New state school access programme will help students on their journeys to university
"This programme will help you get into university. It will teach you how to make a successful application and give you the skills you need"
A pandemic-beating access scheme to help GCSE and A-Level students on the path to a place at a competitive university is being launched online today.
The new St John’s College Link Area Webinar Programme offers sessions to support high-achieving state school students in choosing the right course and university for them, and taking their first major strides towards making a strong application.
This time last year Gaia Lambert, Schools Liaison and Access Officer at St John’s, was holding outreach talks and workshops for pupils at schools and colleges in Bolton, Greater Manchester - one of the College’s six link areas that are part of the University scheme enabling schools and sixth forms across the UK to build relationships with Cambridge Colleges.
Covid-19 put an end to in-person visits, but bringing the access programme online is enabling her to reach an even wider pool of students considering applying to Cambridge and other Russell Group universities, and to spend more time working with them.
Gaia said: “We are very excited about the brand new Link Area Webinars, it is the first time we have done such a progressive programme like this with so much interaction within it. It is great to see the students in person, but with the webinars we are able to provide a year-long programme covering lots of different elements of applications.”
The course covers valuable areas such as study skills and super-curricular activities, preparing for sixth form and writing your personal statement. There will also be a Q&A session with a panel of current students. The webinars, which take place after school hours at least once a month, are recorded so students can watch them at weekends or on other occasions if they find they’re suffering from mid-week ‘video call’ fatigue.
“It’s a real mix of information and skill-building,” said Gaia. “We will be busting myths about Cambridge and changing people’s perceptions so they know that Cambridge can be the place for them.”
She said the new programme is especially important this year, with the pandemic having had such an impact on schooling. “The study skills session in particular should be really useful; knowing how to learn is really important, especially for the students in Year 12, because they missed their GCSEs last year. They’ll be able to use the study skills that we've taught them to do some independent research skills and practice, which is really beneficial once you get to university. Later in the programme we have more specific application-related skills, such as writing personal statements and an interview workshop.
“I can’t stress this enough: this programme will help you get into university. It will teach you how to make a successful application and give you the skills you need for it, but also how to be successful when you're at university.”
Students from 25 schools in the link areas of Bolton, Rochdale, Blackburn and Darwen, Lambeth, Shropshire and Telford are taking part in the programme, which runs until 30 September, but the outreach team will consider applications from students outside these places if space allows. Late applications are welcome and anyone missing today’s 5pm introductory session can catch up later on video.