As a Year 13 student who went through the admissions process last year, I know that applying to university can be a serious challenge. What I hope to outline here are some key places to look at to help students along the way.

If you know someone who is going through the university application process right now from a state school, then I’d recommend that you point them in the direction of Zero Gravity. Run by Joe Seddon, himself an Oxford University graduate, this free platform provides support to applicants, from undergraduate students at the very institution they are applying to. Whether it be Russell-Group institutions or Oxbridge, they have mentors on the course the student is applying to and what they provide is invaluable. As someone who was applying from a state school which had never applied to Oxford and as someone who had no immediate family who went to university, the process seemed to pose a particular challenge for me, yet what they did was exceptional, supporting me with my personal statement, my admissions assessment and then running mock interviews with me so that when I actually went there, I felt as prepared as I could be. Now, as an offer holder of History and Politics at Oxford University, I look back at what they did and want to spread the word as much as possible. Whoever you share it with, make sure you share it with as many people who could benefit from it as possible, as these opportunities don’t come often. As long as the student attends a UK state school and achieved an average of a 7/A or more in their GCSEs then they are eligible to apply and I’m so thankful that I did. Check out their website .

Whilst admissions have closed on a number of schemes for this academic year, for students who will be in Year 12 next year there are a number of places to earmark as well.These are the Social Mobility Foundation Aspiring Professionals Programme, Sutton Trust Summer Schools, UNIQ Summer SchoolsCambridge University Subject Masterclasses, Target Oxbridge and the Cambridge University Sixth Form Law Conference. As someone who undertook a number of these, I have to say these experiences are something you will not come across anywhere else, and every single one of them will help to prepare for university. Please of course check eligibility as not all programmes will be open to all students.

From my experience of the admissions process, I have built up a lot of knowledge about applications, and wanted to share this as best I could. Lockdown has brought new challenges, and when I saw how the state school I had attended struggled to provide any provision for university applications for Year 12 students, I felt compelled to step in before they slipped too far behind. Therefore, I ran a workshop with them last month about choosing a course, choosing a university and writing a personal statement to get them started. I’ve now shared an excerpt from this online which you can watch on this channel:

I hope this will help other students to get started with applying to university, and will distill the process more simply to try to cut through some of the confusion. I know that I definitely heard lots of conflicting advice so I’ve tried to pull together the key facts as best I can. I am also aiming to try to share some more insights on there as the year goes by, so it may be worth subscribing so you don’t forget about it!

What I hoped to do in this article was to signpost a number of different areas students can look at to help them with applying to university. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and no doubt there are many incredible schemes or experiences I have missed off because I simply don’t know about them, but what I wanted to do was make you aware of a number of excellent opportunities and put them on the radar of lots of people across the country. As I say applying to university is tough, so hopefully I’ve made it just a little bit easier.

About the author: Daniel Dipper has recently been appointed a Trustee for the charity Potential Plus UK and is a Year 13 student who is an offer holder for Oxford University to read History and Politics. Daniel was previously a Young Reporter with Potential Plus UK and has been a member for ten years. He now volunteers to support other students applying to university and is passionate about social mobility. See his recent blog Urgent Improvement Needed: How the Exam Process will Wreck the Chances of Thousands  to find out how Covid-19 is affecting Daniel and many other Year 13 students this year.