Posted on: February 2nd 2021

My university application experience

A student’s relationship with the UCAS process is naturally quite an unnerving one. I think it goes without saying, that recently this relationship has been tested in exceptionally challenging conditions, given the unprecedented uncertainty that has come with this pandemic. I don’t have much else to compare my experience to, but from what I do, I can thankfully say I have felt minimal disruption to my ambition and preparation in seeking a place at top universities. The dreams I had at the start of last year are the same as I have now. I’d largely attribute this motivation and confidence to the staff’s ability to adapt holistically, to deliver academic and emotional support in a process that is very demanding.


Being a Geography applicant, seeking a place at Cambridge, LAE helped me build a strong application, in my subject knowledge and my interview technique. Starting last year, I had higher education interview preparation every week with my Geography teacher, who would provide us with unfamiliar sources varying widely from photos of landscapes, graphs about emissions, and prompts to speak at length about. At the same time, we had regular Oxbridge sessions which talked us through the whole process, from super-curricular activities (academic activities one does to extend their knowledge around their course choice) to body language in virtual interviews (which was especially important, since we had to learn how to make an impression on camera!). Before my real one, I had 6 mock interviews which LAE managed to arrange with staff of its partner schools like Eton, Brighton and Highgate.


In terms of personal statements, it can feel daunting to sound unique and passionate in just 4000 characters. Fortunately, when I started writing it, I was surprised by how much I had to write about – from writing for the LAE geography journal, an EPQ, a QMUL Gentrification lecture. Then from there it was just translating enthusiasm into words, and my teachers were always around to advise us if it ever got too flowery or cliché, which I found was a very easy mistake!


LAE may be an academically rigorous sixth form that urges its students to aim high for the top universities, but they are extremely supportive of all its applicants. There was always the priority placed on ensuring we felt ready and felt that we were all students worthy of the places we were applying for. Thus, teachers often willingly devoted time in lunch breaks and after hours to read through personal statements, providing feedback.  


Given the wealth of support I received, the one thing that stood out most was revealed to me on the weeks preceding Oxbridge offers. I recall receiving several emails before and after the offers were distributed, not only congratulating offer holders, but explaining how extremely proud they were of everyone who simply applied. Those messages really gave me the comfort in days of especially high anxiety, suggesting whatever the outcome, LAE would support me in whatever my destination. That’s something I applaud LAE for, and because they helped me develop such a strong portfolio, I always felt I had brilliant options in front of me to attend Russell Group universities. If you apply to LAE for anything, this is it. The simultaneous academic challenges and encouragement it provides.  


Imaan Y13