Thinking about university at the age of 14 sounds a bit premature, but as we learned from Dr. Padley, choices that students make in year 10 and 11 can affect their options later on in life.

Dr. Padley kindly visited St David's from Churchill College in Cambridge in order to speak to our partner school students about applying to Russell Group Universities. He spoke about university life, gave advice on how to choose your courses, and highlighted the importance of achieving strong grades at GCSE.

Some things we learned about Cambridge:

  • Unlike the 15 weeks we have between the summer holidays and Christmas, some universities work on shorter terms. Cambridge, for example, has three terms of eight weeks each per year.

  • Speaking of holidays, breaks at Cambridge are called 'vacations' and students are encourages to look at them as a time to 'vacate' university and take internships or make time for further research and study.

  • You will be working alongside people who are at the cutting edge of research and development, which can be very exciting.

  • You will have access to over 100 libraries!

  • Field work at school may consist of a day trip to a local place of interest, however, if your area of interest is moss in the Arctic (and apparently, it is for some) then at university you will be encouraged to spend a good few weeks at a time on location, focusing on your area of interest.

  • Cambridge and Oxford are the only two universities in the world which deliver undergraduate lessons by way of supervisions and tutorials – often one-to-one or one-to-two teaching sessions – alongside lectures, library time and field work.

Things to look forward to at university:

  • Meeting new people

  • Living somewhere new

  • Meeting people who have the same interests as you

  • Being independent

  • Joining clubs and taking part in activities (they have a Tea Society, yes, really!)

How do I choose a course?

  • Consider what you like and what you’re good at.

  • Think about how you want to learn (do those one-to-one sessions sound good to you?)

  • Consider the financial implications but try not to let this worry you too much, Cambridge (and other Russell Group universities) have big bursaries on offer.

  • Consider your post-GCSE choices carefully (this is where St David’s comes in – once you apply you will have a chance to sit down with our staff and discuss the best course choices for your career aims).

  • There are 1000s of courses that you can do (have a look at what Cambridge offers!)

What do universities want?

  • First, they want to see that you are seriously interested in the subject you have chosen. This can be demonstrated through your choice of A Levels, your personal statement, and your references from teachers.

  • Next, they will look at your grades. A strong grade profile tells a university that you are hardworking, dedicated and determined to succeed.

After the talk, the students were able to ask Dr. Padley and our own Honours students questions (and eat biscuits).

A big thank you to Dr. Padley, and to our Corpus Christi and Mary Immaculate students for such an interesting morning.

Photo credit: Aisha Saeed

Student Photographer

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