Why go above and beyond at this year’s Seren conference?

I’m Matt Williams from Oxford University, and this December will be my third time coming to the amazing Seren conference in Newtown. I can’t wait to meet you all!

But what will you get out of it? And why should you go ‘above and beyond’? Aren’t you doing enough already?!

Well, most likely, yes, you are very busy at school and with activities outside the classroom. So when we suggest you go ‘above and beyond’ we don’t mean you have to do loads more work. Instead it means that you should be more focused on what you’d like to achieve after school, and push yourself to do your best.

Thinking about university, apprenticeships or jobs after school can be pretty scary. The processes for applying are competitive, and that can be demoralising for some of us (and I do include myself) who are not particularly confident in their abilities.

But I want to share something I realised a few years ago. I could push myself to be competitive and fight off other applicants — or I could just push myself further because I enjoyed doing so and do it all for myself. Constantly fretting about what everyone else is doing is so draining. But doing something you love for your own pleasure is wonderfully energising.

So go above and beyond for you. Be the best *you* you’re capable of being.

And this is where the conference can really help. There’s going to be fantastic academic sessions run by the Brilliant Club that will take you way beyond your school work. Go along to these sessions and drink in the content for your own pleasure. Try and have some fun learning something new about the universe.

There’ll also be stalls with loads of universities represented — including a really friendly bunch of us from Oxford! Come and talk to as many people as possible. We want to talk to you. We won’t ever make you feel small or silly. There are no bad questions you could ask us. Sometimes the practicalities of applying to uni can be complex and daunting. So that’s why we’ll be there, to help you through it.

There’s also going to be drop in sessions to talk you through money matters, such as uni debt. We know that’s a common cause of anxiety amongst school leavers, but we’ll have loads of top tips and friendly advice to put your mind at rest.

So by the end of the Seren conference you’ll have gone ‘above and beyond’ because you’ll have learnt something new about the universe, and you’ll be more confident in how you can explore the subjects you love even further. And we will be more the happy to help you be the best *you* you’re capable of being!

Numerous bookings have already been received. Reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment!

The Social Mobility Foundation is coming to Wales!

We are the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), and we are very excited that this year we are opening an office in Cardiff which means we can deliver our Aspiring Professionals Programme to students from across Wales. Applications are now open and the deadline to apply is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018.

Every year, we help more than 1,600 high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds realise their potential. Our programme supports those who may not have the knowledge or networks to access top professions. We work with young people from Year 12, right through university and into top jobs.

Event 3.jpg

There are a few different ways that we support students once they join our programme. Firstly we will help you with getting into a top university. That includes help on your personal statement, how to make an informed decision about which university you go to and all the other stages of your application like tests and interviews.

When you join the programme we will ask you all about your career aspirations and to pick a professional sector that you are interested in, from then on the programme will be tailored to that career sector. You will get matched up to a professional mentor who is currently working in the sector you have chosen. Our mentors are an amazing source of information and can give you a real insight of what it’s like to work day to day in their job. We have mentors from leading businesses such as KPMG, BBC, Amazon, Bank of England, Google, Linklaters and many more.

“Mentoring gave me an opportunity to explore my interests. If I hadn’t had a mentor my ideas for the future would be much more uncertain.” – Aspiring Professionals Programme Student.

Throughout your time on the programme you will also be offered lots of interesting workshops and skills sessions. During sixth form these are focussed on giving you an introduction to your career sector, and how to conduct yourself in a professional setting so that you are able to make the most of all your opportunities.

Event 4.jpg

The final part of the programme is the internship placements we provide. We have links with the leading law firms, banks, hospitals, engineering firms and many more and we can sort you out with fantastic internships. One student on the programme last year told us “The internship was so much more than I could have asked for. From networking to insight sessions… it provided me with incredibly valuable experiences that helped me in developing my professional skills and general confidence.” You won’t be photocopying and filing on any internship organised by us. Instead, you’ll shadow professionals to gain first-hand insight into your chosen area of work and, at the same time, strengthen your university application.

Event 2 or job.jpg

Once you get to university our support will continue. We will help you prepare for the world of graduate recruitment, practise for interviews, perfect your C.V. and get into the top jobs!

We are so excited to be coming to Wales, and we want to support lots of Seren students this year. If you are interested then head over to our website to read all about the different programmes you can apply for:  http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/programmes/#programmes

And make sure you check the eligibility criteria by clicking here.

Remember the deadline is 12pm, Wednesday 19th December 2018. In the meantime if you would like to get in touch, or for us to come and visit your school just contact us using the details below.

Phone: 020 7183 1189

Email: cardiff@socialmobility.org.uk

My experience applying to a French University

Elin Roberts is a former Seren student that is now a first-year student at Sciences Po Paris Politiers.


Never had I imagined that I would be attending to university in France, let alone Sciences Po Paris, Poitiers. Two years ago, I wasn’t even aware the university existed. I had only really considered two options: either studying in the UK or possibly the US.


When I was considering studying in the UK, I was primarily interested in Law. For this reason, I applied to study Law and French Law. However, I also had a love for Politics, History, Economics and foreign languages, and worried that the UK universities were limiting my opportunity to pursue all of my academic passions. I therefore began looking into universities in other countries in the hope of widening my academic opportunities.

blog pic3


I first heard about Sciences Po Paris when I interned in my MP’s office in Westminster. There was another intern who had studied at Sciences Po Paris, but at the Dijon campus. She spoke about how she was able to study all of the social sciences in her degree, including History, Law, Politics, Economics, Sociology and languages. I became intrigued at this and was eager to learn more.


From my research I discovered that Sciences Po Paris is made up of 7 regional campuses. Each campus focuses on different areas of the world. At the beginning I was interested in Le Havre (Asian & Chinese Affairs) and Dijon (Eastern European affairs). However, I quickly changed my mind after visiting Patagonia, Argentina later that year and becoming mesmerized by Latin American affairs. Hence, I decided to apply Poitiers, which is where I’m studying now.

Elin blog pic


The application process for Sciences Po Paris was very different from that of UCAS. I was the first student from my college to apply to the university, so the process was very unfamiliar to us all. In the Sciences Po application one writes a lettre du motivation, similar to a personal statement, but in a different style of writing. There are also separate spaces to include the following: extra-curricular activities, internships, international experiences and a CV.


After completing the application, I was invited for an interview in London, which was in French. The Sciences Po interview differed from my Oxford interview. In the Sciences Po interview I analysed a French newspaper article on Latin American affairs and then presented this to the interviewer. I then answered various questions regarding my presentation and my application.

blog pic.JPG


To prepare for the interview, my college (Coleg Meririon-Dwyfor) provided me with numerous mock interviews, as well as any extra oral sessions to discuss Latin American affairs in French. The Seren Network was also very helpful, for instance arranging a mock interview for me with a doctorate student at Oxford University.


Applying to Sciences Po Paris has highlighted the importance of extra-curricular activities to me, something I’m grateful the Seren Network flagged to us at the beginning of year 12. If you’re in year 12, this year I urge you to participate in extra-curricular activities. Look for summer internships and apply to summer schools. Look for opportunities within the PRIME Scheme, Social Mobility Business Partnership and Social Mobility Foundation. You might not be successful with every application, but unless you try, you’ll never know. And the benefits you’ll experience personally, as well as towards your university applications, will be so worth it. So, this year give yourself a challenge: try something new and dive into the unknown!

blog pic2


I would like to thank the Seren Network for their support over the past two years in aiding with my university application and exploration higher education of choices. I would also like to thank Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, especially Dr. Gareth Lanagan, for their support from applying for summer internships to applying to university.

Reminder: Bookings are open for Seren 2018: Above and Beyond

We’re pleased to say that we’ve already had bookings rolling in for our next national conference; Above and Beyond, which will be held again on 4th, 5th or 6th December 2018 at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown.

06.12.17 mh Seren Students Conference 229


Here’s a reminder as to why you should book your place…



  • How will you go above and beyond the academic confines of your A-levels to gain a place at a top university?
  • How will you stand out when you write your personal statement?
  • What steps do you need to take to apply to the most competitive courses?
  • What questions do you have about university life, finance, preparing for your career while at university?


Universities are looking for students that have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their subject passion. At the conference, students from Seren hubs across Wales will take part in Academic Masterclasses that will provide a new perspective on broader areas of study beyond the A-level and Welsh Bacc curriculum. You’ll also have the opportunity to speak directly with leading universities from the UK and overseas to answer any questions you may have about student life, finance, scholarships, bursaries and getting career-ready while at university.



  • Have you thought about how will you undertake your professional learning and demonstrate your strong leadership skills within your profession this year?
  • How will you equip yourself with all the information required to support your high fliers and their progression to university?
  • How will you navigate university admissions tests and plan stretch and challenge support to help your students reach their full potential?


With new sessions, the professional development strand of the Seren conference has been designed to assist you in helping your A-level students and to help you become champions of university access within your schools and colleges. The conference will also will enable you to meet other professionals who are also going over and above to support their students and to share best practice.


Bookings are open – reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment!

Our experiences with the Sutton Trust US programme

We spoke to three Welsh students who, with the help of the Seren Network, were part of the Sutton Trust US Programme this summer; a programme designed to encourage bright, state school students to consider applying to American universities.

Three groups of students spent a week in different areas of the US, learning more about life in higher education in America while also visiting some of the country’s best universities.

The programme is free of charge for the selected students.


Thomas Evans, from Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron travelled to New York, visiting Yale University, Skidmore University, Connecticut College and Wesleyan University.

“Once upon a time, spending a whole week at Yale University and being presented with so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, was a dream.


“Due to the Seren Network’s relationship with the Sutton Trust US programme, my dream has become a reality.


“I have learnt so much during my time in the US, from speaking to American admissions officers from over 30 different institutions in Harvard University to being mentored by members of the Fulbright commission.


“This programme has allowed for me to realise my own academic potential, which has significantly increased my confidence for both my UK and US admissions.


“More importantly this programme has surrounded me with like-minded people who have become like family to me and are solely responsible for catalysing my success in the process of American admissions so far.


“I’d encourage everyone to apply – even if you are not admitted into the programme, the actual application process is very similar to the American university application process, and many of the skills you will acquire merely through your application process are extremely valuable ones.”


Yale University


Elli Rees from Gower College Swansea went to Boston, visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth University, Smith University, Bowdoin University, Amherst University and Babson University.

“If I could sum up my week in Boston, staying in MIT in but a few words I would simply say it was an unforgettable, lifechanging experience that I would encourage everyone to apply for.


“MIT’s campus was incredible; the architecture was amazing and quirky.


“It wasn’t necessarily my favourite university – there were too many to choose from, from Dartmouth the ‘baby Ivy League’ where Dr Seuss graduated, to Bowdoin where they do amazing marine biology research and finally Amherst, a beautiful university which looks like it’s come out of a fairy tale!


“The best thing about the week was how every day was amazing, hilarious and intense, yet still managed to prepare us all for the college fair.


“In the college fair we met a vast amount of colleges ranging from small liberal arts colleges, to women’s colleges and ivy league universities – giving us the opportunity to find so many more universities to fall in love with.


“On top of this, it also taught us so much about talking to admissions officers and getting started on our university applications for after the week had ended.


“We also formed great friendships and became a true part of the Sutton Trust family – I can’t wait to see where I go with the Sutton Trust and my brilliant friends from around the UK’s support.”


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Naomi Gauden from Heolddu Comprehensive travelled to Philadelphia, visiting Princeton University, Bryn Mawr University, Swarthmore University and Lafayette University.

“The Sutton Trust US programme is an experience that I will forever be grateful for.


“It has allowed me to develop myself into a more confident and aspirational young woman.


“I was worried I wouldn’t fit in but every aspect of the programme such as the Fulbright staff, the team leaders and each other applicant were welcoming and made me feel at home instantly.


“I have made some amazing friends and the list keeps growing with every experience the programme provides.


“I visited some of the most breath-taking universities and had an insight as to what being an American student would entail – something I will hopefully get to experience myself one day.


“I would encourage anyone to take advantage of this programme if US study is a dream of yours.”


Princeton University


For more information on the programme and how to apply visit: https://us.suttontrust.com/

Event Announcement: You’re invited to Seren 2018: Above and Beyond

Hi, I’m Dr Dylan E. Jones and I am the Dean of Education and Head of the Institute of Education at UWTSD.

Last year I hosted the Seren Network National Conference, I am delighted to announce that this year it will be held again on 4th, 5th or 6th December 2018 at Cefn Lea Park in Newtown and that all year 12 Seren students are invited.

Dr Dylan

I will have the pleasure of hosting this hugely successful event again, this year. As a former head teacher in south-Wales, I know what a fantastic opportunity this event is for Wales’ young people and school professionals.

But don’t just take my word for it, the feedback from last year’s conference really demonstrated the widespread benefits of attending the conference.

What did students make of Seren 2017?

A huge 91% of those that attended agreed that they had found the conference to be an extremely positive experience, the best things being;

  • Access to and the number of universities present
  • The amount of information gained on applications, university life and courses available
  • Attending a specific session

Students commented that the ‘best bits’ included;

“Showed me different career paths I didn’t know were possible to pursue due to doubting myself.”

“That there was more than one opportunity to visit the University stalls as I found myself visiting stalls I didn’t think of visiting the first or second times.”

“Found out lots of information. I am a lot more confident about trying to apply for the bigger universities.”

What did professionals make of Seren 2017?

Teacher, lecturer and support staff from schools and colleges across Wales indicated that they felt attending the conference had increased their students’ motivation to apply, and knowledge of how to apply to a leading university:

  • 80% of students were more likely to attend open days
  • 78% were more motivated to apply to a leading university
  • 75% were more confident in planning to apply for a leading university or course
  • 80% were more knowledgeable of what it takes to successfully apply to a leading university

Comments from professionals regarding the benefits included;

“Having an opportunity to learn and share with a range of contributors from across the UK so that we are better able to support our pupils.”

The opportunity for professional development and to meet other professionals was also welcomed by staff with one responder highlighting “the opportunity to talk with other professionals” as a particular benefit.

Those are just a few of the many reasons to attend Seren 2018. I will look forward to seeing you all there and indeed to delivering the ‘Maximising your Bilingualism’ session, for our Welsh speakers.

We’ll be posting more detailed information about sessions and how to make the most of the conference over the coming weeks.

For now though, happy booking!

I advise you to book soon to avoid disappointment!

Your personal statement – what not to say

Writing a personal statement can be one of the more difficult tasks associated with university applications.

You might be able to write a 2,000-word essay on modern British history in no time at all, or investigate numerical methods of solving equations with your eyes closed, but producing a piece of work about entirely about yourself – your skills, experience and ambition – can be another matter entirely.

The personal statement is one of the most significant aspects of a university application; it’s your opportunity to sell yourself to the institutions you want to attend. In fact, it might be the only opportunity you get, as not all universities hold interviews.

That is why it is important to not only get it right but also to make sure it stands out.


UCAS has a useful guide to writing a personal statement on its website, including answers to commonly asked questions, video advice from admissions tutors and links to other helpful online guides.

There’s even a personal statement tool to help you think about what to include and how to structure it, with a handy character count to make sure you don’t go over the limit.

But what about those things that you should not include – the irrelevant, the unhelpful and the inappropriate? Knowing what to leave out is as important as what to put in, so here are a few top tips on what not to say in a personal statement:

  • Do not mention a specific university. You should keep the names of individual institutions out of your statement. Admissions tutors will think you only want to attend their university anyway.
  • Take care with humour, such as irony, sarcasm, wit or ‘funny’ quotes. These can be distracting and potentially off-putting to admissions tutors, especially if they do not share your sense of humour.
  • Avoid using jargon and overly complex language. You might think you’re helping your chances by including long words and academic terms, but really you’re making your statement more difficult to read. Admissions tutors want to know about you, so write in a natural and enthusiastic style using simple language.
  • Again, admissions tutors want to know about you; not Voltaire, not Shakespeare and definitely not Homer Simpson. So leave other people’s quotes out.
  • Negative comments. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so trying to explain or excuse why you didn’t achieve or failed to complete something will only detract from that. Focus on the positive.
  • Clichés. Admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements, and many will include the same over-used words and phrases that don’t say anything, such as ‘ever since I was young’ and ‘I have always been interested in’. Perhaps the most over-used cliché, and therefore the least helpful to your application, is the word ‘passion’ or ‘passionate’.
  • Incorrect spelling and grammar. This one should go without saying, but a surprising number of personal statements still contain the most basic errors with spelling, grammar and punctuation, often ensuring they are the first to be discarded. Before you hit ‘send’, make sure you are certain it contains no errors; read it through thoroughly multiple times, use spelling and grammar software and ask someone else to proofread it.