On Thursday 28 February College Meadow Pavilion played host to our inaugural ‘Applying for Oxbridge’ Conference. Facilitated by Helen Brooks, Academic and Admissions Manager of Mansfield College, University of Oxford, the event was attended by 120 Lower Sixth Form students and staff from Eltham College and a number of local state schools, including Hayes School, Darrick Wood, Bullers Wood and Newstead Wood School. As well as providing a helpful overview of the application process, which in many instances now includes an additional admissions test and the submission of academic work, Helen and her team of Undergraduate Student Ambassadors were able to provide an invaluable insight as to what it means to both apply for, and study at, either Oxford or Cambridge. The Oxford team also offered guidance as to what they look for in a prospective candidate, with strong academic grades being just the starting point.

Following an introductory talk, the students were split into mixed-school groups where they had the opportunity to engage in high level academic discussion, tackling some “big questions”, such as ‘Can a robot be a person?’ or ‘Should voting be made compulsory?’ (for more big questions, visit www.oxplore.org) During the last session of the afternoon, there was the chance to review the requirements of individual admissions tutors for particular courses, and then critique example personal statements in a bid to understand what makes an effective application.

Students agreed it was a fantastic event, providing a real insight into the journey towards securing a place at either Oxford or Cambridge. We are extremely grateful to Helen Brooks, not least because she left the conference to speak again at our external Year 11 scholars meeting!