Two Colleges of the University of Cambridge spent a week on the road to show Scottish students and teachers what the university had to offer them.

I’m clearer now on what I need to do - and I now know that Cambridge understands Scottish Highers.

Alice Newey, Linlithgow Academy student

The five Information Seminars were hosted by the International School of Aberdeen, Glasgow’s Springburn Academy, and Edinburgh Academy.  Every school in mainland Scotland received an invitation to take part, hear the latest information on courses and applications, and have their questions answered.

Laura McGarty and Ellen Slack, School Liaison Officers from Pembroke and Selwyn Colleges, spoke about student life and offered tips on choosing a college, while Dr Caroline Burt and Dr Mike Sewell gave advice on choosing the right course and preparing a strong application.

“Choosing the right course is fundamental to the chance of getting in to university,” explained Dr Burt, Admissions Tutor for Pembroke College. “Don’t forget that there might be courses which you would enjoy and which suit your abilities, but which you don’t study at school.”

“As Admissions Tutors we’re looking for academic ability, independent thought, interest in your chosen subject and commitment to your studies. You can demonstrate these in your personal statement by discussing books you have read, scientific themes you have investigated, or ways you have explored maths, for example.

“If we interview you, we’re trying to bring out your academic skills and quality. We can’t achieve that by asking trick questions.”

As well as advice to students, the sessions offered teachers the chance to review two real Cambridge application forms – with personal details anonymised – to show first-hand what makes a strong application.

Jack, 16, and Charlotte 15, travelled from Beaconhurst School, Bridge of Allan, to attend the Springburn Academy seminar.

“I don’t know much about university yet, so it’s been good to check out the process,” Jack said. “It’s been quite an eye-opener.”

“The information makes university seem a bit less daunting and mysterious,” Charlotte added.

Caitlin and Fiona, both 16, came to the Glasgow seminar from Kyle Academy in Ayr.

“I wanted to hear tips on the interview, and on how to write a good personal statement,” Caitlin said. “The advice to make the statement 70% about your academic interests and only 30% about other achievements was really helpful.”

For Fiona, the statistics on admissions and on employment were the most useful part of the event. “The fact that everyone’s got the same opportunity to get into a university like Cambridge was reassuring – and that so many people go on to get good jobs afterwards.”

Annette Mackay, Depute Head of Bearsden Academy, brought a large group of S5 and S4 students to the seminar. “We need to be talking about university choices as students come up to their standard grades.

“It’s not practical for me to take a group this size to Cambridge so having this event in Glasgow is very helpful.”

Welcoming participants to the Edinburgh seminars, Marco Longmore, Rector of Edinburgh Academy, said “You all have the ambition and the ability to apply to high-tariff courses.

“Turning that ambition into reality requires good decisions and some key actions.

“The value of a session like this is that it gives you an opportunity to understand the process and the expectations that an institution like Cambridge has of its applicants.

“On the back of that understanding you'll feel much better prepared as you embark upon this process.”

Edinburgh Academy student Patrick Christie, 15, felt better informed as a result of the seminar. “You do know a bit, but it has clarified things – it’s been a good insight into how a university works.”

Beth Crichton, also 15, agreed. “It has been really useful and has clarified things I wasn’t sure about, particularly the application process. It’s good that the Cambridge team have come here so that we don’t have to travel.”

Alice Newey, 16, came from Linlithgow to the Edinburgh seminar. “I know that I want to apply to Cambridge.  It can sometimes feel like an unachievable goal, but being here today has made me feel more comfortable.

“The presentations have set out the academic requirements for getting in. I’m clearer now on what I need to do - and I now know that Cambridge understands Scottish Highers.”

Reflecting on the tour, Ellen Slack, Selwyn College School Liaison Officer, said “It was so interesting to speak with students about how they were developing their passions for particular subjects and starting to think seriously about which to focus on at higher levels.

“It was also lovely to have so many good, interesting questions both during the presentations and informally between sessions.”

Dr Mike Sewell, Admissions Tutor for Selwyn College and Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said “Scots students are greatly valued by the University.

“Events like these Information Seminars don’t just provide an opportunity for us to set out our stall and provide information on what Cambridge has to offer bright and ambitious young Scots.

“They’re also a chance for us to listen to Scottish students and their teachers, and find out more about what we can do to encourage Scots to consider us among their higher education options.”


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