Thinking about Oxbridge or Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Sciences? Well then you must be ecstatic about the early UCAS deadline – a whole 3 months before the normal deadline. But before we get onto that – what is UCAS? If you don’t already know, UCAS abbreviates what is known as the University and Colleges Admissions Service which oversees applications to most UK-based higher education institutes.

As aspiring medics, we can certainly empathise, after days of endless toil and anxious nights throughout the summer, even the UCAT wasn’t enough (onto the BMAT!). Medical schools even set a quota ranging from 6–20 students for international candidates, a far cry from other courses. Hence, to have your dreams being dependent on both objective and subjective factors, in a single form, doesn’t sound too nice. Talk about rest…

And we get it. Being cramped up with Saturday tests and having to manage upcoming assessments is not easy at the least. Not to mention extracurricular commitments and things like the EPQ being hurled towards you. Your summer was probably filled with work experiences, doing exams and you quite literally want a break. The UCAS application is just one of the final hurdles before you get any offers. Having recently submitted our own applications, we’ll provide some of our insights to future applicants, teachers, and parents:

  • Stop it. Get some help.

If you feel lonely, rest assured that thousands are in the same position as you. Trust us, we’ve been through the process: feeling down in the dumps, questioning your ability and maybe shedding some tears. Call it clichéd, but think of the process as a marathon, you set the pace. Doing practice tests for 5 hours a day would’ve worked during the summer but not during school – you’ll inevitably feel tired. When you’ve hit your limit, don’t be scared to seek solace with your friends and call your family. If that’s not your cup of tea, Concord has supportive staff, boarding parents and assistants, and visits from Merulae Listeners – another avenue where you can be listened to and appreciated.

  • Stay (moderately) competitive.

It’s really anxiety-inducing when you see fellow classmates revising for tests when you realise you aren’t doing anything. Chances are that you’re probably worrying unnecessarily. Focus on your own plans. You’ll most likely do well regardless (speaking from experience), and don’t feel the need to constantly compare yourself to other applicants. Yes, following an example to strengthen your own application is healthy but being perturbed by others isn’t. Humans seek value in themselves through assigning themselves a position, relative to others. Controlling this inherent tendency will reduce stress – remember that Concord boasts itself as a highly academic school, so contextualise your progress – you don’t have to be number 1.

  • Prioritise.

Although you may be sacrificing some aspects of school, remember that ultimately, maximising the chance to get an offer remains as your main goal (we’d assume). You’ll fall, you’ll get hurt but you will make it. Setting targets and triaging is key to maintaining balance in your life. Always try to prioritise the most important goal, and break it down into smaller, more manageable, tasks – use a planner, and keep your eye on the prize. It’s in our human condition to stay fixated on the web of tasks we have to do, and what really is crucial is to take everything one at a time. Remind yourself of the reasons why you are educated and where you see yourself in the not so distant future.

On this note, know that you have come a long way and still have a long way to go. People will downplay your achievements, undermine your stress but that’s just human nature; they mean you no harm (hopefully).  Hearing adults say that being a student is just one segment of your life – that it’ll pass – can be irritating, but note this: we are all students of life. By striving to progress physically and mentally while wrestling with emotion, we collect experience. No one is wiser than the other, we are all scholars in our own right.

The UCAS may seem like an impasse, but trust us, you’ll make it.

Brandon and Shaz – 6.2

Pre-U Week

From the 17th to the 24th of June, Concord College hosted a Pre-U Week; a post exam period purely dedicated to planning towards our university applications. For the next 7 days, the whole of 6.1 was to attend meetings and classes about applications to their preferred universities and classes. We were all assigned to a particular University Coordinator specialising on the subject we were applying to, and we were greeted by advice, assignment, and book recommendations in order to enrich our personal statement and basic knowledge on the subject. We also had talks by Oxford Tutors and more focused courses preparing us for admissions tests such as the LNAT and the UCAT. Something that stood out to me was the rigorousness of the schedules and organisation of Dr Pugh and our University Coordinators.

Although there were many things to attend, everything was carefully planned to avoid clashes and to make the most of our experience without feeling overwhelmed. We also had 3 outdoor experience days in order to enrich our communication and teamwork skills. Not only that, but it was also a break from the stress of exams and we were able to spend time with our friends. We wrote a blog about that too which you can read by clicking here.

“The experience is truly valuable, I feel like I wouldn’t get the same level of support if not studying at Concord, and it just made life a bit easier because I know what I am doing.” — a 6.1 student planning to study Economics at university.

Additionally, we had a ConMUN (Model United Nations) event which was a great experience for those looking to go into humanities, economics and public relations. Although speaking in front of 200 people might be frightening, everyone was really friendly: people clapped after everyone spoke and cheered after more enthusiastic speeches. I think this experience was truly helpful to everyone and it was a great way to practice for interviews and the formality of personal statements. There is also a blog about that – click here to read it.

The Marketing Team, as well as every student in 6.1 would like to warmly thank Dr Pugh and all of the staff involved in the Pre-U Week for forming a solid foundation in our preparations.

Ecaterina and Kenneth — 6.1

Pre-U Activities Week

This year’s Pre-U week has been unlike any other. Instead of being able to visit universities first hand and attend live seminars about UCAS, we are now glued to our laptops and attending these events virtually. Technology has enabled us to continue with what everyone has been doing every year, allowing us to not lose out, even with the current pandemic. This year, the school held many talks to ensure that we can make full use of the summer to create a competitive UCAS application. There were library sessions, where we were taught how to use the school’s online library for our course-related reading, persuasive essay writing workshops, and a talk about the English requirement for university. The school also had sessions for students applying to specific universities, such as Imperial College London, LSE and Durham – where some of the 6.2s who have been given an offer at those universities spoke about their experiences when applying for them and what they felt went well, allowing us to have a better understanding of what these universities are looking for so that we can pay more attention to those points during the summer.

Despite the current situation, we were still able to ‘visit’ the universities. A UK university virtual search fair was held that week which featured many universities from all over the UK. Each university had a booth where students could find information regarding the university and the links to the website for any further information. There was also a chat function that students could use to message a university representative for any queries. The University of Manchester also hosted a virtual open day that week. They scheduled many talks throughout the week about each of the different courses offered by the university. Some of these include taster sessions and student life talks where students who are currently studying that subject in Manchester speak about their personal experiences when studying that course. There was time at the end of every session for a Q&A and university representatives were available at all times during the session to answer any questions as well. These events have eliminated my lingering doubts about my chosen course and made me more determined to get into it.

The school has also held mock interviews for Oxbridge applicants and mock admissions tests for students who needed to take one to get into their course. The mocks allowed me to become more conscious of the holes in my knowledge and what I need to do to improve.

After attending this week’s Pre-U activities, I realised how long and difficult the UCAS process is, requiring a lot of preparation during the summer to ensure that you can compete with all the brilliant minds who are also applying to the top universities. I feel grateful for the support the school has given us, for letting us know exactly what needs to be done during the summer so that we can have an easier time in 6.2, and for the heads-up about the heavy workload we are bound to have. This allows us to be mentally prepared to face the gruelling but rewarding journey ahead.

Amber – 6.1

Concord’s Medical Futures Conference

Last Saturday, Concord College hosted its first ever “Medical Futures Conference”, not only for aspiring medics from our school, but students from schools all around Shropshire too. We were extremely lucky to have had guests from all across the country to talk to us about our journey as medical students in higher education, as well as the life of a healthcare professional.

We began our informative day with lectures by Afra Jiwa, Dr Gordon Dent and Professor Margaret Callan, where they advised us on ‘what to do’ when applying to medical school. Their advice included ways of writing incredible personal statements, preparing for the strenuous interviews as well as choosing the right medical school. The tip that really stuck with me was from Dr Dent – He suggested to not only look at universities that peaked our interest, but to also look at the schools with application processes that would play in our favour. This is because different universities often focus on different areas of students’ applications.

After a quick lunch break, everyone adjourned to the Science Block where there were healthcare professionals that we could seek advice from in terms of their job scopes, university representatives who hosted informal discussions about the medical courses they offer, and a series of short talks and workshops from other visitors and organisations. My personal favourite was the practical hands-on session by Medical Mavericks, which featured several activities that helped us experience different aspects of medical professions. One activity that particularly caught everyone’s attention was the artificial arm that we could attempt to draw blood out from – just like we would in real life, which I must admit, was not an easy task.

To conclude this enriching conference, Professor Divya Chari gave a keynote speech on the use of tissue engineering to improve stem cell transplantation for nervous system repair and her research associated with it. Her brilliant lecture educated us about a new aspect of medicine and it was the perfect way to end an enjoyable conference.

A massive thanks to Mr Brown, the Medical Society Committee, supporting teachers and everyone else involved for making this astounding conference happen. It definitely helped me and all who attended, and we have gained confidence in our application strategies to attend medical schools. Here’s to an even more fantastic conference next year.

Natalie – 6.1

Concord Alumni share Cambridge undergraduate experiences…

On Thursday 7th June, 53 of Concord’s current 6.1 students journeyed to Cambridge, to gain further insight into the university and application process.

The group arrived at Churchill College earlier than scheduled. In the Jock Colville Hall, Richard Partington – the Senior Tutor at Churchill, delivered a clear and detailed talk about the application process across the university. He showed an excellent knowledge of the educational background of the Concord students, anticipating many of their questions as his talk progressed.

The students were grateful to the college for hosting them for lunch too, where they were joined by Bill Li (2015 Leaver) and Steve Wu (2017 Leaver) who are currently reading Natural Sciences and Philosophy respectively at Cambridge.

A tour of the college followed, provided by current Churchill undergraduates. 6.1 students had the chance to view the main buildings, as well as student accommodation, kitchens and common room areas.

Later in the afternoon, the group made their way to central Cambridge, with teachers navigating the labyrinthine New Museums site to find the Hopkinson Lecture Theatre. 17 Concord Alumni greeted the students, despite being in the middle of or starting their exam period.

Dr Rob Pugh, Head of Careers and University Admissions at Concord said: “The College is enormously grateful to our Alumni for showing up at such a busy and important time.

“The Alumni led an insightful Q&A session, and assisted students interested in making applications in their desired subject areas.

“Seeing former Concordians provide advice and tips to the next generation of Concord applicants was wonderful to see.”

Lastly, it was time for the long journey back to Shropshire, but not before Tempy (Head Boy 2016-17), Audrey (Head Girl 2016-17) and Justin (2017 Leaver) had walked the group back to their bus and given them a warm farewell.

Many thanks to all the Alumni who gave up their time.

Because helping each other is what we do best.

Concord Alumni share Oxford undergraduate experiences…

On Friday 1st June, a select group of Concord’s 6.1 students visited a warm, sultry Oxford to get a feel for undergraduate life and to consider their application strategies.

University College – the oldest college in Oxford, kindly hosted the current Concordians and accompanying staff members for the day. The prospective Oxford hopefuls were met by a small selection of Concord Alumni – now current undergraduates, and were made to feel at home in the Goodhart Seminar Room.

Concord’s Head of Careers and University Admissions, Dr Rob Pugh said: “The purpose of the trip was to get a taste of life as an Oxford undergraduate and, beneficially, it came from recent Concord Alumni, who know the ins and outs of what can be a rigorous and highly competitive application process.

“Although a relaxed setting, the visit also comprised of a dynamic Q&A session, enabling the students to gain valuable insights into Oxford life and university – from educational tips and advice, to extracurricular activities and the social side of Oxford living.”

Concord’s students also received a talk on the University College admissions process, before having the opportunity to tour the grounds, seeing undergraduates depart and return from exams too – a familiar sight as Concord’s current pupils take their end of year exams.

Later in the day the group visited the Pitt Rivers Museum and aspiring scientists were able to visit the Department of Physics also.

Many thanks to the Alumni who gave up their free time to meet with the 6.1 students and shared their wisdom.

Concord Alumni – Because helping each other is what we do best.