Last week, a number of students in year 10 and 11 attended a conference in the St. David’s Hotel organised by PiXL. Daniel Schoen in year 11 has written this review of the event.
‘Getting into the top universities’ was the main aim of the conference that I, along with a group of Year 10 and 11 students, attended on February 29th. Establishments such as Oxford, Cambridge and King’s College appeared to me as places that were unreachable; only accessible to the social elite. Coming from a comprehensive school nestled in the country borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, even the idea of crossing the Severn Bridge to attend university seemed daunting. When I was notified about the opportunity of attending the event, I passed it off. I possessed several misconceptions about these reported ‘Russell Group Universities’, and never felt that I had an iota of chance when it came to applying for one of them.
After a short bus ride to the capital, we approached Saint David’s Hotel in all its splendour. After being presented with booklets to further enforce the information given, we were ushered into a conference room in the ‘Roald Dahl Suite’; overlooking the shimmering waters of Cardiff Bay. Our welcome was a warm one, we were invited to light refreshments before other schools arrived and the conference was upon us. As expected, many public schools arrived at the conference. It was certainly a proud moment for Y Pant, being one of the few state schools in attendance, and having a sizable group of pupils at the conference. Peter Rawling- the proclaimed Russell Group University ‘guru’- took the role as the admissions lecturer, he outlined the purpose of the conferences along with using his wealth of knowledge and experience to provide us with inspiration and advice for applying for the top universities. He then introduced us to a guest speaker, Ian McConnachie; a former student from the University of Oxford. As a former student, he was able to provide us with accounts that were engaging and was quick to dispel the notion that top universities like Oxford were reserved only for the wealthy and the upper class. He shed light upon his personal experiences while studying Maths at Oxford and also outlined information regarding Cambridge. Unfortunately, the second guest speaker was unable to attend; determined not to let these unforeseen circumstances overturn this event, Rawling spoke about competitions for applications for university and the courses available to study. He inspired us to create a portfolio in order to record our achievements and perform extra reading around subjects we were interested in, known ‘Super-Curricular activities’. It was said that these would enhance and reinforce our love for the subjects we were interested in.
Overall, despite the fact that it was slightly overwhelming at first, the conference really made me aware of the options available to me after KS5. It has inspired me to further research topics that interest me and has improved my self-esteem. I now feel that if I put the work in, I will be able to access the best possible route of education that will help me in later life. Although I am not yet certain of my future plans, the conference certainly drew me into the field of biology and I am interested in finding out more about areas of specialisation such as marine biology. My peers were also helped greatly, after attending the conference some are interested in pursuing careers in Law and in Medicine.