One of the biggest compliments that we can receive is when former students contact us and ask how they can give back to the College.

Recently, Tommy Higgins did just that and we very much look forward to welcoming him back to speak to our current Honours students about his experience of applying to Oxford.

"I dropped out of Stanwell..." isn't exactly how you expect a biography of an Oxford University student to start. However, Tommy's story is an excellent example of how the road to success isn't always a straight one, and that with a bit (ok, a lot) of hard work you really can achieve anything.

At St David's we aim to provide the support, guidance and encouragement that every student needs to reach their potential. Tommy explains what that really looks like:

In 2013, I dropped out of Stanwell School with bad mental health difficulties and no plan in life. It took a while, but on 10 January 2018 I received an offer to study English Language and Literature at New College at the University of Oxford. Not bad. The staff, faculty, teachers and students at St David’s College were the most supportive and kind bunch I have ever met, and without their help and unshakeable faith in every student, I don’t think I would have made it to where I have.

Falling out of the school system at the age of 15/16 can be difficult, and terrifying. I considered returning to school a few times, but was content to study maths at home, and kick my heels, living with my parents.

St David’s felt different to the other schools in the area – It’s not a conveyor belt, and is in natural surroundings, with a large sports ground behind the academic buildings. The academic scholarship helped me to support myself while I studied at St David’s for two years, and my parents and I constantly felt part of the learning process.

"St David’s felt different to the other schools in the area..."

While my confidence was building over my time there, I started to notice that it wasn’t just me that the teachers cared about – the level of support and the quality of teaching I received was applied, regardless of history or ‘prospects’, to every single student at the College.

The Honours system operated by St David's is without any equivalent that I am aware of within Wales. Students have close contact, in small learning groups or 1-1 sessions, with graduates of some of the UK’s top Universities, and a range of support across STEM and the Liberal Arts. Dr Constant and Mr Grindulis offered me extra-curricular advice and guidance that was insightful and incredibly valuable.

I went from being crammed into oversized GCSE classes to sitting in lecture theatres hearing discussion and debate from University lecturers. I would turn up, sleepy and grumpy, at 10am, and rather than being told off, I would be asked if I had looked at Universities in London or Scotland, or be invited to a game of chess, or into a conversation about Hegel by my peers. And this was when I was getting Ds in my essays.

Through a combination of the excellent mental health services, the wise chaplaincy team, and the fantastic teachers and students, within my AS year I went from D/C grade essays to AAA and the confidence to apply to Oxford.

"...within my AS year I went from D/C grade essays to AAA and the confidence to apply to Oxford."

A Levels are hard. It’s a difficult time of life, and it’s too easy to feel like you don’t fit in, or that no one notices you. At St David’s, A Levels are still hard, but I felt like I was actively in a relationship with the college and the students, rather than churning out work for no clear reason, as I had felt at other schools and sixth form faculties.

When I arrived at New College Oxford, it didn’t even feel that different to St David’s College. I had been well prepared. I arrived at St David’s nervous and lonely, and left with AAA*A*, lifelong friends, and, yes, the place at Oxford. Go for it.

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Applications for September 2019 are now open, apply now!

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