To (loosely) quote One Direction, isn’t it crazy just how fast the night changes?
In July 2018, I participated in a Sutton Trust Summer School as a prospective university applicant. This summer, I worked that very same programme as a CAMbassador - representing the Faculty of Education as a current student.
These encounters were, in some ways, drastically different; this year’s ‘residential’ was entirely virtual, for one. This time around, rather than a panicked rush to ‘just apply to whichever programme you find interesting!’ as instructed by my equally clueless A Level tutors, I sat and filled out my paperwork with a sense of excitement for what I knew was going to be a brilliant week. And yet, even though nearly three years (!) had passed between the two, I found them both to be hugely eye-opening and informative.
The aim of Sutton Trust’s programmes is to provide high achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to explore what it’s like to study at university. As a participant, the summer school is fully funded - my travel, accommodation and meal costs were all included - meaning I could take part without having to worry about how I was going to fund it.
For me, it was a huge turning point - the idea of going to Cambridge had never crossed my mind before I applied. In fact, when I realised the subject I’d chosen (with an absolute mouthful for a title: Education, English, Drama & the Arts!) was being run by the University of Cambridge, my heart sank a little. Surely I wasn’t going to be able to secure a place? I was the first in my family to even entertain going to university, and I had never been anywhere but comprehensive state schools.
This couldn’t have been further from the truth. The application process is really simple: Sutton Trust will ask you to provide some details on how you fit their eligibility criteria, and then you’ll need to provide a reference from a teacher to verify what you’ve told them. Decisions are made within a couple of months of the deadline - and then you can start planning for a fantastic summer!
During the week I spent in Cambridge, as cheesy as it sounds, I truly fell in love. The image I’d had in my head of Cambridge as this big, scary, unattainable place was completely shattered. The academic sessions, though challenging, were fascinating - and, even better, were led by faculty members who were overwhelmingly friendly and encouraging. Social activities introduced us to this beautiful city, including a couple of personal highlights - punting along the River Cam and a visit to The Globe to see Othello.
Most of all, I remember the lovely CAMbassador assigned to our subject group. They answered all of our questions, helped us get to grips with some of the trickier nuances of student life - such as, where is my room again?? - and showed that people like me can and do thrive in places like Cambridge.
They’re a big reason I wanted to get involved in facilitating this year’s summer school, and I’m really glad I did. Not only did I learn so much from the students who took part, but it also helped me reflect on just how far I’ve come. It reaffirmed that yes, although at times it can seem tough, I absolutely love my course and am endlessly grateful that I had the opportunity to discover it through the Summer Trust scheme.
If you’re thinking about applying, for any one of the 40 subjects on offer, I would say go for it - you might just end up leading your department’s programme in a few years time!