Background. Stories from the Edge of the Future – A Guide to Applying for University.
Student Voices Series. “An Open Letter from the UK to our Friends in the UAE.”
Royal Grammar School Guildford – UK.
In the third of a special series of articles, written as the day fast approaches when Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai will open in the UAE this September, a very special open letter from Jack Gamble, a Sixth Form student from Royal Grammar School Guildford in the UK, on his personal journey applying to university.
Mr Gamble speaks directly with SchoolsCompared about grappling with the biggest jump into the future facing students in the final years of school; applying to university and the challenge of what next…
What do we learn? That the challenges for students are very much the same across the world.
Each student in this Student Voices series of articles from SchoolsCompared, was given free reign to describe their experiences and to offer their advice to fellow students, and families, facing the many dilemmas, struggles, and sometimes sleepless nights, of what comes after school – and the best ways, for each of them, of getting there.
It takes no small amount of courage to agree to put your name to an article in a such a public forum, and we extend our enormous gratitude – and (giant) heaps of praise, for each of you who have taken the plunge to contribute and placed yourselves above the parapet.
For many of our contributors, this will be the first time that they will have had their names in print – well done! Who knows, maybe we shall see you in the years to come as a journalist changing the world…
The third of our stories, as above, comes from Jack Gamble, writing from the Royal Grammar School Guildford in the UK.
Mr Gamble writes eloquently and honestly about the challenges facing students who study subjects with no clear cut career path; his passion for Philosophy; and, moving beyond the knock back of not being accepted at Oxford. He steadfastly refuses to dwell on the dreaded C word in the pandemic years that have, and continue to, wreak havoc in education. Instead, Mr Gamble praises his school, one that has seen him develop as a keen sportsman, musician, dramatist and thinker over more than eight years of education – and a young man ready to take on the world and future to come – whatever it may throw at him..
“An Open Letter from the UK to our Friends in the UAE.”
by Jack Gamble. Royal Grammar School Guildford UK. 2014 – 2021.
As a student of RGS Guildford (UK), I’ve been subject to the intimidating task of deciding my future at the age of 18.
Now the daunting nature of such a task was a slight cause of concern for me personally, being the type of person who has never even thought about their future vocation until I had to…
With A level subjects of English, religious studies and music, there wasn’t the same clear destination for a London accounting job, as there might be, say, for those studying economics and double maths, or for a career as a heart surgeon, as there might be for those studying the sciences, to name two examples.
So, as a result, I decided that the best approach would be to embody that cliché of following my heart, an approach leading me to the degree destination of… philosophy.
All this decision making began back in the Winter of my ‘Lower Sixth’ year (the first of the two sixth form years) and was shortly before the COVID-19 situation that quite rudely interrupted my second term.
However, in this letter I am determined to not mention any virus related words from now on, as I think you’ll agree we’ve all heard far too much of that recently.
Anyway, such events were a barrier to the second stage of my process; I had my degree, but I had no idea where to go.
I’m fortunate to be in an environment where the distant light of Oxford and Cambridge is not an unachievable goal, so (albeit slightly arrogantly) I decided that was a good place to start. After spending a good few hours looking over syllabus overviews and course details, I narrowed my sights on the Philosophy and Theology department at Oxford.
However, it was just not meant to be.
Given broader research to wider ‘Russel Group’ universities, I stumbled upon my future at Durham.
It was set.
The more I looked into Durham life, learning about the college system, the hockey teams and facilities (I’m a big hockey player so this really sealed the deal), the more I really saw myself spending the next three years of my life there.
But there was one hurdle – I couldn’t visit!
With Open Days cancelled nationally, and cross country visits seeming unlikely, I didn’t have the reassurance I would’ve liked in an ideal world. Yet through turning to past RGS students, family friends and the internet, I peppered my questions at any Durham student that would listen until I was really sure Durham beat its fellow alternatives of Edinburgh, Leeds, Exeter, Bristol, King’s and St. Andrew’s to secure the pole position on my ideal university list.
Securing the ‘insurance’ second option was an interesting one for me, given how much I believed I had to go to Durham.
It became a question of what is wrong as opposed to what is right, as I found every Uni I considered was a good option.
Scottish universities were too far away and had mostly 17-year-olds in the first year (a year younger than me given the different education system in Scotland) so Edinburgh and St. Andrew’s were ruled out.
London felt too close to home – I want to explore! – so King’s fell off the list.
Through removing options one-by-one, I decided to go with Exeter as my insurance option and Durham as my firm first option.
Time to send off my application!
With a couple redrafts of a personal statement to ensure I sold myself without coming across too over-confident, I sent off my application of top five choices, gaining offers from each and confirming my top two in January 2021.
With uncertainty as to how my A Levels will be judged, I must admit I’m very slightly anxious about my future, but one thing I can rely on is the fantastic support that I’m lucky enough to have at RGS Guildford – and no, this isn’t paid promotion!
Best of luck to anyone who wishes to follow in these footsteps – I promise it’s not as scary as it seems…
Notes for students and parents