Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Sutton Trust Summer School at University College London

As a disclaimer; this is a very UK based post. I’m sure there are similar things in other countries, but I have absolutely no idea about them.

So a few months ago, at around March time, I applied to go on a summer school at University College London (UCL for short), via The Sutton Trust. This was an English themed summer school and I’d been looking at studying English for a while AND doing so at UCL. Somehow, I managed to get accepted and here I am, having just come back from the week-long experience, and I’m about to tell you how fantastic it was.

Now first things first, if you are between 14 and about my age, so 17 and living in the UK, then the Sutton Trust is definitely something that you ought to know about. They fund summer schools from around Year 9 to Year 12, and prestigious universities across England and there’s even one programme that goes to America to visit top universities there. I believe most of them are aimed at people from underprivileged areas, whose parents haven’t gone to university and are successful academically, but I’m not an expert so maybe this isn't the case for all of them. I just know that it was for my summer school. So yeah, basically the Sutton Trust is a very good thing to be aware of. Just Google them to find out more. (That sounded like I’m being sponsored but I promise I’m not.)

It was brilliant. I never thought I’d say that. Just before I went I was terrified and thought I was going to hate the entire week, but knew I had to go in order to improve my chance of not just getting accepted to UCL but also many other universities would be impressed by my attendance.
It was a busy week. We were literally doing things from around 9am until at least 10:30pm with minimal chill time in-between. However, everything we did was so interesting and in most cases, a lot of fun too. 

I probably should mention as well that there were 3 courses going on at the same time; English, Natural Sciences and Biosciences and UCL wasn't the only university running summer schools. This means options are pretty extensive.

During the days, we’d have around 4 hours worth of lectures and seminars. On the English course, we did a different text each day. Our 3 texts were Beowulf,Paradise Lost by John Milton and Beloved by Toni Morrison.  If you didn’t know, lectures are where you are pretty much sat down and talked at, where as seminars are much more group-based and interactive. Those lectures and seminars were thoroughly interesting, and although sometimes I’d get lost in the lectures the seminars would soon bring me back to understanding what was going on.
They all gave me a way of understanding texts and much more of a university standard, which I feel will help my chances greatly when it comes to both applying and going to university.
We also had various talks about the cost of going to university and how the admissions process works which included personal statement writing, which I found very useful as I’ve discovered, writing a personal statement, is not as easy as it looks.

We also had to do a presentation at the end of the week. I hate presentations and I always have done, but the week at UCL has actually dramatically improved my opinion of them. I’ve always been shy and it’s always been the case that I know the information but I’m never able to say it out loud, which is not only frustrating but also somewhat holds me back. We had to do a presentation on one of the three texts we’d studied and we could do it on whatever we liked regarding that text. My group chose ‘Fortune, Identity and Transience in Beowulf.’ I’ll be honest, to start with I had no idea what that even meant, but as I got through the week I understood it more and to the point where I actually felt confident I was presenting something that I knew a lot about. My group’s presentation ended up being super successful and although we didn’t ‘win’ best presentation, we still got super good reviews from everyone. His presentation, I feel, has built my confidence massively. I managed to present complicated ideas confidently and in a way other people understood, and that was a real step forward for me.

Although there was a HELL of a lot of work involved in the summer school, we also got the chance to have the most incredible treats in the evenings which were completely paid for. We got a river boat cruise on the Thames and a trip up the Shard on the Tuesday. We were so lucky to have such a clear day because we could see for miles.We went up to the 72nd floor, watch which point the corners of the building arent there. There is literally wind blowing in. It's incredibly scary but incredible. The next day we went to see ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ at a West End theatre and that was almost indescribable. It was astounding. The production, the acting, the story itself; all bloody fantastic. It was so good I bought the book when I got home and read it in a day. (I’m going to do a review at some point, so keep your eyes peeled). We also got a bowling alley rented out for us on the last night, where there was karaoke and free pizza; what more could you want?

So; the things we did were amazing. Both the academic side and the evening side of it. However, I met the loveliest and most supportive people. From the adults who organised it, to the student ambassadors who were constantly there for us to bug with questions (Shout out to my group leader Tam who was both hilarious and informative), to my fellow students themselves. I couldn’t have asked for better people to share my time with. There were people from all around the country so no-one knew each other so we were pretty much all as nervous as each other, it turns out. The girls on my floor almost made waiting of the showers bearable and the people in my presentation grouped couldn’t have been more supportive with my confidence. I’ve got some people I met on Facebook so we can check in with each other regarding all sorts of university matters, and if we’re incredibly lucky then maybe even meet again back at UCL next September. Never let the fear of meeting new people stop you from doing things like this; everyone will be in the same boat as you, so no-one is hostile or bitchy. They were all just damn nice people. 

That was my summer school story. It’s a bit long but honestly I could have talked for thousands of words longer, but I didn't want to bore any of you who this has no appeal to. I would advise everyone who’s going in to Year 12 next year that can get the grades to apply to one of these summer schools. You will definitely not regret it. Plus, if you do hate it, it’s still a damn good thing to have on your personal statement.

Feel free to email me or leave any questions in the comments if you want to know more:)
Lots of love,


View from the Shard .Pretty cool, right?

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