response to any statement.

Why does the American flag have red in it? Maybe because it looks like blood.

Why does it look like blood, and why would anyone want that on a flag?! Erm, because spilling blood is an important part of building nations.

 But why? And why is blood red anyway? And why use blood to symbolise sacrifice, why not something else?

These techniques encourage you to analyse more deeply and think for yourself.

Practice it on past interview questions (of which I have hundreds that I can email to you —

You can find out more about applying to and life at Oxford or Cambridge at the Seren Conference this December.

Bookings open for 2019 Seren Conference: 3 – 5 December 2019, Cefn Lea Park

Bookings are now officially open for the national Seren Conference which will be held on 3, 4 and 5 December at Cefn Lea Park, Newtown. The conference is a must-attend event for Year 12 Seren students and teaching professionals, and this year’s event promises to be one of the most exciting Seren conferences yet.

Held over three days, the conference will welcome around 1,500 students and teaching professionals. It promises to be an eye-opening and inspirational experience, seeing a host of brilliant speakers and academics from Wales, the UK and overseas attending to share their expertise. Each day will hold a jam-packed timetable of sessions designed to inspire, motivate and encourage students to make the most of Year 12 in preparation for applying to university.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams at the 2018 Seren Conference.JPG

What will students gain from the conference?

Hama Sharif from Llanishen High School is a Year 13 Seren student studying Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Attending the conference last year inspired him to apply to Oxford to study Medicine.

“When I arrived at Cefn Lea for the annual Seren conference I realised I was part of something really exciting. The whole experience of the day really opened my eyes and made me realise there was a whole world of opportunity out there for me.

“The day was packed full of workshops around the whole range of subjects, as well as masterclasses, all designed to guide you through the university application process. This year’s conference is all about promoting learning beyond the classroom to give you the all-important edge over your competitors in university applications.

“For me, standout sessions will be ‘Communicating your Skillset’, ‘Adjusting to University Life’ and ‘Standing out from the Crowd’.

“It was interesting to hear that as a result of attending the 2018 conference 80% of students were more motivated to apply to a leading university and 84% were more knowledgeable of what it takes to successfully apply to a leading university. I can vouch for this – the conference is an all-round engaging experience that opens your mind to opportunities and tells you that you have what it takes to go to the best universities in the world.

“The conference is an intense day but so worth it. It’s unmissable really. There isn’t another opportunity that you’ll get to meet representatives from universities in the UK and in the US, hear from really inspirational people who are at the cutting-edge of their field and find out about what scholarships and bursaries are available to you at university, all under one roof.”

SEREN Cardiff Hama Sharif (2).jpg

What’s included for teaching professionals?

Almost all the sessions in the teaching professionals timetable are brand new this year, and range from supporting student mental health and wellbeing to supporting MAT learners with perfectionism, and how best to support learners in rural environments.

Sessions for professionals will feature real-time case studies, incorporating peer-to-peer learning where possible, so that teachers can benefit from tips and strategies around these topics.

For the first time this year we will host two dedicated finance sessions for both students and teaching professionals. Student Finance Wales will explain what support is available to help with tuition fees and living costs for Welsh students, and we will also welcome scholarship app developer Grant Fairy, who will run through how to access scholarships and bursaries from universities across the UK.

The Seren Conference is free to attend and is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to boost their career by picking up CPD points.

Last year, 98% of professionals rated the conference as good or excellent, and 88% reported that they had benefitted by being able to support their most able students and that attending the event had added value to their local hub programme.

Dr John Roe, director of Sixth Form at Radyr Comprehensive School in Cardiff, has been to the conference for the past two years.

“There is such a fantastic range of opportunities available for both students and teachers. Being able to attend masterclasses with fellow students from around Wales who share a particular love and enjoyment of a subject area is one of the main reasons why this conference is so popular and successful.

“Teachers attending the conference can choose from a menu of fantastic professional development opportunities. These include sessions aimed at developing strategies to support MAT learners, sessions designed to help teachers support student wellbeing, advice on how best to support students with admission tests, personal statement and reference workshops, and opportunities to network with colleagues from across the educational sector in Wales and the UK.

“The conference is a unique opportunity for teachers to develop their knowledge and skills completely free of charge, and to leave with a range of strategies that they can take back to their schools and colleges which will have a direct impact on the quality of educational provision, support and guidance that they are able to provide for their students.”

BBC Wales Sports journalist and presenter, Catrin Heledd, will host this year’s event for the first time. Since graduating from Aberystwyth University and Cardiff School of Journalism, Catrin now presents on Scrum V and Clwb Rygbi.

How do I book?

We’ll be posting more detailed information about sessions and how to make the most of the conference over the coming weeks. Places for the conference are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so book early to avoid disappointment.

The full student timetable can be viewed here

The full professional timetable can be viewed here

To book conference places visit click here and follow the instructions. Please note; teaching staff can book up to 15 students on one form. All groups must be chaperoned by a member of staff or a responsible adult. Professionals are required to book onto the sessions they wish to attend.

Hear from Seren students about their thoughts on starting university!

Starting university can feel overwhelming and be a scary experience. but hearing how others are preparing can help you feel at ease and excited for the journey.

We’ve asked some of our Seren students who are starting university this year to share with us their thoughts on becoming first year undergraduates.

Amy Martin is going to the University of Warwick to study Engineering.

Charlotte Belton is studying Mathematics at Durham University.

Joe Lagorio Price is going to Selwyn College to study Medicine.

Why did you choose to study your subject?

Amy – I’ve always loved engineering, ever since I competed in the F1 in Schools competition. I am currently involved with Williams F1 as a member of their academy, so engineering felt like a natural route to progress into.

Charlotte – I chose to study maths because I’ve always loved the subject. The understanding it allows me to gain of everything is what draws me to it. I love the abstract concepts and the way it explains basic things we normally take for granted.

Joe – I’ve wanted to do medicine since I was a young boy so it was a natural progression to follow this route at university.

Why did you choose this university?

Amy – I choose Warwick because of the friendly atmosphere. I felt really happy when I went to their open day, even though it was torrential rain!

Charlotte – I chose Durham for its reputation for quality education as well as its rich history.

Joe – I chose Cambridge because I really liked it as a university, and it has a good reputation.

How are you feeling in the lead up to starting university?

Amy – I’m really excited to gain some independence when I move away from home, I’m excited to meet new people and learn new skills!

Charlotte – Whilst I am feeling nervous for university, I’m excited. It is such a big change but one I look forward to.

Joe – I am feeling excited in the lead up to university and I can’t wait to start first year with freshers’ week and meet new people.

Do you have anything planned for the first few weeks at university?

Amy – I’m hoping to join some sports teams within my first few weeks. I’m looking at joining the swim team and cheerleading!

Charlotte – I don’t really have anything planned yet but I do know that my university is organising some events, I just have to wait a couple weeks to find out.

Joe – I plan to join a few societies and am looking forward to having a good time in freshers’ week.

How are you finding packing and saying goodbye to your friends and family at home?

Amy – It’s really scary packing up all your things and actually coming to terms with not being physically close to your family anymore, but I’m really excited to see what I can get up to in the next four years.

Charlotte – I’m finding packing fine, but I know saying goodbye will be sad while also happy. My friends and family know I’m doing something I enjoy and they’re happy for me, but it will be odd moving away.

Joe – It’s hard to leave my family and home, but it won’t be long until I see them in December so I’m not too worried about saying goodbye.

What are your expectations for your first year?

Amy – I’m hoping my first year will bring about lifelong friendships and memories (especially freshers’ week). I’m also looking forward to finally studying the area I’m interested in; I can focus all of my time on engineering now.

Charlotte – I’m trying to not have many expectations for university life so I can just relax and enjoy whatever happens.

Joe – I think first year is going to be tough, but I’ll try my best to succeed.

How has Seren helped you prepare for university?

Amy – Seren has given me an incredible boost in my confidence; the Oxford Jesus College Summer School has especially eased my thoughts on going to university. I made so many friends and had such a good time in that one week, how could I not enjoy uni life!

Charlotte – My Seren hub coordinator has done so much for me. She even helped me pick my university, especially when I was struggling to pick my firm and insurance choices.

Joe – Seren has helped me prepare for university through the tips and advice from various talks I have been to put on by Seren.

To all our Seren students starting university this year: make sure you get involved and make the most out of all the opportunities and support available for you.

Good luck!