UCAS Preparation Day

A series of informative presentations and workshops gave Lower Sixth students a valuable insight into the university application process.

Held in School on 21st June, the event was divided into five sessions, offering girls access to a wealth of useful information and introducing a range of skills and activities to help them negotiate their way through UCAS applications. Organised by WGS Sixth Form team, Mrs Robinson and Mrs Wallis, in conjunction with the Careers Department, the day was also aimed at helping students with career planning. Visiting careers coach Abi Parker opened the event with a practical interactive session on interviews and interviews skills, in which students were given the opportunity to practise interviewing, observing and even being an interviewer! Focusing on the concept of ‘Brand Me’, girls were encouraged to think about their ‘unique selling points’ and consider what distinguishes them from their peers. The day’s second session was led by Mrs Cottam, Head of Careers, who provided up-to-date information on post-18 options for students, including observations as to how the employment landscape is constantly evolving. This included the expansion of apprenticeship degrees, skills that can be gained whilst completing summer internships as well as studying for a degree, alongside looking at how students can work towards making themselves more employable by considering including a year in industry or studying abroad as part of their degree course.

The group looked at the latest information and analysis from the leading academic institutions and asked a range of thoughtful and reflective questions.

“Today’s undergraduates are the most career-minded in history, and are often securing their graduate employment as early as their first year of university; it is essential that our girls are informed now so that they can develop a longterm plan for their own graduate employment, ensuring they are in the best position to take advantage of the recovering graduate job market which is now finally back to pre-recession levels for the first time. Our aim is to make our girls more aware of a range of options open to them after leaving Withington and ensure they are well equipped to face the challenges ahead both in the short term and after graduation,” said Mrs Cottam.

A UCAS website familiarisation session was run by Mrs Robinson, Head of Sixth Form. Course search and a variety of useful tools on the website were also demonstrated to the students – and each girl left with a detailed information booklet explaining how to progress through the application process.

Personal statements are often perceived to be the most challenging part of the UCAS applications process, so the girls gave a warm welcome to Helen Water-Marsh from the University of Nottingham who shared, with an amusing and engaging approach, the dos and don’ts involved. Offering invaluable advice and insight into how the admissions process works, Helen rounded off her session by answering an interesting range of questions from the students. The UCAS workshop ended with an evening informational session for both students and parents, led by Colin Ferguson from Durham University. With a wealth of experience in university admissions, he explained the current admissions process extremely clearly.

After the event, Mrs Wallis commented: “ The UCAS Day is always a great success. Many thanks to all who helped to provide such an invaluable introduction to the start of a journey that will influence each girl’s future life and career. By the end of the event, our Lower Sixth had acquired essential skills, were better informed and much more confident about what’s involved in what can otherwise at the outset appear to be a rather daunting process. Many thanks to our excellent speakers who provided such insightful contributions during our UCAS workshop day. The feedback afterwards from our girls was extremely positive.”

Speaker Profiles

Brand Me by Abi Parker, Careers Coach

Abi has worked in the corporate world, in the UK and internationally, for the past 25 years and has also been a highly sought after careers coach for the past 7 years.  Her clients have included companies such as Coca-Cola, The FBI, HBoS, Pilkington, The NHS and AT&T.  She brings a wealth of knowledge about the world of work as she works on a day-to-day basis with organisations across all sectors helping them to identify, recruit and retain talent.  She has a special interest in inspiring and motivating young women to succeed and in helping them to be happy in their careers.

Personal Statements by Helen Waters, University of Nottingham

Helen Waters-Marsh is the Schools and Colleges Liaison Manager for The University of Nottingham. She has been working in the higher education sector for approximately 10 years; advising young people about making the transition from school to University. Prior to this she was a further education lecturer in Barnsley and Derby. Helen is a qualified teacher gaining her Post Graduate Certificate in Continuing Education from The University of Nottingham and also holds an MA in Inclusive Education awarded in 2011. She has visited Withington Girls School on numerous occasions and very much considers herself a friend of the school and ardent supporter of its students.

Admissions by Colin Ferguson, Durham University

Colin Ferguson has worked in the Access and Student Recruitment Team at Durham University for six and a half years. He is principally responsible for the provision of gifted and talented activity, but also assists with school visits, providing information on university admissions, and supporting students through the application process. He is a Durham graduate, and in his spare time acts as a pastoral mentor for undergraduate students of one of the University’s 16 colleges, and serves as a governor of a secondary academy in Gateshead.

The Access and Student Recruitment Team is part of The Student Recruitment and Admissions Office (SRAO) at Durham University. Our team works nationally to encourage applicants onto our programmes, forming partnerships both regionally and nationally with schools, colleges, LEAs and other relevant institutions and organisations. Our staff are experts in the field of applying to Higher Education and in particular Durham University. They combine enthusiasm with the ability to empathise and give relevant advice, working with young people from a wide variety of backgrounds, teachers and their parents.