Shadowing scheme success

Friday, 2 December, 2016 - 15:15
Fitzwilliam College student Target and Access Officers

Ten Cheshire state-school pupils spent three days at Fitzwilliam College at the end of November on a free student-run shadowing scheme   

The sixth form pupils came from The Catholic High School, Chester; Alsager Sixth Form; Neston High School; All Hallows Catholic College, Macclesfield; Knutsford Academy; Helsby High School; The Whitby High School, Ellesmere Port; and Upton-by-Chester High School. 

The scheme, which is supported by donations from alumni of Fitzwilliam College, fully reimbursed travel costs and living expenses for the ‘shadows’.

Ten Cheshire state-school pupils on shadowing scheme
Top row, from left: Lucy Thomas-Stanton; Heather Stockdale; Rowan Perry; Connie Haigh; Sophie Ashley.
Front row, from left: Elizabeth Osborne; Ciara Sinclair; Jess Elvy; Charlie Pennington; Katie Hibbitt. 

The shadows arrived in the afternoon on Thursday 24 November, ate in Hall with their Fitzwilliam College student mentors and spent Friday with them at lectures and supervisions and enjoying social activities.

They headed back home on Saturday morning after a short talk by Aemilia McDonnell, Fitzwilliam’s Schools Liaison Officer, about courses and teaching at Cambridge, how to apply and what to expect at interview.

The scheme is run by Fitzwilliam College student Target and Access Officers - pictured at top - from left: Ilona Szabo (Geography 2015), Andrew Carey (HSPS 2016) and Emily Young (Classics 2015).

Ilona Szabo explained: “We wrote to the Head of Sixth Form at 20 state schools in Cheshire and had 80 applicants for 10 places.  We selected applicants who do well in school but may not have family experience of university or might not get the opportunity to visit and learn about top universities otherwise.”

Ilona added: “We’d have taken more shadows if we’d had the funds, so not being accepted is no reflection on the standard of applicants!”

Cambridge colleges are allocated different ‘link areas’ in the UK in which to focus their efforts to improve access and widening participation.  Fitzwilliam’s ‘link areas’ are Cheshire, Cumbria and the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham.

How did the shadows feel about their short time at Cambridge, and has it encouraged them to think about applying?

Jess Elvy, from All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield, came to see if Law was what she wanted to do, and attended three lectures, including a first-year lecture on ‘occupiers’ liability’. Jess said: “It was interesting and fast-paced, but I could manage it!”

Rowan Perry, from Knutsford Academy, and interested in studying English, was excited about the third-year lecture she’d attended with her mentor Faye Guy on ‘Pilgrimage and quest in medieval literature’. “The lecture was really interesting!  I didn’t understand all of it – but it was good to soak it all up. The whole experience exceeded my expectations. I feel Cambridge is more suited to me than I thought it would be. I would definitely consider applying.”

Katie Hibbitt, from Alsager School, who’s interested in studying medicine, said she’d really enjoyed the social experience … and the food: “Everyone’s been very friendly and welcoming.”

Connie Haigh, from Upton-by-Chester High School, who also wants to do medicine, enjoyed the first-hand experience and felt more confident about applying. “After coming here I feel I can apply – I feel I’d fit in.”

Ciara Sinclair, from the Catholic High School Chester, agreed. She wants to be a Vet – and said “It’s achievable!”

For some the experience had changed their pre-conceptions. Sophie Ashley, from The Whitby High School, Ellesmere Port, planning to study medicine, said: “I had a picture in my mind of Cambridge being full of posh upper-class guys, but now I think it’s a place anyone can go to if they put the work in – being with the mentors made it feel normal.” She’d been extra pleased that some friendly Fitzwilliam students had invited her to join them for an early Christmas dinner!

Fitzwilliam Target and Access Officer Ilona Szabo’s own journey to Cambridge is one of the reasons she’s committed to the scheme herself. “I was at Tendring Technology College in Essex and a former pupil, Daisy Stevens, who was a student at Fitzwilliam College, came back to talk about Cambridge. I then went to a ‘Progress in Geography’ conference held at Fitzwilliam and applied because it seemed chilled and friendly.”

There are plans to run the scheme again next year, for pupils from a different link area. 

To arrange a visit to Fitzwilliam College, or a visit to your school, contact the Schools Liaison Officer Aemilia McDonnell.

The next Open Day is on 22 April 2017

The ‘Progress in Geography’ Conference runs on 20 June 2017. 

Fitzwilliam College was founded in 1869 to broaden access to the University, and is proud of its history. The College admits students from all backgrounds strictly on the basis of academic ability and promise. The University and its colleges are committed to widening participation to higher education. Hundreds of outreach initiatives and events are run each year both in Cambridge and in schools and colleges across the UK.