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Summer schools explained

Listen to students, mentors and parents talk about what you can expect from summer school.

With the school holidays in full swing it might seem crazy to sign yourself up to a summer school. Hannah Smithson investigates what they are and how you can benefit from them in your spare summer days.

What are summer schools?

Many universities run residential summer schools, where prospective students stay over for a few days and participate in a series of activities. Matthew Usher, summer schools co-ordinator for Bournemouth University explains that, 'Summer schools are a great opportunity for students to experience university life and understand the course, accommodation and learning and teaching style, but also to dispel the myths about fees and funding.

'Residential summer schools represent a significant investment in outreach for universities, and fit in a wider programme of outreach activities such as Campus Visits, Mentoring which students may have engaged in throughout their educational journey.'

What happens at summer schools?

2012 summer school students Amy Kernock, 17 and Kirsty Johnson, 17, reveal what they got up to at this year’s summer school.

'We’ve done an enterprise group where we had to come up with a business plan for a desert island called the island challenge.

'I''ve definitely learnt new things and made loads of new friends. We had a disco and a quiz as well. We didn’t know each other before and it’s built my confidence up as well. Summer schools are definitely a good thing because it brings everyone together and it gives more of an insight into what uni's like than just going for a day because a lot of people aren’t really sure whether they do want to go.

'It is a bit of a scary thought but once you’ve done this… it’s made my mind up definitely. And you get the talks on finance as well which have been really helpful. That was the thing I was most worried about. But they explain that everyone can afford it and you don’t have to worry about the high fees so much.'

What about the parents?

Liz McClur believes  residential summer schools have given her daughter Sophie an encouraging taste of the university experience.

'Sophie's ambition is to be a P.E. teacher. She is pretty much focused on that and has even started looking at where she might want to go and what she wants to do. The summer school has probably given her a taste of what Uni life is like on both sides of the coin, from the academic to living away from home for a few days and the social aspects. I’ve been encouraging her to come on the summer school and I think it’s good now to show people that it is accessible from all walks of life.'

Will I enjoy it?

Liz’s daughter Sophie Landsborough, 16, describes all the things she enjoyed about summer school.

'I’m studying sports at the moment because I’m interested in how to become a P.E. teacher. The summer school this week has been really fun, meeting new people and doing all the activities. I liked going to all the social events like the beach BBQ and all the taster sessions which have been really helpful. I got to do the leisure and tourism taster which was really good, we got to try different foods from different countries which was a bit different.'

Who are summer school mentors?

Being away from home for a few days may be a daunting experience for some but summer school mentors are always on hand to help. Laura Maisey, 21, is one volunteer who has taken up the opportunity of mentoring at summer school.

‘I’ve been with students throughout the day giving them taster sessions from forensic science all the way to engineering and design. They’ve also been doing Young Enterprise which is where they work in groups to design an island to promote to business people. They’ve all loved it, they’ve all had their own rooms and got to know each other really well just as you would as a first year fresher.

I think mentoring at summer schools is a really good experience. I’ve learnt a lot about young individuals, their perceptions of uni and how they see college and what they want to do. Everyone’s got to know each other really well. It’s a really good opportunity for them to understand what uni is about because when I was younger I didn’t have a clue about uni. It’s good for them to understand the finance perspective as well.'

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