As part of their preparation for the Oxbridge application process, 14 Lower Sixth pupils attended two residential weekends in Herefordshire with leading academics in Economics, History, Theology, English, Medicine, Biochemistry and Mathematics.
The venue was a house originally inhabited by Jesuits, and the rumoured safehouse of Guy Fawkes should he have successfully executed his Gunpowder Plot. Now a large home with books lining almost every wall, the setting demanded academic rigour, as did the academics who the pupils dined with on each Friday evening. It was an early start for the English applicants on the first Saturday, who took part in a full reading of Hamlet across the day, managing the first three acts before a Q & A with the attending Shakespeare expert all before lunch. Meanwhile, pupils interested in studying Economics, PPE, History and Theology were led in their own seminars.
A palette-cleansing lecture on what we can learn of our own subjects through Music preceded the most challenging aspect of the first weekend for our pupils: tutorials. The historians were given time individually to be questioned on their independent reading, exposing each pupil to the rigour of an Oxbridge interview. Others experienced the atmosphere of an Oxbridge tutorial (or supervision) with pairs and trios being examined and challenged by each attending academic.
On the second weekend, Saturday morning began with tutorials that ran throughout the day. A leading biochemist tested the understanding of two pupils hoping to apply for Medicine and Biochemistry on several challenging biomedical articles. Meanwhile, one brave Mathematics applicant was challenged with university level mathematical problems throughout the day, spending hours one-to-one with the attending Maths academic.
While the academics were impressed with the capabilities of our pupils, there is still plenty of time ahead for these pupils to bolster their own independent research in preparation for their applications to Oxford and Cambridge next term.
This event continues to be an inspiring and demanding challenge for Oxbridge applicants, enlightening them to the level at which they will be expected to perform in their entrance interviews in December.