“One of our students … managed to improve his personal statement so significantly that I actually asked him who had helped him."
At the start of the pandemic, the access team worked quickly to respond to meeting the immediate needs of schools and pupils.
Hugh Munro, Access and Outreach Officer reports: “We re-focussed to support pupils seeking to make Oxbridge/Medicine applications by the early 15 October deadline. Teachers had reduced capacity to help due to their increased workload whilst pupils had less run-in time to prepare effective statements. This is where Wadham was able to help out.”
Some 653 students attended 22 virtual sessions on personal statements over a two month period with sessions adapting to the needs of pupils, whether they were drafting or in need of help re-drafting. “We were able to personalise these sessions and offered pupils the chance to have feedback on their drafts with clear next steps to elevate a good draft to a great one,” said Hugh. This support was offered alongside the mentoring offered to 250 pupils from Wadham’s link areas.
Feedback from these sessions has been encouraging. One teacher commented: “One of our students … managed to improve his personal statement so significantly that I actually asked him who had helped him. He replied that he did it by himself ‘using notes from the Oxford people’…That you were able to assist him to achieve such a transformation was wonderful.”
A positive impact of having to adapt to COVID-19 regulations is an improvement in Wadham’s online offering, with pre-recorded sessions and resources available for any student regardless of where in the country (or world) they are. Our online resources for schools (videos and web pages) have been viewed nearly 5000 times in the last two months and some 2250 people engaged with Wadham’s Virtual Open Day resources and events.
With the deadline for Oxford admissions passed, Wadham’s Access team has shifted its emphasis to interview support, running live workshops to help pupils prepare. Some 138 students attended the four most recent sessions and 14 further sessions are planned ahead of the December interview round. Wadham has also been involved in the University-wide Remote Interview Workshops with nearly 3,000 state school pupils applying for subject specific interview support.
“There has been increased teacher interest this year with the shift to online interviews and it has been brilliant to engage with them, alongside their pupils, working through example questions and outlining what makes a successful interview. Usually pupils are nervous in the run up to interviews but this feels elevated this year with so much uncertainty. It’s been great seeing pupil comments flying in as we’re running sessions and hearing how well they’ve adapted to the switch online,” said Hugh.
Following a recent session one Year 13 teacher commented: “The students really enjoyed it and found it incredibly helpful. The staff also found it interesting and even went on to have a deep and meaningful conversation about questioning in our lessons, after they listened to how the interviewer handles the candidates answers. We were impressed so thank you very much.”
Of course, there have been a few technical hiccups, such as patchy audio or an unreliable internet connection said Access Officer Catherine Seed. However, the support from teachers in making the sessions interactive and in overcoming technical issues has been incredible. “We even have had a few instances where teachers stepped in, typing out student responses when microphones failed!”