A world of possibilities

Seren graduate, Joseph Hinchcliffe, 19, is looking forward to starting university in the US after being a part of the Seren programme opened his eyes to all of the opportunities available both in the UK and America. Here, Joseph shares his experience of Seren and the US applications process, as well as his advice to other learners thinking about studying abroad.

“This summer, I moved from my hometown in North Wales to America to start my dream degree at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill – an opportunity that wouldn’t have presented itself if it wasn’t for Seren. I had never previously considered studying abroad but after I attended Seren’s Academy cohort launch event in 2018 my eyes were opened to the huge possibilities out there. At the event, I was able to network and chat with representatives from a range of universities around the world, including US institutions, as well as Seren alumni who had studied in America themselves.

Through Seren, I was made aware of the 2019 year 12 Harvard summer school  in the US which really peaked my interest. It sounded like an amazing experience so I decided to have a go and put in an application, not really expecting to get a place due to the fact it has a very competitive selection process. So, as you can imagine, when I found out that I had secured a place on the programme, I was over the moon!

I spent two weeks on campus at Harvard studying criminal law, attending three hours of classes each day covering a variety of related topics. Attending the summer school was incredible – I made plenty of new friends and got a taste of university life. Being alongside other talented students showed me that I was deserving of getting a place and took away the doubts I had about my ability to apply to top universities. The experience also gave me an insight into the US curriculum and education style which I felt suited me. From then on, I knew that I really wanted to attend a US university and was determined to secure a place.

Due to the large difference in the application process between UK and US universities, I took a gap year to do my research and really focus on my applications. At the Seren launch event, I had met Rowena Boddington from the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which is home to the EducationUSA team for the UK. EducationUSA provides guidance and resources to help UK students apply to US universities and the organisation has partnered with Seren to ensure Welsh students like me, from any background, have the opportunity to study abroad.  As applying to US universities was completely new to me, having Rowena support and guide me through the process was invaluable.

I ended up receiving offers from Harvard, Stanford, Vanderbilt and the University of Oxford as well as University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill where I was offered a four year scholarship from Morehead-Cain – a US-based merit programme which provides full funding for high calibre students to study at UNC-Chapel Hill. The scholarship will cover the cost of my tuition, accommodation, meals, books and supplies for the duration of my course. Getting offers from universities of this calibre was definitely an amazing feeling. I ultimately chose to accept my offer from UNC due to its strong sporting community (I’m a keen footballer myself) as well as the balance it offers between academia and the social aspects of university life.

I am the first generation of my family to go to university so getting my place at UNC has been a proud moment for all of us. Applying to top universities is highly competitive but working with Seren and its partners helped me believe in myself that I had what it takes to follow my dreams of studying at a leading US university. Being from a state school and not being a solely academic person when I grew up, I didn’t think somewhere like Oxford, Cambridge or an American Ivy League would ever have been an option for someone like me. Speaking to Seren alumni who had gone on to study at such institutions helped me realise that I did have what it takes to attend the university of my dreams and this pushed me to keep going.

I’m now excited to start my degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish. Although I initially studied criminal law as part of the summer school, I decided to instead combine all of my subject interests from A levels in one place. I’m also passionate about climate change and helping build a better future for generations to come. Once I graduate I’d like to pursue a career in environmental policy to mix my love of the environment and law.

I would like to say thank you to Seren as the programme opened up opportunities that I hadn’t previously considered and gave me the confidence to aim high. Without Seren, I wouldn’t have found out about the Harvard summer school, nor would I have met staff and Seren alumni from US universities, which kickstarted my interest in studying abroad and my journey to securing a place at UNC.

My advice to Seren learners would be to make the most out of all opportunities offered to you  – subject masterclasses, summer schools, application tutorials and mentorship. Each of these will give you valuable insights, skills and knowledge that will allow you grow and develop as a well-rounded university candidate. So work hard and believe in yourself – you will get out what you put in.”

Joseph Hinchliffe

Seren graduate 2020 – Studying Environmental Science and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish at UNC-Chapel Hill

Our advice to Seren learners considering applying to international universities

We speak to Elli Rees and Jacinta Speer who are both studying at international universities and who are joining us as teaching assistants at this year’s Seren International Online Summer School, to hear their top advice for those of you thinking of applying to universities overseas.

Tell us a little bit more about yourselves…

Elli: Hi everyone, I’m Elli from Llanelli, and I am a rising Junior at St John’s College, Annapolis. I was a Seren student four years ago and at the time, I would never have thought I’d be studying in the US now or typing this blog from Rome where I am currently studying for the summer.


Jacinta: I’m Jacinta and I’m from Australia. I’m a rising senior studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore – which means I’m starting my fourth and final year soon.

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Advice to my younger self…

By Joe Tresidder, Swansea, South Wales. A second year Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Spanish) undergraduate student at Clare College, Cambridge, and teaching assistant for the Seren International Online Summer School 2021.

“A few years ago, I was like many of you: Anxiously thinking through university and course options for when I would finish sixth form. I remember thinking that the sheer range of possible courses, let alone the choice of studying at different types of universities, seemed very overwhelming and stressful at times!

To be perfectly honest with you all, even after I had reached the end of year 12, I wasn’t 100% sure about the course that I wanted to study in university, which made me a bit anxious. I always knew that I was interested in languages, but I also could not help but think about whether I wanted to study history, or law, or politics. So I completely understand how difficult it can seem when everyone expects you to make up your mind about what you’re going to study for the next few years of your life. After all, there is plenty to consider, and it’s okay to take a bit of time to decide.

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Beyond the MAT: top tips to ace your university maths interview

After sitting your MAT test and (fingers crossed) achieving a result you’re happy with, the next step in your university application will be the interview stage. This is often a very nerve-wracking experience for many applicants who aren’t sure what to expect. However, through plenty of practice and preparation, you can build your confidence and feel ready to take on the big day.

Here, Francis Hunt, Maths Enrichment Coordinator from the Further Maths Support Programme Wales – a Swansea University-based scheme designed to support learners interested in studying maths at higher levels – shares his top tips to prepare for your university maths interview.

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How Seren helped Abi set her sights on Oxford

Abi Vukashin is a Year 13 student at Cardinal Newman School, Pontypridd, and has received an offer to study Medicine at New College, Oxford this year.

However, being from a Welsh state school and having no family background in Medicine, Abi doubted her own skills and abilities to secure a place, and was initially very reluctant to apply to Oxford.

But through her own drive and determination, and by making the most of the opportunities presented to her by Seren and other sources, Abi realised that studying medicine at Oxford was an achievable goal…

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The Power of Talking for Mental Wellbeing

Mind Cymru shares its tops tips on how to find the time to talk and look after your mental health.

With today marking Time to Talk Day, a day which encourages the nation to get talking about mental health and help end the stigma around it, there’s never been a better time to open up, express how you’re feeling and consider ways you can take care of your wellbeing.

And, with so much going on in the world at the moment it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit more stressed or anxious, so it’s especially important to keep talking and take positive steps to look after yourself.

We ‘talked’ with mental health charity, Mind Cymru, and anti-stigma campaign, Time to Change Wales, to offer five powerful top tips on how we can all care for and improve our mental health and wellbeing during the lockdown.

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From Ceredigion to Cambridge

What should I study at university? It’s a common question for many starting Year 12, so don’t worry if you’re still unsure.

Read how Seren helped Lucy explore and develop her passion for languages and gave her the boost in confidence to apply to study at Cambridge.

Lucy Hill (18), Studying Modern and Medieval Languages at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

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Seren Prospectus – Class of 2020/2021

Download our latest prospectus for students and parents/carers and learn more about how Seren helps Wales’ brightest learners reach their academic potential.

Being a Seren student means you will be offered an extensive range of activities that you can take part in, resources to download, webinars and masterclasses to log into, and summer schools to apply for. All of which are designed to support your ongoing studies and help you realise your ambition of furthering your education at a leading university, if that’s where you want to go next.

We encourage you to grab as many opportunities as you can, but what you choose to get involved with is up to you.

You all have aspirations, ambitions, and goals. Seren is here to help you reach for the stars!

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 gov.wales/coronavirus

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 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.

What can I expect from this year’s Summer School?

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