St Helen and St Katharine demystifies Oxbridge for state school students

St Helen and St Katharine demystifies Oxbridge for state school students

1 March 2021

The annual higher education event is an important fixture in the St Helen’s calendar. Alternating between ‘Applying for medicine/veterinary medicine’ and an Oxbridge-focused event, each year we invite students from state and independent schools all across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to an informative and inspiring evening to help them make decisions about their higher education.

In 2021, our virtual ‘Is Oxbridge for me?’ event was among the highest-attended in recent years, with 285 state school students representing 35 different schools tuning in to hear a taster lecture from Dr Ben Higgins (University of Oxford), a talk about the admissions process from Dr Sam Lucy (University of Cambridge) and Old Girls from St Helen and St Katharine currently studying at Oxford or Cambridge speaking about their own experiences of student life.

St Helen’s is exceptionally proud to have been able to assist so many young people with their higher education decisions, especially with the often-asked question of what studying at Oxbridge is really like, and demystifying the process of application.

‘Oxbridge’s renowned interview process can sometimes be seen as something alien and impossibly challenging. The panel of SHSK Old (or not so old) Girls which we heard from echoed Dr Lucy’s explanation of the interview as an academic discussion, assuring us that although challenging, it was not alien or impossible… In their experience it had even been enjoyable! Interviews reflect the small group supervisions which take place at Oxford and Cambridge, designed to challenge ways of thinking, testing how you engage with new ideas and respond to questions. The group of past HelKats were studying a range of subjects from Economics to languages and from their responses all seemed to be keeping up a comfortable work-life balance, thriving in their respective courses and colleges.

It was strongly conveyed throughout that the ‘me’ of the event’s title doesn’t need to fit any specific mould. The criteria to apply to Oxford or Cambridge are down to the individual: a genuine love of learning, engagement with questions and an appetite for new ideas. Everyone watching will have left the evening feeling that, if they wanted to apply, Oxbridge could be for them.’

Cara L6

Miss Heather Doherty, Head of Sixth Form and Higher Education at St Helen’s, said, “It’s so important that students are able to make balanced, informed decisions about their higher education – whether that means applying for Oxbridge or not. In this event I always remind them that they are all new to the traditions and quirks of the Oxbridge systems, so they have nothing to be worried about on that front.”

A teacher from St Clare’s, Oxford gave extremely positive feedback, saying, “I wanted to send my sincere thanks and gratitude for inviting us to attend your session today. Our students were so fortunate to hear such well-balanced, practical advice from you, your former students and Dr Sam Lucy – please offer all our thanks. Everyone was so engaging!”

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