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UCL Access and Widening Participation


Archive for the 'By students for students' Category

A Generating Genius Experience

By Amalia Mihailescu, on 26 September 2019

Mariatu has been at several outreach events that UCL has organised in collaboration with Generating Genius and is now starting her first year as a Mechanical Engineering student. You can read below about her experience with Access and Widening Participation and see how this has helped her choose and go for what she is really passionate about.

The first time I was introduced to coding was at an outreach event hosted by UCL and organised by Generating Genius. I was 14 years old at that time. l started the session very confused, as I didn’t even know something like this existed, but ended it feeling enlightened and wanting to know more. Five years later, I have learnt how to programme in three new coding languages (CSS, HTML and C++) and am currently teaching myself python.

I am going into my first year of university to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. My choice of course and institution was mainly influenced by attending summer schools and outreach events. Being able to speak with current students from top universities about their experience was important and allowed me to make an informed choice, that was right for me.

Widening Participation is essential as it provides students, who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, with a platform to know more and be more open-minded about what’s available to them (especially if they do not have family members with knowledge about further education). It’s very useful for them to see students that look like them, in top institutions, studying subjects that they want to study. I believe it changes their mindset for the better.

This was the case for me when I went to the Imperial Engineering summer school in year 12. I always wanted to be an engineer but I didn’t believe in my potential. Meeting female students and hearing from them inspired me and boosted my confidence and I am proud to say that has stayed with me until this day.

What I enjoyed about widening participation was not only the free (and very delicious) food, but also making new friends. It’s nice to meet people who have similar interests to you. I am still in contact with most of the people I met through my summer schools. It’s refreshing to see that we are all on the path that we intended to take when we entered the programme and that is proof that your work makes a difference.

This summer I am interning with Generating Genius and my role is Assistant Programme Manager. Essentially, what I do is help plan and organise events. We recently just finalised the plans for the new Uni Genius cohort that we will be taking on for the next two years and applications are now open! I was on the programme throughout year 12 and  13 and it benefited me in ways I cannot even describe. I got the chance to go to different universities with Generating Genius (all expenses paid for), I was offered extra revision classes to help me with my A-levels outside of school and work experience. All in all, these helped me make a final decision regarding the degree I wanted to study.

If you know that you are interested in STEM, you are a hard and resilient worker and want to be mentored by people that have your best interest at heart, then this programme is definitely for you. Applications close on Wednesday 16th of October, so make sure you sign up so you don’t miss this opportunity!

Summer School 2019

By Amalia Mihailescu, on 12 September 2019

This summer, we had the pleasure of welcoming over 300 students on our Year 12 Residential Summer School programmes and were happy to see how much they have enjoyed their time at UCL. One of our participants has shared a few words with us about his experience and what he liked most about his week as a philosophy student. Here is what they had to say:

My name is Eoin. I am currently preparing to undertake my final year of A-Levels. I am studying History, Maths and Religious Education, while I also completed an AS in French. I have big aspirations; namely to become a clinical psychologist. I do not see this as just a job, but rather a vocation, one which was moulded by where I have grown up and the experiences that I have had. I feel like it is a calling for me, and an area where I can make the most impact with my life.

At the UCL Summer School, I took part in the philosophy programme. I chose it because it largely ties in with what I study in school, and it is a major area of interest for myself.  During the week, we studied many different areas of philosophy, ranging from epistemology to ethics. For example, we studied the philosophy of lying, and the morality around that issue, as well as exploring the ideas of UCL’s spiritual founder, Jeremy Bentham. What made this particular programme even more compelling were the discussions that spawned from the various ethical issues that were brought up, or even considering whether we lived in a simulation like Neo in the Matrix. There is something rather unique about UCL. I felt a real sense of togetherness and a community vibe, something which I cherish greatly coming from a small town in Northern Ireland. The programme also afforded us the opportunity to stay in the university halls, which gave us a rare insight into the day to day lives of students, and the surroundings that many of us will face within the next couple of years. Every night, there were different activities, such as Games Night (where I boastfully deemed myself UCL monopoly champion after a three-and-a-half-hour brawl) and a Thames river cruise. That night was the most fun I had, as it gave me more of an opportunity to talk to people outside my course in a very relaxed setting. After the activities, we would retreat back to the halls and hang out in the common room, playing pool, watching TV, or just making general chit chat.

I had a week that was incredibly busy and hard work, but at the same time the most rewarding and, undoubtedly, the best week of my life. I met some of the most amazing people I have ever encountered, whom I plan to visit very soon. The student leaders were absolutely incredible for providing us a unique insight into the UCL life and what it truly means to be a UCL student. The Summer School team were also beyond helpful, extraordinarily friendly, engaged with every student and offered me this amazing opportunity to write for them.

So, why should you apply to the UCL Summer School?  For me, you will not find anything else like this. It was a complete experience. I urge everyone to apply for this, no matter how unsure you are or shy you may be. I went and did not know what to expect or if I would fit in or not, but if you have big ambitions, you owe it to yourself to try absolutely everything to fulfil those ambitions. The UCL Summer School is just the first step towards turning your dream into a reality.


My Time at UCL

By Amalia Mihailescu, on 17 July 2019

We asked year 10 student Rhe’a, with whom we have had the pleasure of working in the last week and a half, to share her thoughts on her placement with the Widening Participation team. This is what she had to say:

My name is Rhe’a Edman, I am 15 years old and I recently just finished year 10. I finished earlier than others to start my work experience at UCL that lasts for two weeks (a bit longer than normal). When I am older, I want to become an entrepreneur and paramedic, a different combination right? I have not really decided on what to study at university as I never really thought about going to university, but, as I am currently on my second week of work experience at UCL, I am starting to have a better understanding of the university, seeing behind the scenes and feeling a part of it, listening and talking to past/current students about their experience at university.

I have worked with the Widening Participation team (WP for short), including the Academic Liaison team. I have helped some of the members of the team by giving them my personal feedback about what they have done for the university, what they may need to help engage the youth to come to UCL and helped them with some small tasks. With the Academic Liaison team, I helped quite a lot, I assisted them with sorting out their goodie bags that they have for year 12 students coming to UCL’s residential summer school, packed certificates for past participants, the tasks were easy to do and I got through them swiftly. I have been in some meetings that a few of the members have invited me to. I have enjoyed a lot of things here, for instance, meeting new people, seeing new places, feeling as if I am an actual member of the team, going to events that the university holds.

As I have been told about and have seen the events that the university holds, I would love to take part in them, spread the word, and help them accept new students who may need guidance with which university is the best for them and which options suit them the best.

I am almost coming to the end of my work experience and I must say that I will miss the people I have spoken to as they have been so welcoming and polite. I have three more days to go and a lot of new things to do and see!

Nine-to-Five Student

By Michael Wyatt, on 13 May 2019

Today student writer Michael tell us what it is like to work whilst studying at university, and gives useful tips on what to consider before you get a job when you’re a student. 

Being a student, particularly in London, can be substantially more expensive than imagined prior to starting university. In first year, the financial cost of being even moderately sociable is enough to dent the bank, added to ever more in second and third year with the addition of bills and potentially increased travel costs. For some, this may not be an issue. However, for many others, money worries can be a daily annoyance whilst at university and impact the things you can say ‘yes‘ to when asked by your mates.

There are a variety of ways to cope with the trials and tribulations of the ‘cost-of-socialising’ paradigm, including picking cheaper pubs and bars, never buying textbooks or just going out less; none of which would be a very big deal at all. However, if you did want to be able to do a little more whilst at university and not be so worried about money all the time, there is one way that most of us try at one stage or another: get a job! (Don’t worry, most jobs aren’t nine-to-five).

What sort of jobs do students have?

This varies greatly depending on the person! Many students look for bar, pub, cafe or retail work as employers within these fields understand students are looking for part-time work that doesn’t impact their studying too much. They can be quite social jobs and hopefully conveniently located. The only issue with pub and bar work is working late nights, which can impact your work the next day and eat into the time you might have been wanting to hang out with your friends. A good place to start might be the UCLU bars or cafés.

Alternatively, you might want to consider some work that may be more career focused. Both private and public sector organisations are always looking for enthusiastic, hard working, talented young people to bring a breath of life and innovation to the office. Take a chance and contact whoever you can – you only need one yes. I’ve been lucky enough to work for my local authority and within the NHS throughout university and both have taught me invaluable skills and added to my CV – and this happened because I took a leap and applied to jobs ‘above’ my age bracket. Take those chances because sometimes they really do pay off.

The benefits of being an employed student

  1. Stand out from the rest. First and foremost, the main benefit of having a job whilst studying is to gain work experience. Many more people attend university these days, and so to have something more to add to your CV once you’re graduated will be a huge bonus for you.
  2. Spending money. Working just a few hours a week provides you with the basic socialising money that you need to go out without feeling guilty of worried. It may also accumulate to help you find a nicer place to live in second and third year!
  3. Life skills. Working whilst studying is difficult. It requires organisation, hard work and dedication – all of which can really benefit you long term. You gain a tonne of life skills at university, furthered only by being employed simultaneously.

The challenges of being an employed student

  1. Time. The hardest part about working and studying is how much time is taken out of your week. For some degrees that have 20+ hours of contact time plus frequent readings or courseworks, there may genuinely not be enough time to have a job as well. Before considering applying for work, take the time to consider how many hours a week you can afford to commit. Your degree comes first whilst at university, so do not jeopardise your grades by committing too much time to a job!
  2. Organisation. Finding a way to balance lectures, readings, revision and the addition of set working hours can be difficult. I’d suggest making a plan for the week so you know when you are studying and when you’re working, otherwise it can become a bit hectic!

Is having a job really necessary?

Absolutely not. The idea of having a job at university is not something everyone agrees with, and by no means am I suggesting it is the right way to do things! It has its benefits, but also comes with some challenges and for some it may not be something that is necessary or appropriate for their weekly timetable. Assess how much spare time and money you have and decide if a job is an appropriate inclusion to your already busy schedule. There are certainly pros and cons of either choice you make – just ensure you never let anyone make that choice for you.