Seren students set to attend Yale Young Global Scholars Programme and Harvard Summer School

Last month, we held an event for the students who were successful in securing a place to study abroad this summer at Yale Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS) and Harvard Summer School.

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We’re pleased to announce there was a total of 53 Seren students, 30 of which are attending YYGS and 23 attending Harvard Summer School, an amazing achievement showcasing Welsh talent on a global scale.

Out of the 30 students at YYGS, 29 of these will be at the United States and one in Beijing in China.

Both the YYGS and Harvard Summer School programmes give students an insight into their further education, the subjects they want to study and the difference of learning styles across the world.

These opportunities give students a taster of life at two of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.

Students will be challenged both intellectually and socially, while also getting the chance to meet like-minded people from across the world and gaining an experience to drawn on in future university applications.

April Spiteri, a Seren student going to YYGS, said “I’m going to Yale to study applied science and engineering. I’m so excited, I can’t actually believe this is real and that I’ll be going to America.”

Keep your eyes peeled for more updates from the students in the coming months…

Interested in studying at Oxford? This is for you.

Are you interested in studying at Oxford University and universities like it? But are you worried that it may not be for you? Seren and Jesus College at Oxford University have partnered to create an exclusive opportunity designed to settle any concerns and help you decide whether Oxford is right for you.

What is it?

Seren and Jesus College, Oxford, have come together to design an all-expenses-paid experience exclusive to Year 12 Seren Students. The Seren/Jesus College Summer School, now in its third year, is a week-long residential programme jam-packed with academic activities designed to give prospective students an insight into what its really like to study and live at Oxford University. It really is as close as you can get to being an Oxford student and ‘try before you buy’!

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Why should I attend?

If you’re hoping to study at Oxford University, or any prestigious university, this programme is perfect for you.

Jam-packed with lectures, seminars and Oxford’s world-famous tutorials, you’ll get the opportunity to see what it takes to excel academically at a leading university, as well as experiencing first-hand what it’s like to live and eat within Oxford’s hallowed halls. Students will also have the opportunity to explore the city of Oxford, it’s 38 colleges and more than 100 libraries.

This is the perfect experience for any Seren student who might have misconceptions about what it’s like to live and study at Oxford, or those concerned that Oxford might not be the place for them.

What’s on the agenda this year?

Each year there is a different theme, which gives students an insight into the topics of the lectures, seminars and tutorials. This year the theme is the Earth’s Future and you can expect to cover topics such as:

  • Climate change
  • Biodiversity
  • The future of global trade
  • World order in the age of Trump and Putin
  • Interplanetary Colonisation

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Sounds great! How do I apply?

The good news is the programme has expanded to fit even more Seren students in, and there are now 75 spaces available. However, this is always a really popular opportunity, so we recommend allowing as much time as possible to make your application the best it can be.

Applications will open in mid-April and close at the end of May, so keep your eyes peeled for more announcements and information on how to apply.

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What have other students said?

“I would recommend the Seren/Jesus College Summer School to all students as it is a brilliant experience.

“One of my favourite lectures was about language in law. It’s very different to my usual study and allowed me to open my mind to things I have not thought about, developing my lateral thinking skills.”

Joe Phelps

“The summer school has been one of my favourite weeks over the summer.

“Not only did I value the academic experience, but I also valued the fact that I had the opportunity to meet some excellent people and create long lasting friendships.”

Elin Roberts

“After all of this, I find it hard to not be inspired to apply to Oxbridge.

“The environment is a lot of fun and the lecturers are all top of their field experts. The students are all friendly and the tutorials are fantastic.”

Thomas Tiltman

Want to know more? Watch the video from last year here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=443916059431499

My Seren/Jesus College Summer School experience

We spoke to Joe Phelps, a year 13 student from the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire hub, who told us about his experience from Seren/Jesus College Summer School last year.

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Why did you apply for Seren/ Jesus College Summer School?

“I applied for the Seren/Jesus College Summer School in the hope of finding out more about Oxford university and if it was a university I would like to apply to.

“Being from rural west Wales, I didn’t really know what to expect and I wasn’t sure whether Oxford would be the university for me.

How did you find the application process?

“Despite being a challenge, I found the application process enjoyable because it allowed me to have a chance at writing extended pieces which I don’t usually get to do with my A levels which are maths, physics and chemistry.

“In my application, I wrote an essay on the topic of “The meaning of life” which gave me the opportunity to explore some new ideas and research topics along with gaining useful feedback to help further my writing skills.

What were your first impressions of Oxford?

“When I arrived in Oxford, I remember I found the layout of the city very interesting, with the different colleges dotted around the city.

“The architecture of the colleges and Oxford was fascinating.

“Initially, the scale of everything in Oxford overwhelmed me, but after entering the College and meeting the staff and other students, I was far more relaxed and felt very welcomed.

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Tell us about your time at the Seren/Jesus College Summer School?

“During my time at the Seren/Jesus College Summer School, I experienced what life as an Oxford student would be like.

“I attended lectures and seminars on some intriguing topics such as exoplanetary life and the significance of our own existence.

“One of my favourite lectures was about language in law. It’s very different to my usual study and allowed me to open my mind to things I have not thought about, developing my lateral thinking skills.

“At the end of the week, I submitted an essay on mathematical models which was discussed and scrutinised in a tutorial environment (a small discussion group with a tutor). I found this really interesting and enjoyed being able to discuss my ideas with others who had different ideas.

What else did you get from the experience?

“Aside from learning, we were also able to explore the City, visit museums and see what student life was like outside of the colleges.

“In my free time, I visited the famous Blackwell’s bookshop and relaxed in various coffee shops around the city with the new friends I had made there.

“Overall, I found the Seren/Jesus College Summer School an amazing experience which gave me a taste of what life is like for an Oxford student.

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How did the Seren/Jesus College Summer School help you?

“Attending the Seren/Jesus College Summer School encouraged me to apply for a place at the College to study physics.

“In January, I received an offer of study there. I was so excited and pleased to accept the offer and I can’t wait to hopefully start at Jesus College in October.

“I made some great friends from the experience and met many interesting and like-minded people who I have kept in touch with.

“I would recommend the Seren/Jesus College Summer School to all students as it is a brilliant experience, especially for those who are hoping to apply there and want to get a taste of what it is like.”

 

Applications for Seren/Jesus College Summer School are open until Friday 24th May.

Want a sneak peak of what a Seren/Jesus College Summer School experience is really like? Watch our video from last year here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=443916059431499

Spotlight on: Oxford – the application process

Catrin Williams, a first year Human Sciences student at Magdalen College, tells us all about the Oxford application process:

“I attended Chepstow Comprehensive school and am now in my first year at Magdalen College, Oxford, studying Human Sciences.

“I didn’t originally intend to go to Oxford, it happened more by accident than anything else!

“I spent a large proportion of year 12 feeling stressed because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life.

“I considered various career paths, including engineering apprenticeships, before I stumbled across Human Sciences on UCAS.

“If you’re thinking “What is Human Sciences?”, you’re not alone, I think it’s the only question I’ve heard since I got my offer on the 10th of January.

“Human Sciences is an eclectic mix of everything from genetics to sociology, with evolution and anthropology in the middle.

“It’s very broad and very interesting, although the sheer breadth of it means you’d be hard pressed to enjoy absolutely everything!

“It’s only offered at three universities: Exeter, UCL and Oxford (Durham also offer it along with health sciences).

“This is how I found myself only applying to three universities, including Oxford, and more by a process of elimination than anything else.

“I had no idea where to begin with the Oxford admissions process.

“I’m lucky enough to have had both parents and my sister before me go to university, but the Oxbridge admissions process is completely foreign.

“Most Oxford applicants have to sit an admissions test around November.

“For Human Sciences it’s the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) which consists of an hour and a half of multiple-choice questions designed to assess problem-solving skills, including numerical and spatial reasoning and critical thinking skills, followed by half an hour to write an essay.

“You choose from one of four unseen titles, which could be on absolutely anything, and tend to be a little bizarre, so you’re not really expected to know any detail about the question you answer.

“I chose to answer, “Can we learn about intelligence by studying how humans and other animals learn?”, which was a topic I knew (and still know) almost nothing about.

“However, the essay assesses your ability to structure an argument and communicate ideas, not how much you know about military campaigns and referendums (the other topics on my paper).

“There is so much information online for the TSA, and I’d recommend doing every single practice paper, particularly for part one, as the questions seem really strange to start with, but they’re very similar each year so you’ll begin to understand the pattern of answers.

“Somehow, I managed to get through to interview, which was a terrifying concept.

“Unlike private schools, and some larger state schools, most Welsh comprehensive schools don’t have someone allocated to Oxbridge applications, or an extensive question bank from past students’ interviews because everyone is made to fill in a full report form when they get back from Oxbridge interviews (yes, this is actually a thing).

“However, the tutors who interview you are fully aware of this and claim to be very good at spotting people who have been extensively prepped for Oxbridge interviews.

Oxford

“I only read one book for my interview (Sapiens by Yuval Noah Hariri – definitely recommend), and I’d only read half of it when I wrote my personal statement.

“I instead listened to loads of podcasts, which allowed me to quickly pick up a lot of information surrounding the topic without taking up too much time, as you can have them on in the background whilst you do something else.

“My RS teacher had recommended that we listen to Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In our time’ programmes for our philosophy and ethics modules, which I never did, but I found them excellent for Human Sciences, as the discussion format means you get lots of opinions.

“I listened as far back as the 1990s, then realised that it may no longer be the most up to date research on genetics!

“Also, little tip, if you’re looking to study something biology related, such as biological sciences, biomedical sciences, or human sciences, ‘The Selfish Gene’ is the probably the most over referenced book on personal statements, so read something more original if you can!

“My Magdalen interview felt awful.

“They began by asking some pretty basic biology questions, which helped me settle.

“However, they kept pushing me until I had nothing more to give, which made me feel like I hadn’t answered their questions well.

“I remember being handed a graph of death rates in the UK and in the USA and simply being asked “why did they die?”.

“One of my interviewers is now my sociology tutor, and I’ve still not worked up the courage to ask her the answer!

“I came out of my Magdalen interview and cried down the phone to my friend, convinced it was a complete disaster.

“It wasn’t helped when I talked to another girl being interviewed for Human Sciences, who said she felt her interview had gone really well.

“She didn’t get in, so you just can’t predict the outcome!”

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If you’re interested in a taster of life at Oxford yourself, including staying in an Oxford college and being taught by Oxford professors, why not apply to our annual Jesus College Summer School?

The school is running from the 19th to the 23rd of August and any Seren student in year 12 is welcome to apply (there are 75 funded places available).

Applications aren’t open yet, but we’ll be announcing their opening in May/June 2019. 

My experience with Seren so far

Iwan, a year 13 student from the Swansea hub, tells us about his experience with Seren so far:

“As a pupil who knew little about progressing into higher education, Seren taught me a great deal about what studying at university entailed. Looking back, Seren gave me the confidence to apply to the top universities in the country and inspired me to take advantage of every opportunity. I can ensure you they will open new doors to help you grow into a mature individual and allow you to reach your academic potential.

“The highlight of the programme for me was attending HE+ physics lectures at Gower College as they increased my intellectual capability and helped me to discover which subject I truly wanted to pursue further at university. The lectures were very engaging, compelling and informative.  The topics were discussed in great detail and depth and we were presented along with real-world problems to solve. Despite the challenging nature of these tasks, they encouraged us to think dynamically and laterally, giving us a taster of the teaching approach used in higher education.

“One of my most memorable lectures was based on the Bloodhound project, where postgraduate students from Swansea University presented the mechanical and engineering designs of the vehicle and ran through several digital simulations. It was an eye-opening experience as it emphasised how we will be the next generation that will need to adapt to the demands of society.

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The Bloodhound project

“Neither of my parents attended university and as a result of this, my understanding of the UCAS application process was minimal. Seren provided me with all of the information I needed regarding writing a personal statement, preparing for university life as well as applying for the most prestigious higher education institutions in the country. I also had the opportunity to attend the Seren Above and Beyond annual conference in Newtown, which was an invaluable experience as the talks ranged from adapting to university life, choosing a course that is best suited to your interests and searching for jobs at the end of your degree.

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Seren Conference, 2017

“My advice to you is to embrace the experiences Seren offers with curiosity and a willingness to learn. Make the most of the opportunities to ask experts and academics questions. It is only then that you can let go of your doubts and make a truly informed and balanced decision about your future.”

Spotlight on: University College London

Max Rees, second year medical student at UCL, tells us all about what it’s like to study at the prestigious university and offers some top tips for current Seren students:

“I knew pretty much from a young age that I wanted to study Medicine, but never thought I’d be able to get the grades. Nevertheless, I researched into universities and came across UCL and I instantly fell in love with: the buildings, the locations, and what the university stood for… a university who was built upon accepting students due to merit and not background. Even now as a second-year student, I’m still in awe walking through the campus.

 

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“There is so much more to UCL than just its appearance however. The student life is very active with there being such a large Students’ Union. This provides such a great opportunity to try new things or continue with your hobbies and extra-curricular activities you were involved with before university. As well as this, it gives you an opportunity to make friends outside of your course, who share other common interests as you.

“As a medical student, my week consists of: tutorials, seminars, lectures and lab sessions. Each providing a totally different way of learning, with lectures teaching you the information and knowledge required for the course, and seminars and tutorials allowing you to discuss what you’ve learnt in more detail, helping you see things in alternative ways of thinking. Lab sessions include: practical sessions, computer-aided lessons, and anatomy dissection/prosection. All of these allow you to put what you’ve learnt into practice, or to visualise what you’ve learnt (especially for anatomy). Alternating between different teaching styles really helps with understanding and helps you to realise the things you don’t understand as much.

“With the university being in such a central location, it’s so easy to go for a walk and sight see whenever you have a break from lectures or revision. I feel like this, along with being a member of different societies, really helps me to de-stress. You have the hustle and bustle of a big city on your fingertips which makes London such an exciting place to live, and you’ll find that there’s always a new bit of the city that you’ve never seen before!

“UCL offer so many Open Days for prospective students and most of these are run by present students which is really nice because you get the chance to speak to someone first-hand on how they’ve experienced university life, and what their favourite things about the university are. Once you’ve applied, and have been offered a place/interview, you are usually invited to a Department Open Day so that you can get a taste of what you’ll be studying. This is very helpful because it also makes you familiar with the building, and the style of teaching before you begin studying.

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“Being a member of the Seren Network, I learnt so much from the individual sessions put on for my subject choice. It is a super-curricular activity and helps you to learn beyond what you would in the classroom. I was able to discuss this in my personal statement and give the reasons as to why learning things that were medicine-based really interested me. It was an opportunity I, otherwise, wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t a part of it. As well as this, some sessions really highlighted the important of medical ethics, and helped you to begin thinking more holistically about certain topics. This really helped when it came to university interviews. Another aspect of Seren Network are the trips to visit certain universities which helps you to consider applying to other universities that you didn’t think of previously, and it can also change your mind about a university that you thought you really wanted to apply to.

“To conclude this, granted, a very long blog (apologies for this… I do tend to babble on) I just wanted to give you a few tips for both Year 12 and Year 13:

If you’re in your first year of sixth form or college, focus on trying to get relevant work experience and do some extra reading on things that interest you. These will really help when writing your personal statement because you can home in on the skills you’ve learnt and developed by doing so.

If you’re in Year 13, and are in the process of applying, don’t stress too much and don’t let not hearing back from your choices distract you from your school studies. It can be quite a stressful year, so try to find an activity that helps you to relieve the stress.”

Everything you need to know about: Mindfulness

Simon Jones, Head of Policy and Influencing at Mind Cymru, tells us all about mindfulness and tips for becoming more mindful in everyday life.  

Mindfulness has become a popular way to help people manage their day to day wellbeing, with many apps and books available to teach you the techniques. It’s a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without judging anything. It has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.

It aims to help you:

  • Become more self-aware
  • Feel calmer and less stressed
  • Feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings
  • Cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
  • Be kinder towards yourself

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The way we think (and what we think about) can affect how we feel and act. For example, if you think or worry a lot about upsetting past or future events, you might often feel sad or anxious. The theory behind mindfulness is that by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present (usually focusing on your body and breathing), you can:

  • Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. You may learn that they don’t have to define who you are, or your experience of the world, and you can let go of them.
  • Notice what your body is telling you. For example, tension or anxiety can often be felt in your body (such as in a fast heartbeat, tense muscles or shallow breathing).
  • Create space between you and your thoughts, so you can react more calmly.

Mindfulness helps people observe the way they think and feel about their experiences, whether good or bad. Mindfulness can help by increasing your awareness of your thoughts and feelings, managing unhelpful thoughts, and by developing more helpful responses to difficult feelings and events.

Some people find it can help to manage their depression, anxiety and stress. In particular it can help if you:

  • Struggle with negative thoughts and feelings that you would like to have more control over
  • Find it hard to switch off and relax
  • Worry a lot about events you cannot control
  • Need a way to reduce stress

If you find it difficult to get any free time, then mindfulness or relaxation techniques can help you give yourself the break you need.

Many people assume mindfulness and meditation are the same thing — but are there other strategies for being more mindful, outside of meditating:

  • Mindful eating, which involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat.
  • Mindful moving, walking or running. Notice the feeling of your body moving. You might notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different smells that are around you.
  • Mindful colouring and drawing. Focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper, rather than trying to draw something in particular. You could use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.

Eve Price, a current Seren student, says that wellbeing is a key priority for her and because of this has a set self-care routine: “I believe it’s very important to set a time in the evening when I stop doing work, to give myself the chance to switch off, followed by a set bed time to make sure that I get enough sleep. In order to reduce stress, I find it really useful to write to-do lists and plan the following day the night before. This includes how I’m going to use my free lessons and what work I’ll be doing the next evening.”

To find out more about mindfulness, visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.XD8Aelz7SUk