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Shropshire students experience undergraduate life at the University of Cambridge

Shropshire students get a flavour of Cambridge tradition as they tuck into a feast in Hall during their stay at the College.

A group of 40 bright, year-12 pupils from schools across Shropshire checked into undergraduate accommodation at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, for a residential trip which allowed them to experience university life first-hand.  

Year-12 students from Shropshire with the potential to go to top universities have experienced life as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge during a two-day residential trip to St John’s College.

While at the College, the students went to interactive, university-style academic sessions, choosing between topics in maths, science and the humanities. Pupils had the opportunity to ask current undergraduates about why they chose their subjects, why they applied to St John’s and how university life is different to school. The group also received advice on making a competitive university application and carried out a budgeting exercise in order to learn how to manage money as a student.

The students had free time to explore Cambridge, visiting museums and seeing the sights the city has to offer. In the evening they got a taste of one of the great College traditions, said to have inspired J.K Rowling’s description of the Great Hall in Hogwarts Castle: A silver-service dinner at the long tables in the 16-Century Hall, which undergraduates can book to attend during term-time if they wish.  After the meal the pupils’ Cambridge experience was completed with punting on the river Cam.

Beatrice Fraser, a pupil from Shrewsbury Sixth Form, said: “I went to a session on wealth and power and it was fascinating to hear from a top academic. The budgeting exercise in the morning was also really interesting as I had no idea how much students can expect to have to live on per week.

“Before I came here I thought that Cambridge was posh and elitist, but it’s not like that at all – everyone is really friendly.”

The event was free to attend, including all food, accommodation and activities and was open to students from state schools.

The students were nominated for the trip by their schools, which included Sir John Talbot, The Marches, Shrewsbury Sixth Form, Thomas Telford, The Grove and Thomas Adams.

St John’s has a particular connection with schools in Shropshire through the University of Cambridge’s Area Links Scheme.

Each of the 31 Colleges that make up the university have designated Area Links, which together allow them to build relationships with state schools and colleges around the UK. The scheme gives schools a personal contact point with the university, through which they can get advice and guidance about applications and feed back local perspectives on how to make Cambridge as accessible as possible to students who have the potential to thrive there.

From 26-28 September 2016 St John’s will be running an Access Tour in Shropshire.  A team of current undergraduates, academics and staff from the College will tour state schools in the county, with the aim of inspiring talented pupils to apply to the best universities.

Sessions in each school will be tailored to the needs of students and will normally comprise an interactive “myth busting” talk, during which undergraduates from the College will discuss common misconceptions about Cambridge, giving pupils an insight into what it is like to study at a top university.

This will be followed by a choice of academic sessions led by current researchers at the University of Cambridge that are designed to encourage pupils to engage with new ideas that go above and beyond the school curriculum.

Pupils will also be made aware of the range of bursaries, grants and funds available from the University of Cambridge and its Colleges, including information about a major financial support initiative at St John’s called “Studentships”. From October 2016, this scheme will be in place to help students at St John’s College who come from lower-income families to cover their day-to-day living expenses. More information is available via: http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/studentship-scheme

To see a video of the St John’s Access Tour of the North West, which took place in March 2016, visit: http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/st-john%E2%80%99s-takes-cambridge-north-west