Preparing for University
To ease the transition to the greater independence that students are afforded at university, we have designed the Sixth Form to be a mature environment. This includes being assigned an academic mentor (similar to the personal tutor you will have at university) and communicating directly with students in the first instance rather than getting parents involved initially. The aim is to get the students to take ownership and develop organisational skills and to be accountable as these are all necessary elements of the transition to university life or indeed employment.
Year 12 - First Term
Much of the focus of the academic mentoring sessions is on choosing higher education courses and universities. In the first half term, we ask students to create a vision of what they want to be in the future. We encourage them to think about the purpose of their future roles rather than a specific role. The objective is that by the Christmas break of Year 12 they have an idea of what they want to study at university and have started to research universities that offer their chosen course. In the first half term, students who achieve 5 A grades or better are invited to apply for Bristol University’s Access To Bristol course and any student who achieves 7 A* grades or better at GCSE will receive an invite to the Welsh Government’s Seren Network, an enrichment programme for more able and talented Post 16 learners. This then facilitates the level of enrichment needed to create a successful application to a selective university
Year 12 - Second Term
In the second term of Year 12, students are encouraged to carry out super-curricular activities related to their chosen university course. This could include wider reading, the completion of an online course, applying for a summer school or even activities as basic as watching TED talks on their chosen subject. The intention is two fold. It allows them to immerse themselves in the subject to a sufficient degree to test whether they have a genuine interest and also builds up a bank of activities to use in their personal statement when applying to university. Students should keep a reflective journal of these activities as they experience them so that this can be referred to when writing the personal statement.
Year 12 - Third Term
In the third term of Year 12, we start the process of completing the online UCAS application. In the UK system, UCAS is the body that administers higher education applications and students do not apply directly to universities. By the time of the summer break, all Year 12 students should have completed all of the personal details and education sections of the form and will have attempted at least one draft of their personal statement.
In the first term of Year 13, students will work with their mentors to complete their personal statements and add their five university choices to their online applications. A discussion of these choices takes place with mentors who will recommend that the students have used Unifrog to select a range of universities that are aspirational, solid and safe. Once this process is complete, the application is sent to UCAS and the students await offers. The mentoring process at this stage focuses on discussions of these offers with a view to students making informed decisions about which two offers from universities to accept. This takes the form of a firm choice (first choice) and an insurance choice (a safety net second choice with a grade offer lower than the firm choice). Mentoring from this point will focus on students aspiring to get the grades required by the offer from their chosen universities. The mentor and student will have access to up to date and regular data on staff predicted grades and current performance and the process will help the student to develop strategies to ensure that they get the grades to secure their university place.
The school has a dedicated and experienced Destinations Leader who oversees this process and our success rates of getting students into their first choice universities far exceeds the national average. This is also the case for successful applications to the more selective Russell Group and Sutton Trust 30 universities. Over half of our students go on to study at such universities. We are justly proud of the achievements of our students who invariably represent the school well when they attend university.