Oxbridge applications can be challenging for students at the best of times, however, throughout my 5 years at The Access Project (TAP), this has definitely been the most unusual and testing period in which to run our Oxbridge Society. The current crisis means TAP has rapidly adapted its programme to support students online, this includes our student enrichment programme and TAP’s societies.
The support we provide at TAP
The Oxbridge Society supports students with their applications to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Normally we run events for the 100 or so young people in the society in person. Starting early on a Saturday morning; students usually arrive at one of our partner schools for their event, or at a central location to meet coaches taking them to either Oxford or Cambridge. Students are then taken through sessions that cover the specific subjects offered by the university and how they can stretch themselves academically through super curricular enrichment. They normally have the chance to experience what a supervision/tutorial would be like as well as preparing for admissions tests and interviews.
Adjusting to supporting students online
Over the last few months, alongside our partners, Oxfizz, students, volunteers and the events team have been getting used to doing much of this work online. Like so many others we have adapted to using zoom and have been progressively getting more comfortable discussing and debating subject topics over the internet. We have run application Q&A’s as well as more subject-specific sessions. In these sessions volunteers who have expert subject knowledge host a discussion on a particular topic, helping our students to understand what they need to demonstrate in admissions tests or interviews.
We are gearing up for our Admissions Test session, which will take place on Saturday 27th June. Throughout the day Oxbridge graduates will support students with their subject tests, both teaching content and explaining how the test works. All the sessions are designed to give our students the support and guidance they need to start working and preparing for these tests over the summer. Working with Oxfizz volunteers has been a great opportunity for our students to learn from young people who have followed the same path as them and to receive expert advice. We have been delighted by the number of volunteers who have signed up to help to run the sessions for our students.
Our students, as ever, have remained incredibly committed to their ambitions to apply to the top universities in the country. I have been part of many in-depth discussions guiding students through what studying each subject means. Through newsletters and drop-in sessions we have encouraged students to stretch their understanding and learn more about new aspects of their subject. We have also encouraged peers to talk to each other about current issues or to raise questions about admission. Throughout I’ve been hugely impressed with the level of engagement from our young people. We have had debates about a huge range of topics drawing in views from across the disciplines. For example, our potential medics have debated about who should be prioritised for a ventilator if there weren’t enough for the number of patients.
It hasn’t always been easy staying engaged whilst using new platforms and encountering technical difficulties, but I have been hugely impressed and humbled by the passion of our TAP students.