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Study at NPTC Group


We encourage all our students to aim high, and those who aspire to Oxbridge are given help and support through our dedicated Oxbridge programme, run by senior College staff. Special visits to Oxbridge, usually including an overnight stay, are arranged for prospective Oxbridge candidates and students receive advice and guidance on the application process from University Admission Tutors. Potential Oxbridge candidates also have the opportunity to study AS Level Critical Thinking as an additional qualification. Students who have successfully gained places at Oxford or Cambridge often return to the College to mentor those who are applying.

Cambridge Shadowing Scheme – Ashley Davies-Lyons

Cambridge Shadowing Scheme – Ashley Davies-Lyons

Earlier this year, from February 7th – 9th, I was lucky enough to get a chance to go on the Cambridge University Students’ Union Shadowing Scheme, having applied a few weeks earlier. It is a programme that takes Year 12 students and lets them stay at the University for a couple of days, shadowing (Ergo the name) a current student in the subject they’re interested in studying. I stayed at Robinson College from Thursday until the Saturday and shadowed a Computer Science student there.

At the beginning of the weekend, shortly after arriving, we had an introductory talk from the Head of the Students’ Union before going to the College to pick up a room key, drop off our bags and settle in. Since I was shadowing a Computer Science student, I naturally ended up going with him to the Computer labs for about an hour shortly after arriving. It was a really enjoyable experience because I got to see the kind of pace that’s expected of them in that respect and, reassuringly, it wasn’t too bad, which I was quite pleased about. After that, all of the mentors and the shadows went to Trinity College’s dining hall, which looked like a scene out of Harry Potter, and had a lovely welcome meal there. After this, everyone went back to their colleges and settled down for the night.

The next day, I attended a Physics lecture at 9am which blew my mind with how fast the pace was, but even though the material was totally out of my grasp, it was still really interesting and a fantastic experience to have had. After this, I had an algorithms lecture which wasn’t as interesting as the Physics lecture, but was still really engaging. After the lecture, there was a brief period where I was able to explore the City of Cambridge. I had a look around the previous night but everything was closed. I ended up browsing in Waterstones, which was really a nice size considering the relatively small size of the City itself. After my visit to the City Centre, I had a Mathematics lecture in which I was told a number of mathematical truths and then proof as to why they were true, which was a lot more accessible and I ended up learning an algorithm for how data/information can be shared securely. After this, I had a talk with the mentors from Robinson College about their time in Cambridge so far and later that day most of us went to a “non-pub pub quiz” which was essentially a pub quiz in a non-pub environment. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, before heading back to the College to sleep.

On the Saturday, the Robinson College mentors threw a small breakfast in one of their rooms designed for conferences with a large table to sit around. A talk was given by the Cambridge admissions officers before leaving to go home.

It was a fantastic experience and I’d really recommend it to anyone who is applying to Cambridge or any other university and is on track to get the grades they need to apply. Give it a shot and see what it’s all about – I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Sutton Trust US Programme – Ashley Davies-Lyons

Sutton Trust US Programme – Ashley Davies-Lyons

Earlier this year, I applied for a programme led by the Sutton Trust & Fulbright Commission which took a group of 200 state school students from the UK to the USA, prepared us for the ACT (an American standardised test), paid for us to sit it, and paid for a week’s trip to the US for 175 for us to see universities there and see if it’s for us or not.

I applied around January, and was over the moon to be told in an e-mail in mid-February that I was one of the 200 of over 2,000 applicants. Following this news, we had two weekend residential stays in London packed full of lectures from a huge variety of people - admissions officers, famous tutors, and even the US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun. This culminated in sitting the ACT during the AS-Level exam period.

Having done well enough to make it to the second stage of the programme, I was lucky enough to be one of the 175 to continue on the programme and ended up getting the opportunity to go to stay in Harvard for a week, from the 10th-17th August. Some of the group stayed at M.I.T., and some at Yale; our destination was randomly assigned to us.

I can safely say that that was probably the best week of my life so far. As soon as everyone got past the stressful customs and border control (where I forgot to take off my belt before a metal detector and ended up getting a full search) it hit us where we were going and the rest of the way everyone was really on edge with anticipation of arriving.

After a long day of travelling, we arrived in Brattle Street in Boston, where Harvard’s admissions office and some of their postgraduate accommodation is located. This was our home for the week. Due to a delay in flight, we ended up going straight to sleep being extremely tired at this point.

On the first morning, we had an information session about Harvard which cleared up a lot of myths. This was followed by a tour around the university led by a second year student who discussed their time there and how they were finding it, and told us a bit about their background. Later in the day, a university fair was held in Harvard which was arranged by the Sutton Trust. Approximately 25 colleges from across the States were invited to the fair which allowed us to ask questions about them and find out more and to see if we might want to apply there.

The day after, about a third of us went to visit Colby College, which was in a relatively rural area; it was a small undergraduate college with a lot of grassy outdoors and a really lovely campus. We had a tour around the campus and a couple of talks from the faculty and students about it.

On the third day, we had a tour around Dartmouth, one of the Ivy League universities. It was raining at the time, so the tour was a bit soured by the weather, but the campus looked amazing and it really showed what an amazing place it was. The highlight of the tour for most people was definitely the food; they had an all-you-can-eat buffet for students with everything you could think of in a huge hall; from chips (French fries, of course!) to obscure seafood. After the campus visit, we went to Quincy Market in Boston, and wandered around a bit. I picked up a lobster hat, and tried getting a Welsh pin badge from a stall that had pretty much every country you could think of, but eventually gave up on trying to explain where Wales was and what the flag looked like.

On the Thursday, we had two masterclasses from Harvard lecturers: one on evolutionary Biology, and one on the history of the Roman amphitheatre and the duels that were held there. Both were incredibly engaging, and while I’m usually not at all a fan of Biology, the talk on how life formed was one of the most interesting lectures I’ve ever had and really made me want to learn more about it. After that, we saw a Boston Red Sox game in Fenway Park which was a great taste of American culture and allowed us to experience what many would consider a staple part of life in America - watching baseball. On the Friday, all the boys went to Trinity College whilst the girls went to a women’s college called Wellesley College. Trinity had a really beautiful campus with modern buildings roughly centred around a multi-denominational church and a lot of nice green spaces. We had some talks there and another student-led tour.

On the last day, we had a mock admissions event in Harvard where we reviewed past applicants’ applications and said who we thought were the best out of two; this really showed us the struggle admissions officers have in choosing candidates; however, despite having slightly worse qualifications (although still stellar), every group unanimously decided upon the student that had a more rounded lifestyle because the applicant showed that he/she can handle more than just work; that he/she are outgoing and able to give their time to members of the community, which is considered a very important part of American applications.

Waking up the next day with a packed suitcase and knowing that we were flying home that day was a really sad experience for everyone; saying goodbye to people having stayed in the same place and became good friends with them in a week and knowing we might not see each other again was really emotional for everyone, but the week itself was a truly life-changing experience and I wish I could do it all over again.

As a result of all of this, I’m sitting SATs in late October and will be applying to a number of US universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., alongside UCAS. Their system is really different to ours in that they place a huge amount of emphasis on extracurricular activities and your personality which you portray through a number of essays which most colleges ask for. Their university system is largely based around the concept of “liberal arts”, which means that most US universities, unlike in the UK, you’ll be expected to do a number of courses from different fields – possibly an English course, a Mathematics course, a Science course, a foreign language, and various other requirements depending on the university. It sounds familiar to GCSEs and it draws a lot of comparisons, but it allows for a much more diverse and open education where you’re free to change your mind in what you want to study most of the time until you finally decide on a major, which is usually as you rise from second to third year, rather than before you even apply as is usually the case in the UK.

I think that this has been a really fantastic experience, and if anyone has the chance to apply and is willing to put in the extra work for applications, then you should definitely go for it. It’s a fantastic opportunity which is truly life-changing, and I think it can’t be exaggerated how important these kinds of opportunities are; you might just end up studying in another continent because of that application, and I think that kind of opportunity isn’t something that should be put down so easily.

Oxford Tutorials at NPTC Group

Oxford Tutorials at NPTC Group

A Level students at NPTC Group of Colleges have had an insight into life at Oxford University.

Doctor Beth Mortimer, who is a Zoology researcher at Jesus College Oxford, visited the Neath Campus and delivered talks to students on the Gifted and Talented Excellence Programme (GATE) about applying to Oxford and life at the University. Dr Mortimer also ran a series of tutorials in maths, science, physics and engineering to those thinking of applying for Oxbridge places.

Lecturer Bernadine McGuire said: “The tutorial sessions were run just like they would be at Oxford so it was great preparation for our students who are thinking about applying to go there.”

Several GATE students have also taken part in a workshop with a team from the Oxford Debating Society. They were introduced to the formula of debating which the Society uses and were also invited to contribute.

“They didn’t hesitate. It was a very worthwhile experience and our students were enthused and we have entered a team for the first time this year,” added Miss McGuire.

OXFORD TALKS: Students at NPTC Group getting an insight into life at Oxford University.