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UCL Access and Widening Participation


5 Ways to Make the Most of your Summer

By shirley.wang, on 27 July 2021

It’s been a challenging year for all of us, but now summer is here and the school year over! Why not take a break from Netflix and try a few new things this summer? Karen (our Acting Access Manager, and former teacher) has shared five ways to make the most of the warmer months, which will also help prepare you for your return to school in the autumn.

1. Keep reading

Now is the perfect time to read for pleasure and to lose yourself in a new, imaginary world. There is no better way to spend a lazy summer day than with a good book. Plus this will help get you ready for all the reading you have ahead of you, whether you’ll be studying for your GCSEs or moving up to sixth form next year. Of course, you can read whatever you like this summer; you might prefer to read magazines, newspapers or comics rather than books.

2. Keep writing

The best way to get better at writing is to keep writing. So, write anything! For example, you might want to write a journal, make notes on the books you read this summer (see above) or do some creative writing such as writing a story. You might even want to learn calligraphy (the fancy writing that you see on wedding invitations) or just improve your handwriting in general.

3. Start a creative project

This is the time to do all those things that you don’t normally have time to do. How about creating a family album with all those photos that you have on your computer or phone? Or you could draw your family tree. Why not create some art that you can put up in your home somewhere or learn to knit, sew or crochet? The possibilities are endless.

4. Cook something

Maybe you could make dinner for the family once a week, or make lunch every day. Maybe you could learn a new recipe or two to impress everyone. Or perhaps you could bake a cake or make some picnic food that you can enjoy outdoors with some friends. If you already have good skills in the kitchen, then maybe you can invent your own recipe – this could be as simple as thinking of a new sandwich filling that people may not have tried before.

5. Spend time outdoors

After so many months spent indoors, now is the time to get out and about! You can go out walking and cycling or you can play sports outdoors. Use your garden or any green space near you to race against your friends, or create an obstacle course or play football, handball etc. If you are able to travel, then maybe you can visit a beauty spot in your area so that you can spend some time outdoors in a new environment, but remember to keep socially distanced.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope that you will have fun this summer. You deserve it!

Being a commuter student at UCL

By Lauren Sandhu, on 30 October 2020

Did you know that over a quarter of UCL students commute into university from their family, guardian’s or own homes? We have launched some new guidance and information for commuter students on our website. Tonika is going into her third year at UCL studying Psychology and today she tells us about her experience of being a student who commutes into UCL to study.

How do you get to UCL?

I travel to university from South London via the Northern Line tube

What was your first year like?

My first year, particularly the first term, I tried to ensure I attended as many events as possible even though I was a commuter. I attended various Freshers events and joined a few societies which, if possible, I highly recommend as it helps you feel more a part of the university community. By the second term it became more difficult to continue attending society events due to university deadlines and various other commitments. However, by this point I also felt more comfortable having to travel to campus and nearby, which I genuinely believe was because I had made a conscious effort to try different events in the first term.

What would you want an incoming commuter student to know?

I would want incoming students to know that they have no need to worry. It can absolutely be a daunting experience but take comfort in knowing that everyone will be feeling the same whether they are commuting or live a two-minute walk from main campus. You may feel as though you are missing out but there are so many opportunities for you to get to know people whether they are on your course, in a society, meet in a café, or happen to sit in the same area as you in the library. Even if you have days where your transport journey has not gone to plan, do not let this cloud the fact that for the majority of the time it should run smoothly and will not detract from your overall university experience if you make the effort.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days largely vary based on what time my lecture starts however, I always aim to leave the house about 1 hour 20 minutes before the start of the lecture. I have a 5-minute walk to the tube, and I am generally able to get a seat unless it is rush hour. My journey is about 45 minutes and in that time I usually do some required or extra reading for previous lectures or read over revision notes. Having completed the lecture it really varies, some days I will take out the required books from the library and complete my notes there or in the Bedford Way cubicles, my seminar may be that day, I may attend a society event, or my friends and I may choose to do something else other than work. Most days however I try to avoid rush hour on the way home which is just a personal preference.

What are the challenges and benefits of commuting?

Benefits of commuting;

  • You can save money, so there will be fewer financial worries throughout your university years.
  • University is still a big change but if you are commuting from your family home at least that is one constant.
  • It can mean you have your family around you for emotional or mental support when things become stressful.
  • If you are commuting from a shared home with friends, then hopefully this means you already know them well so there may be less issues than there would be at halls of residence e.g. issues with noise.
  • It can allow you to get to know and explore other areas of London.

Challenges of commuting;

  • You may find travel is expensive especially if you are also paying rent. I would suggest looking into what deals are available and which would best suit you whether that is a 16-25 Railcard, an 18+ Student Oyster or any other discounts. I also suggest making a note of your outgoing spending for travel and general spending.
  • Travelling for long periods of time can be tiring. I would suggest ensuring you have planned the day out in advance, so know what you will be doing and how long you will be away from home. This way you can pack your bag accordingly to include things like lunch. I also highly recommend using the time productively to complete any reading, do some revision, read over work, or even complete some work if possible.
  • Struggles with rush hour. Firstly, ensure you keep your belongings in a safe place and not on show, but also try to note which carriages or areas of the transport tend to have less people in and then stand or sit there. If your transport comes frequently, I would also suggest letting most of the crowd get onto the first tube, bus etc and then getting onto the second one. Again, if possible, I think trying to get some work done would be beneficial but of course be mindful of your surroundings.
  • A further challenge to commuting may concern worries that you made a wrong choice commuting. I think it is important to remind yourself of the reason why you chose to commute, whether it is financial reasons, wanting to stay with your family etc. As long as you are proactive you will still have a great experience of meeting new people, developing new friendships, discovering new cafes or museums, experiencing the great teaching and all that UCL has to offer.

My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 15 October 2020

At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Sarah who took part in our Natural Sciences Summer School. 

My name is Sarah and I am a current sixth form student, I started Year 13 in September. I am taking biology, chemistry and geography with my main interest being the sciences.

I was part of the UCL Natural Sciences summer school, which gave me a taster of a variety of different science subjects including astrophysics, molecular biology and coding. Over the course of the week I attended a series of virtual lectures with top academics, current Natural Sciences students and other Year 12 students.

One of my favourite parts of the week was the molecular biology session, where I explored the 3d structure of a protein using Pymol software. I followed a series of instructions that enabled me to observe the complex tertiary/quaternary structure of proteins. I also learned that using softwares like Pymol are common in biology, and that there are various other programmes used across the sciences, as technology becomes more integrated with the field. I also liked the ‘virtual café’ sessions, where I was able to talk to current university students. They were all extremely friendly and helpful and made me feel more confident in applying to University and clearing up any questions I had.

Finally, I really enjoyed the independent project work we had to complete. I spent several hours across the week learning about current scientific advancements and then consolidating the information onto a scientific poster. This experience allowed me to explore science outside of the curriculum and also gave me an insight into key university skills like researching and referencing.

I think other year 12 students should sign up for this summer school because it provides an insight on whether university is right for you on all accounts. The taster lectures give you an idea of what the subject you’re interested in is like at degree level, whilst the virtual cafes allow you to ask more specific questions, and the research project allows you to see whether you would enjoy the independent aspect of university.

Despite it being held online this year, I still felt extremely welcomed by all the UCL staff and students and enjoyed the social activities. For a first-generation student, the week was extremely beneficial and cleared up many doubts/worries I had in a manner that was fun and engaging.

My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 17 September 2020

This summer has been a busy one for the Access and Widening Participation team. At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Natalia who took part in our Languages and Cultures Summer School. 

My name is Natalia and I live in Scotland. I have just moved into 6th year (my final year at high school). My favourite subjects at school are Music, French and Business Management and for my last year I have chosen to do Spanish, Administration and Advanced Higher French. At university I would love to study International business with Spanish because this gives me an opportunity to know the world of business as well as studying a language which I absolutely love.

I really enjoy studying languages at school because I have always wanted to travel. In the future, I would like to live in Spain. I have always loved Spain’s culture, the climate, and their attitude and dynamic and hence, this influenced my decision of applying to the Sutton Trust’s Summer School at UCL to study “Languages and Cultures”.

During the programme, we had a series of fun activities that we could complete on various languages such as French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and many more. Additionally, we received talks from people who work at UCL who were able to give us advice and answer any questions which we had about university. We also had the opportunity to speak with current students at UCL who are studying languages and we had a Q&A session with them which gave us an insight into what university lifestyle really looks like and what studying languages also looks like.

I really enjoyed meeting people who work and study at UCL because it really gave me a clear insight into this university. I have never considered studying outside of Scotland or at UCL before this Summer School, but now, this experience has opened my eyes to so many opportunities. It changed my view on what university looks like in terms of studying. Before this programme, I thought that once I start university it will be the same, plain things that will be taught to me and that once I go into the course, I will only be able to focus on studying and I will have to drop all of my hobbies to the side. However, to my surprise, I have found out that universities offer so many different societies and opportunities which completely changed my attitude towards going into university.

I really recommend this Summer School to everyone! Others should join this programme because you learn so much about university life and you get to meet so many lovely people. I have learned so much just in five days and this was done virtually this year – I can only imagine how much I would learn if I were there in person! It is such an insightful program and it was very enjoyable too. If I could, I would re-do that whole week again because I found it so fun!