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Dereham Sixth Form College

Ex-Students Return to Give Advice to Current Students – Lauren Burton & Josh Brown

20 April 2017

Before the Easter holidays we welcomed back Lauren Burton. Lauren is currently studying her first year of Geography at St Anne’s College, Oxford and she returned to speak to our current students about applying to Oxbridge and life at Oxford University.

She strongly advised attending Open Days – in particular subject-based Open Days – and using them to get a good feel for the university. In relation to Oxford and Cambridge she recommended not focusing too much on the different colleges but to make sure that the course you are applying for really suits you. Lauren had originally applied to study at St Catherine’s College but, through pooling, was invited to interview at St Anne’s. For her Geography course she had to attend two interviews – one focusing on human geography and one on physical geography. Lauren explained that, for her, it was exciting just to be able to talk to experts in the field during the interviews!

Lauren and her A Level geography teacher Mrs Iwanczyk explained a little about how Oxford had treated Lauren’s results. Whilst just missing out on her offer grades due to a lower mark in one particular exam, her overall score for the subject still put her in the A* field she had been aiming for. Mrs Iwanczyk and Mrs Ball (the College’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator) emphasised the point that universities can still offer places to those who miss their offers but who are passionate about their subject.

During the first year at Oxford students are assigned a second year as their ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. During the summer before starting Lauren was contacted by her ‘mum’ which she found very welcoming. With regards to teaching Lauren has to complete an essay each week and receives ten contact hours through a combination of lectures, practicals and tutorials. “Tutorials are part of a key learning process for me. You get questioned so much but it helps me to see things in a different way and learn differently. You really get to shape your own learning.”

Lauren and Mrs Ball Lauren and Mrs Iwanczyk

This morning Josh Brown returned to DSFC. Josh is currently in his third year of a four-year MSci Geology course at the University of Southampton and has a passion for volcanology.

Josh began his talk by giving his study tips to help with A Level exams. He began by explaining that there is no secret formula to getting good grades – you just need to work really hard! He advised finding your motivation, whether that be a financial scholarship offered by the university or a well-earned holiday after the exams. He also recommended revising little but often and using multiple methods, citing practice papers, writing from memory and posters plastered over his bedroom walls as his methods of choice. He found that explaining answers to others also helped and emphasised the benefit of completing lots of practice papers with teacher feedback and making sure you learn the required maths as knowing this can often get you easy marks. Josh also gave his advice for completing essays. His four key points were to: make sure you answer the question (!); use case studies to demonstrate the point; use counter arguments to display greater awareness; and provide a concluding paragraph in which you answer the original question. He also strongly recommended the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) in helping prepare you for the independent research required at degree level.

For Josh’s chosen subject of Geology he could have chosen to apply to very high-ranking universities, such as Oxford or Cambridge. In the next part of his talk he explained why he chose Southampton in particular and recommended that students think carefully about the course and the module options available over the whole course duration; the facilities available; the feel of the town/city and the clubs and societies on offer. Ultimately – and this is a message reiterated by many ex-students and College staff – it comes down to a personal feel for the university and whether you feel comfortable there and can envisage living and working there for the next few years.

Josh finished his presentation by explaining the opportunities that his course has provided him. Included as part of the course fees he has gone on fieldtrips to Yorkshire, Anglesey, Spain, Bulgaria and Tenerife and has been able to go on holiday with like-minded friends to visit volcanoes. Both Josh and Mrs Iwanczyk emphasised the benefits of asking around whilst at university for opportunities – lecturers have contacts. As a result of a speculative letter, Josh has secured an eleven-week internship at Sakurajima Volcano Observatory this summer where he will be working on an active volcano!

Josh Brown
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