Congratulations on finishing your exams, Seren Academy learners!
You’ve been working extremely hard and deserve a break, but as many of you will be applying to some of the most competitive universities in the world, we recommend putting in time over the summer too.
Here, two of our Seren regional hub coordinators – Stephen Parry-Jones (Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil) and Karen Thomas (Neath Port Talbot) – share their top 10 ways for you to maximise your summer.
1. Get reading:
Once you have investigated the university courses you might be interested in applying for, you may find that there is more than one that takes your fancy. Using subject reading lists for different courses will enable you find out more about them and help you make your decision. Make sure to read at least one or two of the booklist suggestions for each university courses you are considering. You’ll find these on the universities’ websites.
Cambridge admissions tutors advise taking small aspects of your academic interests and making yourself an expert in those. You can do this by looking at broadsheet newspapers, magazines such as the New Scientist, History Today or the Economist, academic journals, and Oxford’s Very Short Introductions which, as the name suggests, provide concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects.
TOP TIP: You will be able to cite your reading and its impact in your personal statement and interviews.
2. Check out podcasts:
Podcasts are a great way to absorb knowledge on a range of different topics and master technical vocabulary. This will be invaluable during university interviews as using the correct terminology and succinctly expressing difficult concepts will give you an advantage.
University podcasts are a good starting point. Simply internet search a leading university and the word ‘podcast’ and you will almost certainly find something that interests you. Each will vary in length, complexity, and approach but you’re bound to find something that works for you.
Radio 4 is also a great platform to find podcasts. Some examples are listed below:
- More Or Less – primarily about statistics, their use, and abuse, but not just for mathematicians
- The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry – excellent as an overview of scientific topics
- The Infinite Monkey Cage – good to gain insights into areas of science beyond A level
- Inside Science
- The Life Scientific
- All in the Mind – in conjunction with the Open University – one for psychologists
- Inside the Ethics Committee – all based on real-life medical dilemmas
- Inside Health
- In Our Time – covering humanities and sciences.
- The Moral Maze – perfect if you have to write an essay for LNAT, Thinking Skills, BMAT
- Law in Action – reflections on current legal hot topics
3. Listen to TED talks:
TED Talks cover a range of topics from science and business to global issues in over 100 languages. These videos are a great introduction to different academic interests – listen to one before bed or when you wake up in the morning.
Access Ted Talks here.
Fun fact: neuroscience shows TED Talk episodes are an ideal length of content, being easily digestible at 18 minutes long.
4. Take a look at learned societies and bodies
Find academic organisations that promote a specific scholarly discipline or field of research related to your interests. Some examples include:
- The Royal Society –An association for scientists, check out blogs, videos of past talks, and live events, including its summer exhibition.
- The British Academy – access blogs, podcasts and reading for humanities
- Royal Historical Society – an intriguing list of articles, puzzles, prizes and updates on research
5. Explore Professional Bodies
Useful for advice on careers and picking up industry terms, these provide good academic content too:
- British Medical Association, British Dental Association, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
- The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists
- Royal Institute of British Architects
- Institute of Mechanical Engineers
- Institute of Civil Engineers
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – the ICAEW has an economic profile of Wales that would be useful for economists, geographers, etc
5. Visit Intelligence Squared
An interesting website, Intelligence Squared, can be useful if you need to write an essay analysing points of view, e.g. for LNAT, TSA, etc. It holds debates on current issues, such as reparations for slavery, and features some masterful speakers.
6. Make the most of free courses with The Open University:
There are over 1,000 free courses available via The Open University. Some are introductory, others are more advanced, but they are a great way of getting out of your comfort zone and introducing yourself to university-level learning. The great thing about these is that you can take them at your own pace.
7. Prepare for university admissions tests
Familiarise yourself with what your test involves and spend time preparing for it. You can find past papers, marking schemes, and model answers online:
- Cambridge admissions tests
- Oxford admissions tests
- The Law National Aptitude Test – Google tests under the ‘videos’ tab and you will see that several undergraduates have posted videos such as ‘How to Ace the LNAT.’ Take a read through of the comments on them as there are some nuggets out there.
And remember – actual practice yourself and studying the model answers is the most crucial way to prepare.
8. Hear it straight from the experts
Dr Matt Williams, Access Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, is a great friend of Seren who has made dozens of helpful videos for learners. Some of these relate specifically to Oxford, but others offer more general insights including ‘How to write a killer personal statement’ as well as tips and tricks and sample interviews. Find Dr Matt William’s videos on Jesus College Oxford’s YouTube channel.
9. … and finally:
Try to find time in your busy summer schedule to do something academic every day, whether it is reading a poem, watching a TEDtalk, listening to a podcast or solving a maths problem.
TOP TIP:Take 15 minutes every day this summer, to further your knowledge in your desired subjects and of course… have fun!
Pob lwc pawb!