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This summer my lovely Jesus College are hosting their annual Seren Summer School from Monday 19th August to midday on Friday 23rd August 2019. The summer school is free of charge, with travel, meals and accommodation all paid for. ALL Year 12 participants in Seren are encouraged to apply!

'That Oxford Girl' student ambassador Mary was part of the Seren Network and it had a really positive impact on her University journey:

I was born and raised in a town in North East Wales not too far from Chester. I attended a comprehensive state school in North Wales from Year 7 to 13 before coming to Oxford. I was the only person to get into Oxford or Cambridge in my school this year (but sadly only two applied in the first place out of the entire sixth form). Not many people from my area apply to Oxbridge and I am passionate about changing this.

After my GCSEs I was invited to be part of the Seren Network which aims to help Welsh state school sixth-formers get into Russell Group universities and it was created in response to the decrease in Welsh students applying to Oxbridge. During my time in Seren I had many incredible opportunities and learned so much about university applications, not just for Oxbridge but for all Russel Group universities.

The scheme mainly consisted of meeting about once a month throughout year 12 and 13 in which we talked about things like personal statements, applying to university, university life and funding from the Welsh government to name a few. From the programme I was able to gain the essential skills necessary to write a personal statement that was suitable for Oxbridge (they normally prefer personal statements to concentrate more on academics and super-curriculars rather than extra-curriculars with a ratio of about 80% academic to 20% extra-curriculars). We also did a mock interview workshop whereby we were put into groups and asked random questions which made us problem solve and think on the spot. This was amazing practice for the interview process and made it feel (slightly) less daunting.

With the network I attended a residential at Magdalene College in Cambridge which was such an incredible experience for me in year 12. It was my first real insight into Oxbridge. I attended lectures, a formal hall and went punting BUT most importantly, I met so many like-minded students from North Wales. I have made a life-long friend from this experience who decided to apply to Magdalene College in Cambridge after this experience. He is now studying Natural Sciences there. This shows how influential these experiences can be and how you should definitely take the opportunity to apply for these events if you are part of the network.

I also went to the Oxbridge conferences with the Seren Network where I learnt so much more about Oxford life, my course, fees and funding. I got to meet current students who also provided the all-important student perspective. The experience showed me that Oxbridge students are not huge brain-boxes; they are just people who work hard and genuinely love their subjects. It was such an eye-opening experience for me because until then I had been terrified that everyone would be an absolute genius (and that is most definitely not me). The scheme was so essential in motivating me to apply to Oxford and it provided me with an abundance of information so I could make an informed decision about uni choices. I recommend taking advantage of all the information and experiences provided by the SEREN network because it truly is an invaluable access resource.

I think it is so important that people from North Wales, and of course Wales as a whole, apply to Oxford. The statistics show that Welsh people are still under-represented at the university compared to other areas like Greater London BUT the stats will only change if more students in Wales apply here. As a Welsh student myself I can say whole-heartedly that I feel as though I completely fit in here and that I made the right decision to apply.

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