Sam's Blog

Schools tour diary #6 – Info Days

The final week on my schools tour featured three of our four 2015 Oxford and Cambridge Information Days. During these events, I partner up with my Oxford counterparts to deliver help and guidance to the South West’s brightest Year 12 students.

After our first Information Day in Exeter before the Easter Holidays, I was really looking forward to speaking with hundreds more Year 12s across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset for our next events. Following feedback from last year’s event, we changed the format of the Info Days for this year, focusing more specifically on providing subject-specific admissions guidance. We used to offer more general sessions looking at the admissions process and student finances, but with our increasing work with students from Year 9 and upwards (and the wealth of information online and via teachers at school), we realised students were attending with a good level of basic knowledge already. Our Information Days are now shorter, snappier and providing more detailed info to help prepare the region’s sixth formers to make competitive applications to both universities.

The student life Q+A at our Plymouth event
The student life Q+A at our Plymouth event

The first event of the week took place in Plymouth, kindly hosted by Devonport High School for Boys and attended by 13 other schools and colleges around Devon and Cornwall. Over 150 students and their teachers joined us for a morning packed with info. It was great to have so many undergraduates helping at this event too, with nine current students coming back to talk about their experiences of applying to both universities and what they’ve been up to since they started their courses.

Our next event took us to Truro where we welcomed around 100 students and teachers from schools and colleges in Cornwall to Truro College. The weather continued to be absolutely glorious, and I think I seriously considered delivering our sessions on the football pitch next door…

As with our Plymouth event, Ian (my counterpart at Exeter College in Oxford) and Dr Marcus Tomalin (one of Downing’s Admissions Tutors) led the students interested in science subjects through the admissions tests and interviews process, whilst myself and Dr Chris Ballinger (Academic Dean at Exeter College in Oxford) spoke to the students keen on arts, humanities and social sciences courses.

Lots of great comments!
Lots of great comments in the feedback forms!

After Truro, it was back on the train for the long journey across to Dorset for our Info Day at The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, attended by 70 students and staff. We were based in the Library – a perfect venue for illustrating the value of super-curricular exploration! We even managed to spot one of Downing’s Fellows’ books featured in the English section! With lots of fantastic past papers and info sheets on tests and interviews supplied by my other Oxford counterpart Cressida from Merton College, everyone had lots of time to explore and ask the undergraduates questions about their own application experiences

We’re very thankful at Downing, Exeter and Merton Colleges to all of the students who attended, the teachers and school staff who encourage them, and to the schools and colleges for hosting these events. We look forward to working together again and planning the Oxford and Cambridge Information Days for 2016, coming to a venue near you!

First things first however – time to go through all of the very helpful feedback forms left by the students and teachers to help inform what we include next year. I might be here for a little while… is anyone making tea?


I was once a student at Downing, but now I work full-time as the School and College Liaison Officer. I'm responsible for organising our outreach work in the South West and advising students and teachers on all things Cambridge!