This is an article to accompany the video (found below) that Jemma Smith, Director of The Education Hotel Tuition and TopSchoolandUni recorded as part of her ‘How to maximise your summer break?’ session in The Oxbridge & University Journey group.
Year 11 and 12 are crucial years to prepare for impending university applications. Students should utilise their time effectively, including their summer break, Here’s how to do it.
Take time to relax, rejuvenate, pick up a hobby and spend an hour or two to de-stress yourself via these activities. These can be drawing, journaling, writing, cycling, swimming or playing football. Do what you like and make the most of this time. Eat well, sleep well and take a break from the monotonous drill of school life.
It doesn’t have to be a specific book. Choose any book, or the newspaper- Spectator perhaps? Attend Ted talks. Most important of all, note down all things that you have read. Keep a diary or journal and use it daily.
Head start for A level/ IB
Jump is really high between years, so it is best to mark out an hour everyday or a couple of hours in a week to familiarise yourself with a new subject, do some some introductory reading, look up youtube videos on the topics. This will prevent a dip at the start of the year.
Acquire an extra skill
This is for fun so choose what interests you. It can be football or piano, lifeguard course, making your own game, the list is endless. Explore your interests and go for it.
Start looking at Universities
You are not required to make a shortlist but just basic research is enough. Local universities have open days so make use of those. For example, Jemma went to Queen Mary which led her to start thinking about university and picture herself in those places..
Parents, plan a fun day out at a university. Give your child the chance to walk around the campus, libraries, labs, this may also help with motivation. Virtual tours are also a possibility but real ones are best.
There are pros and cons to summer schools. Not all summer schools are affiliated to universities even though they may have the university name as part of the summer school name. Any school that is not affiliated to the university means putting it on your personal statement will not help. The plus side is that graduates write the content for these summer schools and deal with current affairs. Key interesting areas are dealt with- not a course, they are their to develop an interest in universities. You will meet a variety of people from different backgrounds, year group and will give you the opportunity to interact and hone your communication skills.
Work experience/ Volunteering
Go for it, even it is not in the area you are thinking of to study at university. Any work experience and volunteering you can do is good and will benefit your personality development, which will in turn help you with interviews and university application down the line.
Year 12 is when you do all the things you have been doing in Year 11 and add some more tasks to the list.
Start to write a personal statement
Write down all the things you did in your school life. Brainstorm and make a list of all the competition you took art in, the essays and poems you wrote over the years, the time you volunteered at the cake sale at school, basically all your extra-curricular activities.
Book them now. Visit them physically if you can.
International students- Contact the admission office – they will have a person/ agent who will have the details. Have a chat with them.
You will have to fill in your UCAT applications by October so think ahead and make a list of universities that you would like to study in.
Plugging the personal statement gaps
Draw it together and that means gather the evidence and content and put it all in one place. The first draft should be done before summer.
Get your school to take a look, friends or relatives are also a great resource you can tap into.
A personal statement should read as a story, not as a list.
Exam practice for selective exams
Practice is one of the best way to practice
You can’t control your GCSE results. You can’t control teacher reference. You can control your personal statement. You can control the practice that you do for the selective tests required by some courses and/or universities.
This especially applies to Oxbridge applicants. Mentors are like sounding boards and they can be anyone from your family or friend circle.
Having a mentor helps you ask questions to someone who has done what you want to do.
What do you for dinner, what is the uni like?
Think forward to December and January- interviews. Students need to be on top of their work. They should be familiar with presentations and handling nerves. They should know what they are talking about. A levels are important, so make sure there is a balance.
Make a list of Selective entrance exams. It is easy to fall behind quite quickly, so make sure you are ahead of the game.
Time to start a new skill?
If it is for fun, go for it. If it is to boost your personal statement, there’s no point. You may have to go in-depth for eg: a first aid course. Same thing goes for volunteering, work experience…