If only there was an opportunity to get a real feel of what university life is like before applying…
I had never heard of the Sutton Trust until my head of sixth form mentioned that that day was the deadline to apply to this residential which sounded like it would be of interest to me. I had never heard of the Sutton Trust, let alone knew that summer schools like this existed; after doing some research I found that the Sutton Trust’s aim is to improve access to high-quality education and employment opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds. At the time, I hadn’t considered anything remotely like this, as these kinds of opportunities didn’t often come up at my school.
Last minute application
So, in a hurried panic (not recommended), I applied. In all honesty, when it came to picking which university I would like to apply to for my summer school, I had looked at which university was considered the crème del le crème for undergraduate English Literature; Durham just so happened to be mentioned. I did some further research on Durham’s website to find out more about the course, I really liked the look of it, so I thought, like a classic Gen-Zer, ‘lol, why not!’.
Evidenced by my ‘lol’, I didn’t have high hopes for getting on but little did I know, I would be accepted onto the programme and was headed to Durham that August…
On my way to Durham
No sooner had I applied in March did August soon roll around. I was very excited but couldn’t help feeling nervous, as I hadn’t done anything like this before. I remember thinking on my train up there (your travel is funded by the Sutton Trust by the way!), ‘what am I doing?’. As I stepped off my train onto the now very familiar Platform 2 at Durham Station, I was greeted by two smiling Durham Student Ambassadors in purple, who reassured me I was in the right place and guaranteed me a fun week ahead.
A taste of university life
As promised, I got a taster for Durham over the five-day residential: I stayed at one of their colleges (Van Mildert), experienced further education course content, took part in many of the extra-curricular activities they had on offer (there was truly something for everyone), and I met so many other students from similar backgrounds to my own. At the time (I’m showing my age here, as it was all the way back in 2017), Durham University’s Sutton Trust Summer School required students to complete a project as part of the residential, to be read and assessed by the academics who had led our sessions. This project would be the deciding element as to whether we would be given a conditional offer with lowered entry requirements by two grades, as well as confirmation of the Durham Grant. Nowadays, the project element is no longer the definitive deciding factor for awarding an offer from Durham – rather academics and staff are looking for students to be engaged and proactively participating throughout the residential, partaking in discussions and developing ideas on what a project/assessment at university may look like on your chosen course.
My advice to someone who is considering applying to an access programme offered by universities: APPLY! There is no harm in doing so and seeing what the outcome may be. For me, the Sutton Trust Summer School shaped, and continues to shape my university experience; I gained an insight into what my course looked like and whether the city of Durham was for me, and I met incredible people who, I am very grateful to say, are people I still consider my closest friends to this day. From my very first day in summer school back in August 2017, to now having worked on multiple of them as a Durham Student Ambassador, the impact of access and widening participation programmes like this continues to inspire me. So much so, I am currently exploring careers in educational policies, regulations, and research, particularly in social mobility because everyone, regardless of their background, deserves to reach their full potential.
Thank you, Jesse
As I’m writing this now and reflecting on everything, it really does feel full circle. I can still remember my mentor from that summer, Jesse, and the influence she had on me and my decision to come to Durham; she truly was a role model for me and, fair to say, I followed in her footsteps, and I am so happy I did.
Find out more
About Sutton Trust Summer School at Durham here
This year’s applications close Thursday 10 March 2023, with teacher references needing to be submitted by Tuesday, 14 March 2023.
For more information, please see this link