How to deal with exam stress

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Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

Whether you enjoy or endure them, for most students, exams are a fact of life.

And while each set of exams will bring its own pressures, A-levels can be particularly daunting, especially if your university place depends on achieving a good set of grades.

It’s perfectly natural to experience a certain degree of stress and worry around exam times, and for many students this can actually be a motivating feeling. For others, however, it can become overwhelming.

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Here are some tips to dealing with stress during exams:

Recognise your stress

Firstly it is important to recognise when you are feeling stressed.

It might sound obvious, but it’s possible to become so focused on revision and exam preparation that you overlook the tell-tale signs of stress, which can include difficulty sleeping, feelings of anxiety or irritability and a loss of interest in other activities.

Talking about your feelings with a friend or family member can help, or speak to your teachers if you’re feeling overloaded.

Look after yourself

It’s more important than ever to look after yourself at exam time, which means eating healthily, sleeping well and exercising regularly.

Tempting though it is to break open the biscuits, try to avoid junk food and high-energy snacks and drinks such as chocolate and coffee, as these will only make you feel worse in the long run. Instead, opt for plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and drink lots of water.

When it comes to sleep, try to avoid too many late revision sessions if you can, as these can cause irregular sleep patterns. Instead, focus on getting a good eight hours a night.

Physical activity can also help de-stress your body and mind, so a jog or even brisk walk after school could help re-set your mind.

Don’t compare yourself to others

During exam time it’s natural to want to compare yourself to your friends or classmates by discussing your revision timetables or exam preparation tactics. This can be made worse by the culture of social media sharing.

Comparing yourself to others can make you feel worse, leaving you doubting your own efforts, performance and capability.

Don’t worry about what your friends are doing, just focus on yourself.

Don’t carry out an exam ‘post-mortem’

As with the example above, you should avoid the temptation to compare your exam performance with that of your friends or classmates, as this kind of ‘post-mortem’ could add to your stress.

You can’t change what happened in the exam room, so don’t make yourself feel worse by focusing on it.

Instead start thinking about the next exam or, if they are over, something else entirely!

More information and resources

Student Minds: http://www.studentminds.org.uk/examstress.html

Times Higher Education: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/how-deal-exam-stress

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/14-ways-to-beat-exam-stress

Cabinet Secretary tours Oxbridge to see impact of Seren

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The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, has visited both Oxford and Cambridge Universities to meet with leaders and outreach officers from colleges including Jesus College, Oxford and Magdalene College, Cambridge.

The visit enabled the Cabinet Secretary to gain new insights into the two universities’ experiences of the Seren Network, to ensure it is improving access and preparing students.

During the visits, she also met a selection of Seren Network alumni who are now studying at the universities.

Students shared their experiences of accessing Oxbridge, including the barriers they faced in getting there, what support they had, what they felt was missing, and how Wales can best support its brightest students.

The visit was also an opportunity to promote scholarships and financial support for Welsh students, including the Welsh Government’s new student finance package, and funding opportunities such as the Moritz-Heyman Scholarship.

The Cabinet Secretary also visited Jesus College, Oxford, which hosted last year’s inaugural Seren Summer School.

The College dates back to Elizabeth I, when it was originally established to train Welsh clergy. Today, it retains a strong link to Wales and will again be hosting this year’s fully-funded Seren Summer School for up to 75 pupils and 11 teachers in August.

Here are some of the highlights of the trip.

Seren/Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University 2018

Seren students! Applications are now open for the 2018 Seren / Jesus College Summer School at Oxford University

 

This August, (Monday 20th to Friday 24th August) will see the return of the Seren Summer School and it’s going to be bigger than ever, with 75 places available.

Matt Williams, Access Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford, explains what you can expect and how to apply…

What is the Seren Summer School?

The Seren Summer School is a unique collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Welsh Government’s Seren Network. You’ll get the chance to live and work with Oxford academics and students for a week in the late summer.

It started last year with 22 students from all over Wales. Feedback from the participants was very positive. Of the 22 participants last year, seven applied to Jesus, and a further nine to other Oxford colleges. The remaining six applied to other top-flight universities, including Cambridge.

This year, we have 75 spaces for students, and 11 for teachers.

Do I have to pay?

No – it will be all-expenses paid, including travel, accommodation and meals.

You won’t need to complete any paperwork about eligibility for bursaries, as the programme is free to all Seren students from any income background.

What will it include?

As with last year, we will recreate an authentic Oxford learning experience. There will be lectures, seminars, and our world-famous tutorials (teaching in small groups of two or three) as well as the chance to get a taste of student life in halls.

How do I apply?

The summer school is open to any participant in one of the eleven Seren hubs. You do not need to be considering applying to Oxford to be eligible. Those who are applying to any competitive university will likely find the insider insights particularly helpful.

What will I learn?

Last year, all of our content was themed around “Our Future”, and this year it will be the “Meaning of Life”. We’ve chosen a broad theme for two reasons:

Firstly, it’s a little different. Most summer schools, such as for UNIQ and the Sutton Trust, are more narrowly focused. Crossing disciplinary boundaries is what universities do. We look at big questions holistically, and try to resolve them.

Whether you’re a budding mathematician, a soon-to-be medical student, an English literature nut, or a philosopher, you will have some interest in analysing life itself.

Rest assured, as well as broadly themed lectures, there will also be subject-specific streams for humanities, social sciences with law, and natural sciences with medicine.

Secondly, there is huge scope with this theme. We’ll have engaging lectures on – among other things – life on other planets, the development of embryos in the womb, medical ethics, the philosophy and theology of life, and how life’s challenges are defined in law.

There’ll also be seminars to develop your research skills and strengthen your university applications. These seminars will include a session with Oxplore.org – “The Home of Big Questions”. And you’ll get to meet some of our present and past students who will share their stories.

Will the Summer School apply to my chosen area of study?

You may be a physicist searching for a theory of everything, or you may be a geographer interested in how our changing environment affects life expectancy.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what subjects you’re studying or intend to study.

This is a summer school for anyone interested in the world and universe that surrounds them.

We will equip you with transferable skills while peering gingerly at a hugely complex problem. This, ultimately, is what university is all about.

Applications opened on Monday 23rd April, and close on Friday 1st June.

Decisions will be emailed to you on Friday 6th July.

To apply, follow this link: https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/form/seren-summer-school

If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with me via email: matthew.williams@jesus.ox.ac.uk

This Seren Summer School has been made possible through the enormously generous funding and support of Jesus College alumni and the Welsh Government.

 

University myths busted – part two

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LSE library

There are many enduring myths and misconceptions about higher education in the UK, some based around specific institutions and others on the university experience.

Here we look at some popular myths about universities, applications and courses and assess whether they are true or false.

London School of Economics is the hardest university to get in to

FALSE Judging by posts on forums like thestudentroom.co.uk, many students think the London School of Economics (LSE) is the hardest university to get in to. However, according to The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 (paywall), Oxford is the hardest, with an offer rate of just 24.7 per cent, followed by the University of the Arts London with a 25.9 per cent offer rate. LSE does have strict admissions requirements, but on the table it is in sixth place, with an offer rate of 37.1 per cent.

University X will reject your application if they see you’ve applied to University Y

FALSE This is a commonly repeated myth that can be easily busted. University admissions teams can only view your application and personal statement, they do not have any information about your other choices.

The only exception is Cambridge and Oxford as you’re not allowed to apply to both of these universities.

University X doesn’t like applicants from Wales/state schools

FALSE Universities want the best students for their courses, and base their admissions decisions on a range of factors, including your grades, personal statement and interview performance. Where you’re from and what school you attended, however, will not count against you.

LSE graduates are paid the most

TRUE This one does seem to be true, at least according to this report from 2016, which says that both male and female LSE graduates earn more than those from any other university. It says this is because LSE focuses on high-paying subjects like economics and law.

More information and resources

UCAS has produced a list of higher education myths, while The Student Room has busted a list of UCAS myths.

 

 

Open days: Why attend and how to prepare

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Deciding which university to attend is likely to be one of the biggest decisions in your life so far.

Even if you live at home and attend a university close to you, the change in circumstances will be significant.

That’s why it is important to prepare yourself for the experience as much as possible beforehand.

Why should you attend an open day?

Open days offer the ideal chance to learn more about the institutions you might be studying at and the courses for which you’ve applied.

Although there is a lot of information available online and in prospectuses, there’s no substitute for visiting a place in person.

By attending open days, you can gain a valuable insight into what each university has to offer and speak to lecturers and existing students about the course and university life in general.

In a previous Seren blog, Dr Jonathan Padley, Widening Participation Officer at Churchill College, Cambridge, expressed his surprise at students who didn’t attend open days.

“When I taught in Swansea a few years ago, I was amazed every year that some students would finish their A-levels then head off to a uni that they’d never visited,” he wrote.

“Literally, the first time they went there was to start their course, which struck me as brave… amongst other adjectives!”

As a Welsh student, all the universities in Wales, England and Scotland will be easily accessible to you, and if you do need to stay over the night before, many will offer free accommodation.

To find a list of upcoming open days you can search on the UCAS website or WhatUni.com.

How should you prepare for an open day?

Research First you must choose which university open days to attend. Most students pick between three and five. You might want to visit different types of university to compare and contrast (e.g. large vs. small, city vs. campus).

Plan your journey Make sure you know how you will get there – check train or bus times and prices, parking options and how long the journey will take. You could also download a campus map to help you find the meeting point.

Plan your day Some open days will be tightly organised, with scheduled tours and lectures, while others will be looser affairs, allowing you to choose what you want to do. If yours is the latter, make sure you know the times of what you want to do/see and book in advance if necessary.

Make time to explore Don’t limit your trip to just a campus tour. Try to make time to explore the town, city or surrounding area. You could end up living there, so it’s the ideal opportunity to get the lie of the land.

UCAS also has a useful open day resource including tips for how to prepare.

The Russell Group: what is it and why does it matter?

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glasgow university

While preparing your university application you may have heard about the Russell Group.

Many people have a vague idea of it being something to do with elite universities, but what is the Russell Group and why does it matter?

Originally set up in 1994, the Russell Group is made up of 24 world-class research-intensive universities, which are widely considered to be some of the best in the country.

These are:

The group is committed to maintaining the best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

Together its members are responsible for more than two-thirds of the world-leading research produced in UK universities and support more than 300,000 jobs across the country.

Russell Group universities award 60% of all doctorates in the UK and enrol 38% of all postgraduate students.

The Seren Network was set up in 2015 with the goal of increasing the number of Welsh students attending the best universities, like those in the Russell Group.

Recent figures show that the number of students from Wales studying at Russell Group universities dropped by almost 10% in three years, down from 6,900 in 2012/13 to 6,260 in 2015/16.

Several Russell Group members are now working closely with the Seren Network to help Welsh sixth-form students with their applications and improve their chances of attending top universities.

So why should you consider studying at a Russell Group university?

  • You will learn from some of the world’s finest minds; expert teachers and renowned academics
  • You will have access to some of the best teaching facilities in the UK, from libraries and lecture halls to labs and online learning tools
  • You will be part of a highly-motivated, talented and diverse peer group
  • You will boost your career prospects and earning potential – graduates from Russell Group universities earn on average 10% more over their lifetime than graduates of other universities

Further resources and information

For more information about studying at a Russell Group university, visit: http://russellgroup.ac.uk/for-students/

Which? University has a quick guide to Russell Group universities.

You can also read this blog, in which former Seren student Elliott Manwaring writes about what it is like to attend Cambridge University, and this blog, in which Mohamed Eghleilib writes about his time at Oxford.

University myths busted – part one

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about higher education in the UK, from those that are on specific institutions to others which relate to the university experience as a whole.

Here we take a look at some of the most popular myths about the university experience and try to work out whether they are true or false.

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You’ll need lots of money to survive university

FALSE Yes, we all know that university can be expensive. On top of tuition fees, you have accommodation and all sorts of other living costs to consider.  It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is the Welsh Government believes money shouldn’t be a barrier to going to university, so it recently launched a new student support package for students starting a first-time undergraduate course in 2018/19. The package, which is the most generous in the UK, means you could be eligible for up to £11,250 in grants and loans to help with living costs. For more information read our blog on student finance.

Your first year doesn’t count

FALSE This has to be one of the biggest misconceptions that exists about university life. Yes, it’s true that on most courses your first-year marks don’t count towards your final grade, but it is really important to remember that you still have to pass that all important first year. This means that skipping lectures and seminars, not handing in assignments on time and failing to do all the required reading is simply not an option. Your first year will also give you the foundation for the rest of your degree, so it is really important that you make a good start. Read our blog from Cardiff University History graduate Christian to get his top tips for starting at university.

Going to university is just an excuse for constant clubbing/partying/drinking

FALSE Many people believe that university life is just a constant stream of pubs, clubs and parties, occasionally interrupted by short bouts of study. It’s true that university life does offer a much greater degree of freedom than you’ll currently have, particularly if you move away from home, but it’s not all about the social life! The truth is, while there’s plenty of fun to be had at university you don’t have to do any of these things if you don’t want to. In fact, a recent survey by the University of Cambridge found that 30 per cent of students do not drink alcohol at all. The important thing is to get the balance right. Yes, have fun but you’ll soon find that if you do spend all your time partying and drinking, you probably won’t get very far on your course.

More information and resources

For more myths about the university experience busted, check out these pieces:

Save the Student: https://www.savethestudent.org/extra-guides/freshers/ten-myths-of-university.html

THE: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/busting-myths-about-university