We've got some tried and tested ideas to help you get organised.
For Key Stages 3 and 4
Whatever the nature of your school and its students, it is a good idea to introduce Key Stage 3 pupils to the benefits of going to university. Your alumni are the best people to promote high aspirations – bring them in to lead an activity with younger children.
Many universities have widening participation and outreach teams, which are another excellent source of guidance. They offer mini taster days to show what it’s like to live and study at university and many will come and talk to your pupils and run activities in your school.
For sixth form
Events such as information assemblies, seminars and bespoke group sessions (e.g. Oxford or Cambridge preparation) play a crucial role in informing students about key decisions, and provide them with the skills and confidence they need to succeed. Here is a suggested calendar:
Autumn Year 12: Setting the scene
Event title: My options after sixth form
- Why go to university
- How students can begin preparing now
- Other routes they may choose
Bespoke events: Begin Oxford and Cambridge and medicine preparation with those interested. Focus these events on reading and research.
Spring Year 12: Researching options
Event title: What and where to study?
- How to find out information about universities
- Key elements in successful applications - grades, work experience (for some courses), personal statement, reference
Event title: Alumni afternoon
- Organise sessions with alumni about subjects and HE providers
- Our article on using past students to enrich your HE programme will help
- Parents' HE information event — invite a keynote speaker from a university
- Continue Oxford and Cambridge/medicine preparation sessions
Summer Year 12: Making decisions
Event title: How to complete your UCAS application
- Workshops on UCAS applications
- Personal statements workshops
- Address issues around deferred applications and gap years
- Interviews and pre-admissions tests practice for relevant groups
- Studying a subject at university — ask teachers from a range of subjects to do short university-style seminars on their subjects
Autumn Year 13: Deadline time
Event title: Student finance essentials
- Understanding student finance and funding
- Budgeting at university
Event title: Finalise your uni application
- Set the school's own deadlines for processing applications!
- Finalise the process of completing and submitting UCAS applications
- How UCAS references are written
- Continue preparation for tests and interviews
- Art foundation applications — establish portfolio workshops and application guidance
Spring Year 13
- As offers come in, ensure your students know all about UCAS Extra, and firm/insurance choices
- Preparation for results day, including Clearing and Adjustment
There is so much on offer outside school that you have to be selective. Ideally, have someone in your team whose role it is to publicise what's on offer and identify which students will benefit most.
Check your nearest university's website and contact the relevant widening participation or outreach teams to see what events or residential courses are available. We give a few examples below but there are many more.
- Higher education fairs/conventions: Take your students along – there is certain to be one coming to a location not too far away. Make sure you prepare students beforehand with useful questions to ask.
- Summer taster courses: Most universities run these — find out more and search for taster courses.
- Sutton Trust summer schools: University residential summer schools for Year 12 students. These are targeted at those who meet particular widening participation criteria — for example, eligible for free school meals or resident in a postcode with low progression rates to higher education. Check out Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme for potential law students.
- Headstart summer schools: Encouraging more students, especially girls, to consider science degrees is a national priority. Headstart summer schools (some residential; all low cost) are for students from Year 10 onwards, with many encouraging girls to participate.
- Pre-university residential summer schools: One or two-week courses in the summer holidays for Year 11 and 12 students at providers such as King’s College London and UEA in Norwich. Priority is sometimes given to those who meet widening participation criteria.
- Open days and campus visits: Make sure you contact the university you wish to visit some months ahead as days get booked up.
- Subject-specific events: Some providers offer subject-specific events and taster days — for example, medicine or law.