Trying Campus on for Size: Thoughts About Summer Schools
When I was in Year 12, I wanted to pack the summer before Year 13 with as many things as possible. I applied for everything I could find – Nuffield Research Placement, summer schools, work experience, etc… I didn’t get the NRP, but I did get into the Oxford UNIQ and Cambridge STEP Prep summer schools, plus some work experience with a local engineering firm.
The summer schools I went to were both maths-based, and were really helpful in me deciding what I wanted to do at uni – I was debating between maths and engineering at the time. They were also a really great taster of uni life – sure, they had some more restrictions in terms of we had supervision and a packed out timetable, but we got to see all the facilities and experience lectures. There were also a lot of social activities to do – bowling, punting, formal dinners, a fancy dress party, a board game night, a barbecue and so on.
One of the things that stood out to me was meeting people who were already at uni. I was in the first cohort of my sixth form and the first person in my close family to go to uni, so I didn’t really know anyone who’d done the whole uni application process before me. I got on really well with my mentors, and I still remember them and the impact they had on me. My group leader on UNIQ was called Will, and wore those toe shoe things all the time. My group leader on STEP summer school was called Chris, and he was very sarcastic. I also went on a STEP Easter school in Year 13, and my mentor was called Dan, and he was laid-back and really helpful.
One thing that I did know, having been on summer schools myself, was that I wanted to be a mentor on them when I got to uni. I joined the Widening Participation team with that intention, and I’ve done two summer schools as a group leader and one as night staff so far this summer.
The first one I did at Warwick was the Experience Warwick Year 12 Summer School – a group of about 40 Year 12s came to campus for a few days. I was put with the Social Sciences stream, although I did get to help with a Further Maths Support Programme STEP session, too. They were split into mixed subject groups to work on a team project about sustainability, too, and it was great to see people coming out of their shell and into their own over the course of the week.
The second summer school I worked on was Year 12 Sutton Trust – this is the first time Warwick had done a Sutton Trust summer school. I was with the Economics stream, and so, not being economics-y myself, I ended up learning a lot about things I’d never even considered, like history’s hockey stick. There were a lot of highlights in this week for me – a few of the Year 12s had told me they were big University Challenge fans, so I broke out the QuizSoc buzzers in their downtime and played some packets with them. The trip to the Black Country Living Museum was also pretty great – I’ve been to similar recreating history museums before, but this is probably the best one I’ve ever seen. We went on a tour down a mine and a canal tour, and if you’re ever looking for something to do, I’d highly recommend it, because all of the staff were highly informative.
The third summer school was a bit more hands-off for me – I just had to be awake in case of any issues in the night on the Pathways to Law summer school. The participants seemed to really enjoy it, though!
If you’re in Year 12 (or even Year 10 or 11 – I’ve never been on those summer schools, but I know a few people who’ve worked on them and think they’re great) and reading this, I’d highly recommend applying to summer schools – a lot of different universities run them, so you can get a taster of different places and courses. Many of them are free and targeted at people from state schools (all of the ones I’ve ever been/worked on were like that), but there are others available for a small fee. And even the ones you have to pay for sound pretty worth it – not only do you get a week or so of fully-catered accommodation studying a subject you like, but also the expertise of academics, admissions tutors and the opportunity to meet students who’ve done it all before, and make friends who are going through the same thing. After all, I’ve met up with people who I met on summer schools since, and it was nice to have a few people who I already knew at the start of uni.