Log in to My Petroc and Webmail:
Jasmin studied A-levels at our North Devon Campus, including Environmental Science and Geography, and is currently studying a BSc in Ecology and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Reading.
What did you enjoy most about studying Environmental Science/Geography?
The variety. The Environmental Science A-Level was a great introduction to the range of environmental issues that I went on to study in my BSc Ecology and Wildlife Conservation degree. Having always wanted to work in the environmental sector/conservation, I really value the opportunity to have taken this A-Level. It was the first insight to the numerous career paths I could take, from renewable energy to wildlife conservation. It was undoubtedly my favourite course at college.
What is your job and what does it involve? What is the best part of your job?
Last summer I worked for the Environment Agency in the sampling team and will be returning after I graduate from university in a few months’ time. My role is to collect environmental data which is used to assess the health of the environment. This involves collecting river water samples, kick sampling for macro-invertebrates and carrying out electrofishing surveys. My favourite part of this job is working outdoors, particularly around rivers and getting to see the diversity of life within them. It is fascinating getting to know the ecology of an area and seeing how everything is connected. I see a whole range of wildlife while I'm out and about; from tawny owls and cuckoos to crayfish and grass snakes. Those brief encounters really inspire me to do all I can to protect the environment.
How did studying at Petroc help with your degree and/or career?
Asides from the actual A-Levels I studied, the support available at Petroc helped me secure my place on my degree course, particularly when it came to writing my personal statement. Opportunities such as NCS also gave me a big advantage, especially being able to tailor the project to focus on environmental issues. I have often referred to that experience during interview processes as an example of teamwork and project management. These are key skills no matter what career you may go into, and being able to put them on your CV at a young age is a great way to stand out.
What advice would you give your 12 year old self with respect to choosing GCSEs/Level 3 courses at Petroc?
Study what you love. Don't make choices purely based on career prospects or salary. With all the other challenges that you face during your teens, it's easy to lose sight of the purpose of your studies when you're at school or college. Choosing subjects that you are genuinely passionate about is half the battle. If you don't know what you want to do for a career yet, that's perfectly ok! You can explore new things, take your time, change your mind, try again - there isn't just one path to get where you want to be. Everything you learn at school and the skills you gain are applicable to all walks of life. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you at school/college, appreciate your teachers, don't be in a rush to grow up, but most of all, study what you love.
What else have you been doing recently?
Last year, I took a placement year as part of my course. I spent three months working with an ecological consultancy mainly surveying for reptiles, amphibians, bats, dormice and badgers. I also gained a lot of experience writing ecological reports and carrying out phase 1 habitat surveys. I then spent a total of nine months working for the Environment Agency, at first as a work experience student until I was offered a summer job in the sampling team. I was able to meet people from the huge variety of teams they have at the EA and learn about how their work benefits the environment. It was also a great opportunity to learn about the challenges involved with protecting the environment, particularly due to government budget cuts etc.
In a few months’ time I will be graduating from the University of Reading and starting my job with the EA in the Thames area for one year. When my contract ends I am thinking about applying to work for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and possibly some other opportunities abroad including coral reef conservation in the Philippines. My main interests are freshwater and marine ecology and I may consider doing a Masters in that area in the future.
James did A-levels at our North Devon Campus, and is now working as an Assistant Ranger at West Exmoor.
What did you enjoy most about studying Environmental Science and Geography?
Environmental Science: I enjoyed learning about the science behind geographical processes and why things happen as they do. This course is very relevant to everything around us and also covers a very wide spectrum.
Geography: The geography course was great and gave me an in-depth knowledge of many natural processes. The highlights were the trips that the course offered such as visiting the Heddon valley, Hartland point and Iceland. The change over time and geographical processes that have occurred in these places were really brought to life by these trips. Iceland is one of my favourite places that I have visited and I have another trip booked there this year.
I am now an Assistant Ranger at West Exmoor working in countryside management for the National Trust. I am involved in projects such as butterfly conservation, farm work, forestry work, invasive species control, landscaping and footpath maintenance. The best part of my job is working in an aesthetically beautiful part of the country with a great team that are all working to improve and protect the environment.
How did studying at Petroc help with your career?
The background knowledge gained in Environmental Science and Geography at Petroc helped me on my journey through university and helped keep me a step ahead of everyone else on my course. I still use a lot of the knowledge I gained while at Petroc on a regular basis such as my knowledge of landforms, environmental governmental legislation and designation, forestry work and sampling techniques.
I would say choose the subjects that you enjoy as you normally excel in things that you have a love and enjoyment for.
Rebecca studied A-levels at our North Devon Campus and is now at Bath Spa University studying Primary Education and English Literature.
What are your highlights from your time at college?
I would say that the highlights of college were meeting a wide range of people who were like-minded and similar in character, and are some of the best people that I have met so far. Plus learning a lot of new things, and going more in-depth on my favourite subjects.
What did you enjoy about being a student ambassador?
Being a student ambassador meant that I was able to encourage prospective students to follow their aspirations, and help gain confidence in the steps that they were taking. I enjoyed being able to reassure not only the students, but also parents on many decisions/choices that their child wanted to do. It was settling to know that students in the year below were able to see a friendly face when they came up to college.
What are you doing now?
I am currently at Bath Spa University, in Bath, studying Primary Education and English Literature, and I am a Student Course Rep for English. I really enjoy my course as it is very engaging and is something that I have wanted to do for a little while. University life is definitely something that I think many people should experience, if they think it is right for them. It takes you enough out of your comfort zone that you develop more, becoming a much better critical thinker, as well as more adaptive to how to live independently. University also introduces you to a whole new group of friends, a variety of ages, who are there to support you no matter what, everyone here is in the same position and understands what you are going through and feeling – and always up for a good party!
How did you decide what to study at university?
I decided to study primary education and English literature together as I really enjoy working with children and also really enjoy studying literature, something that was promoted by the English department at college. Although I had always thought about teaching, it was not my first choice in career, but was always there as a fall-back option (my first choice was dentistry). However, when I was at college I realised that would most likely not be an option for me as I did not get the grades I needed in my AS year for me to be accepted as it was a very competitive course. However, it turned out for the better as I did a few days work experience at Southmead School and realised how much more I enjoyed working with children, it felt so much more natural! My tutor, Kieran Brend, was really helpful at the time, helping me look through each university and encouraging me to make a decision which I felt was right for myself, not what other people expected me to do.
What are your long-term plans?
When I graduate, I am hoping to continue on to do my Post-graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) for a year, specialising in SEN. Then hopefully, teach English abroad for a year or two, before coming back to England and focusing on teaching at a primary school, and becoming a SEN Co-ordinator later on.
Emily studied A-levels at our North Devon Campus and went on to study Human Geography at Cardiff University.
Philosophy of Religion A*
“I was very fond of my college experience. I had very motivating teachers and college really taught me how important it is to do things for myself and work hard. It prepared me well for university.
Throughout college I was umming and ahhing about what to do next – I thought about midwifery, going into the police and even philosophy, but eventually chose Human Geography at Cardiff University, as it’s such a broad subject and I knew it would open up lots of opportunities for me in the future.
I really enjoyed my degree, which looked at how humans interact with their environment and sustainability – subjects which are very topical right now – and I came away with a First, which makes me very proud.
My advice to someone wishing to pursue a similar career path would be to get as much work experience as possible. Whilst at university I did work experience with Public Health Wales, and from there managed to secure further work experience opportunities. It’s not enough to just get good grades – employers are looking for evidence that you’re motivated and willing to go the extra mile.
I’m currently applying to do a Masters at Cardiff, in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy. I regularly look at what jobs are available in this field, and I always see things that I would like to apply for, so I’m hopeful that I will be successful in finding employment after completing my Masters.”
Nathaniel is studying Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics A-levels and won the prestigious Arkwright Scholarship for engineering.
Studying: A-level Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths and Politics Former School: Braunton AcademyCampus: North Devon
“For the Arkwright Scholarship, we had to complete an exam and go for an interview to show we’re interested in engineering. I performed well enough to get through. It was enjoyable and scary, because it’s something I really wanted. I’ve been considering a job in engineering for a while; I know that it’s something that interests me. This was a good way of getting experience. I will be getting work experience with TDK-Lamda and I will be getting lots of opportunities to further my understanding of getting a job in the field of engineering.
“I chose Petroc because it has all the courses that I wanted to do. It’s easy to get there and it’s a nice environment. At college you have to be a lot more independent and you have to think for yourself. You have to get out there and do the extra work and put more effort in.
“I’m thinking about university. Lots of people who aim high hope to get into a high-end university. Hopefully with experiences with Arkwright I will be able to apply to unis, as it gives you a bit of an understanding of what it’s like.”
Jacob is studying Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Politics A-levels at our North Devon campus, and plays for Petroc Rugby team.
Studying: A-level Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Politics Former School: Ilfracombe AcademyCampus: North Devon
“I chose my A-levels because I thought they would open up the most doors to university. At Petroc I’m treated more like an adult. College is a more mature environment, and I’m really enjoying it. I also play for Petroc rugby. The balance between training and studying is hard, but I really do enjoy it.
“After college, I want to do a degree in nuclear engineering and I want to go in the Navy.
“If you’re in Year 11, look for something that you will enjoy. Don’t do what your mates want to do. You know what you’re good at; be realistic. At Petroc, you get to meet new people and make new friends. Enjoy it and make the most of it. You’re here for two years and you want to make the most of it.”
Sarah is studying Accounting, Economics & Business, History and Maths A-levels at our North Devon campus and is a member of our Academic Academy.
Studying: Accountancy, Economics & Business, History and Maths A-levels, and Academic Academy Former school: Ilfracombe Academy Campus: North Devon
"I chose Petroc mainly because of the courses on offer; I can do accounting here. There’s a lot more freedom here than at school. Everyone is a lot more mature here. I really like the subjects, too; you’re choosing what you want to do and you’re not forced to do something. Everyone works hard in class!
"The Academic Academy is good. We have been focusing on research and we did a little bit of Latin which helps you with other subjects and gives you useful skills. We have also been doing debating which was really interesting as it was on topics you wouldn’t know about.
"After college, I think uni is the way I’m going. I’m on Exeter Progression, which is with Exeter Uni, where you do a series of programmes and assessments, and you can become a scholar which means they lower your entry requirements and put you on a priority list. That’s through the Academy. I think I will study economics with finance."
Anaya studied Biology and Art A-levels, Sport BTEC and was a member of the Volleyball Academy. She is the first UK beach volleyball player to get an American scholarship.
Then: Biology and Art A-levels and Sport BTEC, and Volleyball Academy (2015-2017)Campus: North DevonNow: First UK beach volleyball player to get an American scholarship (GCU, Arizona)Former school: Braunton Community College
“My lecturers were very understanding once it was explained to them what my goal was. They allowed me to focus on my sport and organise myself and my studies, with their aid, so that I could succeed at both.
"My highlights at Petroc were probably my AS and my A-level result days as I was pleasantly surprised with the result! My highlights since I have college are taking 17th at under 20s Europeans (the best England has done in this age group), and being accepted to GCU as it has been a dream of mine to go to an American college and train and study full-time for my sport.
“The advice I'd give to someone trying to get into an American college with a scholarship is to contact as many colleges as you can with good footage of doing your sport and don't be afraid to keep contacting them. A lot of colleges are looking for good grades as well as the skills so try to be super organised so that you can succeed at both – be a professional in everything you do.
“The long term plan is to play in the Commonwealth Games and then the Olympics. This has been a dream of mine and going to an American college brings me one step closer.”
Sandy studied Music, Music Technology, Media A-levels and AS-levels in Graphics and Film Studies. He is now a session musician, lecturer and has toured the world with One Direction.
What did you study at Petroc and when?
I studied Music, Music Technology, Media and Graphics between 2003-2005.
I am currently a session musician, working with a variety of acts, as well as lecturing at ACM Guildford.
How do you feel college prepared you for what you went on to do next?
College prepared me in many ways, it taught me the importance of networking and also the skills it takes to record and produce music.
Did you get involved in any extra-curricular activities (academies, societies, trips, events etc.) whilst at college?
I actually didn't, I was gigging as much as I could outside of college and it was before the college had its own venue.
What are your highlights from your time at Petroc?
I think just meeting like-minded people and broadening my appreciation of different musical genres.
What are the highlights of your career since you left?
I've been very fortunate to have toured the world with One Direction for four-and-a-half years between 2011-2015. We played some amazing venues and had some great times.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar career path to you?
Work hard and keep the desire, music is a crazy business and you need to be able to put so much into it to achieve your goals. It's all possible but it's going to take some hard work.
Callum is studying Maths, Physics and Biology A-levels
Name: Callum LeachCourse: A-level Maths, Physics, BiologyYear: 2Previous School: Tiverton High School
Why Petroc?I live in the sticks near Rackenford, so Petroc was the most convenient option, it also offered the A-levels I wanted to take. Another reason was I came to Petroc in Year 11 as part of a small group to do triple science – we had great fun, learnt a lot and met the lecturers who would be teaching the A-levels I wanted to study – I knew they could provide me with a good education.
Why these A-levels? I originally wanted to be a vet, and picked the A-levels to suit, but the A-levels actually lend themselves to a multitude of options and I wanted to then keep my options open.
What did you particularly enjoy? I fell in love with Maths! I was in the bottom set in primary school and started getting to grips with it at secondary. I never imagined I would be doing a Maths A-level, but am heading towards an ‘A’. The really interesting stuff is the calculus and I am able to bring all my knowledge to it.
Highlights? My ability to do Maths well, learning about particle and nuclear physics and learning how to think logically around a problem.
What do you most enjoy about studying at Petroc? The college community and small class sizes, it encourages debate and discussion with my class mates and my lecturers. This has been amazing, we all have our own ideas and thoughts and to share them makes us think differently.
What’s your plan after college?I’ll be going on to do Computer Science at Warwick University. My visit there was really interesting; they were carrying out a number of scientific tests and theory’s which was really exciting. I then hope to do my masters and PHD before moving into industry.
Long term plan? I want to do something worthwhile that will be helpful to someone somewhere.
Advice? The jump between GCSEs and A-levels is massive, be prepared to work hard and be dedicated to your study, it helps if you are interested in the subject areas!
Lucy is LBGT+ Officer and is studying A-Levels in History, Philosophy of Religion and Classical Civilisation.
A-Level History, Philosophy of Religion and Classical Civilisation.
North Devon Campus.
"I chose Petroc because they had the courses I wanted to study. The previous college I was at before didn’t have all of them, just one of them. I’m studying History, Classical Civilisation and Philosophy of Religion, and Classical Civilisation is my favourite. My tutor is really into everything and really brings it to life.
I wanted to become LGBT+ Officer because I’m passionate about it and emotionally involved in it. At my previous college there wasn’t a lot of people for LGBT+ students to talk to. I want the students here to feel like they have got someone to represent them.
The main thing I’m focusing on is LGBT History Month. I want to link it to other things like mental health to show how broad it is. I also want to raise awareness of what the ‘plus’ in LGBT+ stands for. A lot of issues come from lack of knowledge rather than hatred.
I think there’s always areas for improvement, but Petroc is good for the fact that there is someone to represent LGBT+ students and the fact that so much importance is put on LGBT History Month – it’s very accepting. I feel that you can talk about it.
The best thing about Petroc is the atmosphere, and I feel my teachers are very approachable and they genuinely care. We are treated as our age group, not just older secondary school students and we are given respect. It has done a lot for my confidence. I would not have stood up for the Student Union election before.
After Petroc, I would like a gap year, to visit family in Canada. I’m not sure about university, but I have been looking at Classics courses which would not have happened before I came here."
Katherine studied A Levels at our North Devon Campus and is just about to start her Masters at Swansea University.
Katherine studied French, Art, Maths, History and English Language at Petroc’s North Devon Campus.
What are you currently doing?
I am just about to start my masters in professional translation at Swansea University.
What have you done since leaving Petroc?
I have successfully completed a BA Honours Degree in French and Spanish at Swansea University. I have learnt Spanish in those four years and now feel equally competent in both languages. As part of my degree, I spent a whole year studying abroad at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. The city was beautiful and very different from home, with many historic areas, the Catalan language and their quest for independence from Spain; all very interesting.
What is the best thing about learning languages?
There are many good things about learning languages: it gives you the opportunity to learn and understand other cultures; it allows you to travel abroad with confidence but, personally, I enjoy translating foreign languages - it is like decoding a puzzle.
What are you hoping to do in the future?
I hope to travel the world extensively in the future and translation work will help me to achieve my goals, as it is used in all international companies around the world.
What has university life been like?
Being at university has allowed me to continue studying but it is also a lovely way of life. Swansea is a vibrant city and the university has lots of activities to get involved in.
Lois is on the Extended Diploma in Health & Social Care and is also part of the Care Academy
Extended Diploma in Health & Social Care Level 3
“During my first year at college, I did A Levels (including Health and Social Care). However, I soon realised that I wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare industry, so it made sense for me to switch onto a full time Health and Social Care programme in my second year.
On the full time course I knew I would get a lot more practical experience, as work experience is built into the course. This is something which is really important when it comes to finding employment in the future.
Through my aunty, I managed to secure a week’s work experience at the maternity hospital in Southampton. Although this was during term time, my lecturers were really supportive and allowed me to have time out of college to carry out the placement. Normally the hospital only takes people from the area for work experience, so I was really fortunate to be given the opportunity. I always knew I wanted to work in a healthcare role, but after this placement I knew that midwifery was the area I wanted to work in.
Through the charity Amigos, I was also lucky enough to go to Africa on an empowerment programme for women. During this trip I heard stories from lots of different women, and I was shocked to discover that the majority of them had never even seen a midwife.
There is a high infant mortality rate in Africa, due to a lack of cleanliness and understanding of healthcare. When I came back I did a lot more research around midwifery and became even more certain that this was the career for me. I thought it would be amazing to have a career where I can make a real difference to people’s lives.
After I complete the course at Petroc I plan to study midwifery at university. However, I know it is very competitive so I know I have to do lots of other things to make me stand out from the crowd. That’s one of the reasons I joined the Care Academy.
As part of the Care Academy, I’ve had the opportunity to carry out a variety of placements at North Devon District Hospital. I’ve already been in the ultrasound department, and am also trying to get into the maternity ward (although placement students aren’t usually allowed in there, so I’m waiting to hear back about that).
A lot of students don’t get to go on placement until they get to university, so I’m hoping that I’ll be a lot more prepared and less nervous when it comes to going on placement when I start my degree, thanks to my time with the Care Academy.
I’m always interested in gaining new experiences, so during my degree I’d really like to spend time overseas, perhaps using my skills to help with disaster relief.”
Jas Smale is studying Children's Play, Learning & Development at our North Devon Campus.
I live just around the corner so it made complete sense. I did toy with the idea of travelling to Exeter every day but in the end I opted for Petroc because it offered the perfect course and offered the best lifestyle.
I didn't know at first whether to study A Levels or head down the BTEC route. My dad is very traditional and was adamant that I study A Levels. However my mum teaches on the BTEC course and was able to give me the advice I needed. I'd say that I learn better and take things on board in practical situation, so the placements available on Children's Play, Learning and Development were perfect.
It's certainly the placements; having the opportunity to put my skills into practice and work with children is fantastic. By the end of the course I will have spent as much time in placements as I have in the classroom!
I really like the class sizes. Everyone on my course came from school and are all the same age so it’s been very easy for us all to get along. The course structure is great as well, and because I find exam situations a little daunting, it offers an alternative method of learning. I'm currently on track for a triple distinction star, which is the equivalent of three A*s at A Level.
I plan to study Psychology at university, but whether I go to Cardiff or UWE is still undecided.
The long term plan is to become a teacher so I'll be looking to study my PCGE after graduation. I feel that doing a degree in Psychology first will broaden my horizons and open doors for other opportunities in the future – such as studying a Masters, for example.
Don’t dismiss the idea of studying a BTEC. There's a pre-conception that they're the easier option to A Levels which I don’t think is true at all.
Dr Alice Mills, a former Petroc student, gave an inspirational speech at the 2016 Arts and Science Presentation Evening
Dr Alice Mills, a former Petroc student, gave an inspirational speech at the 2016 Arts and Science Presentation Evening:
“I left Petroc for Durham University just over 10 years ago. It was North Devon College then and I spent a happy two years studying Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths, running the Astronomy Club and making very good friends.
After my A Levels I got into Durham to study a four-year Masters degree in Physics and Astronomy. I chose Durham because it had a huge research group working on galaxies (and I love galaxies!). It was a big change, the furthest North in the UK that I had ever travelled and a long way from home. In all honesty after my first term of undergraduate physics I was terrified. I went from thinking I was pretty good at Physics to meeting people who already seemed to know the whole first year syllabus and had four maths A-levels. I stuck it out and soon the playing field levelled. It was exciting to be surrounded by clever people and I also realised the importance of independence, determination and hard work.
University was a fantastic experience, but not only because of the learning and the socialising, the clubs and societies but because of the other opportunities it opened up. In my summer holidays at Petroc I used to work as a waitress in the Painted Fan and cleaning caravans at Ruda. In my holidays from University I worked for the department on Astrophysics research, went on a funded summer school at Sheffield University and worked in Sydney for three months at the Anglo Australian Observatory (and also spent some time cleaning caravans at Ruda!). These opportunities helped to show me what I wanted to do next and were experiences I would never have had otherwise.
After my undergraduate degree I applied for PhDs and chose to stay on at Durham and work on galaxy evolution research. I spent four years on research during which I was lucky enough to go and use telescopes all over the world. Telescopes need to be positioned in regions which are high, dry and away from light pollution. This meant that during my PhD I got to go and use telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii twice, the Atacama Desert in Chile and the Sierra Nevada in Spain twice. Before I started at University the biggest telescope I had ever used was an 18” reflector telescope the belonged to the North Devon Astronomical Society. During my PhD I got to use telescopes with mirrors 22 times bigger!!
As well as thoroughly enjoying my research into the formation and evolution of galaxies I also started to become really passionate about science outreach and communication and decided to spend a year working with the Ogden Trust as a Scientist in Schools where I got to write and perform a science show, teach Physics and run a science club. I still wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do afterwards so I started working as a postdoctoral researcher at Durham. A job then came up at the University of Exeter working in science communication in collaboration with the Ogden Trust. Growing up, I had very little exposure to scientists and to the idea of science research. If I was going to work in science communication anywhere I wanted it to be where I grew up so I started in that role a year ago and absolutely love my work.
I now work delivering Physics talks, workshops and events for local schools and community groups across the South West, and help academics to make their research more tangible and understandable to the public. I hope to work more with Petroc in my new role and promote stronger links between Petroc and Exeter.
One thing I am particularly passionate about is encouraging others to become ambassadors for their subjects. I wish that I’d started earlier with outreach and science communication. I have recently started working with some Year 12 Physics ambassadors in South Devon and it is wonderful to see the impact they have on their peers and younger children within their schools.
In summary, my advice would be to work hard, choose something you love, take every exciting opportunity life throws at you, even if it scares you a bit!”
Jonathan is studying Chemistry, Economics & Business and Mathematics at our North Devon Campus
Jonathan Engelking, a current AS student at our North Devon Campus, has been successful in gaining a javelin scholarship at the University of Mount Olive, North Carolina. Recently ranked 5th in the English Schools Championships, we caught up with him to find out more about his incredible opportunity.
“It all began when I started competing in javelin on School Sports Day, and after winning the event on a few occasions people began saying I was quite good at it. I never thought in a million years that it would be taking me to America.
I’m a member of the North Devon Athletics Club and I currently train twice a week at Braunton running track. Last season I was ranked 5th in English Schools Championships. I’ve never had a coach so-to-speak, but when I started competing I was soon receiving offers.
I’m currently studying for a BTEC National Certificate in Sport through the Elite Athletes Program at Loughborough, which combined with my AS Levels here at Petroc offers a varied mix.
It was actually Rob Thomas, an agent at my old school, who told me about the chance to go to Mount Olive, and as soon as he told me I jumped at the chance to be honest. Fortunately, my distance and rank was enough to get me a place.
When I was looking at potential places to enrol, the University of Mount Olive looked to be the perfect fit. I wanted to focus on my javelin, get noticed and not get lost in the crowd, so the size of the university and facilities on offer made the decision simple.
The support from the staff here at Petroc has been fantastic. Not only did they help me with all my registration forms, they were also happy to offer my predicted grades which I needed to qualify for the scholarship.
I’ve absolutely loved my experience here at Petroc. The teaching style is fantastic and it helps you become more independent.”
Megan is studying A Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry at our North Devon Campus
Former School: Park Community School
A Levels in Maths, Biology and Chemistry
“I’ve always been interested in medicine and all the sciences were my favourite subjects at school. I think medicine is such a hugely rewarding career, as you have the potential to make a real difference to someone’s life. Also, it is an incredibly diverse career pathway with many different avenues and opportunities.
As part of the Medics Academy I’ve taken part in many activities to improve my understanding of the profession and increase my chances of being accepted onto a medicine degree at university.
Earlier this year I attended the MedLink Conference, where I was able to listen to experts from the medical profession talk about their experiences and different career paths. We have also had several guest speakers visit us at college which, again, has given us great insight into the healthcare environment. In addition, we have gone on several trips, locally, with the Academy to the Children’s Hospice and North Devon Hospice and will also be embarking on a weekly work experience placement at the hospital alongside the Care Academy. All these experiences have given us a broad view of different medical settings and given us an insider’s knowledge into all the different jobs that are available.
I am just in the process of completing my UCAS application and my first choice university is Oxford. I have been fortunate to gain places on two Oxbridge summer schools in the past – UNIQ and Sutton Trust – so I already have an understanding of what it would be like to study in an Oxbridge environment and I think I’d be really well suited to it. However, I know that it is extremely competitive so I won’t be too hard on myself if I’m not successful – I figure it’s better to try, and not be successful, rather than always think ‘what if?’. Also, the whole application process will be a great experience in itself, as it is so different to all other university applications.
Between college and university I’d quite like to take a gap year. I’d like to do something related to medicine, to hopefully boost my confidence and give me some hands-on experience before returning to study."
Morgan is on the Level 3 Diploma in Business at our Mid Devon Campus
Level 3 Diploma in Business
Mid Devon Campus
“I’ve always been fascinated by big, corporate companies and how they operate, and for a while now I’ve been considering a career in commercial law and would like to progress onto the Foundation Degree in Law at Petroc.
The Business Diploma seemed like a great place to start, as it gives you a good understanding of the background of business and also covers topics such as economics and law, which I find really interesting.
We’ve had some great guest speakers over the year, including Solomon Akhtar from The Apprentice. It’s great to hear what their route into business was and get a different perspective on topics that we’re currently studying.”
We were delighted to welcome former student, Matthew Huxtable, back to our North Devon Campus this week, to talk to our Academic Academy and share his Oxbridge experience.
Matthew left Petroc in 2011 with straight A*s in Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Further Maths to embark on a degree at Cambridge University. Since leaving he has gained a first class degree in computer science and has just found out he got a distinction in his Masters.
“I visited Cambridge on an open day in 2009, and ever since then I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to study there if I got good enough grades. I was excited by the intellectual stimulation and amount of inspiring people at Cambridge.
I applied to Cambridge in 2010 and successfully secured an interview. At Cambridge you get two interviews – a general one to establish your character and how you would fit into the way of life at Cambridge, and a second, subject-specific interview to assess your knowledge and ability.
These interviews aren’t designed to catch you out! The interviewers just want to see your thought processes and how you deal with problem solving and approach new subjects. It’s really important in the interview to think out loud; even if you don’t get the answer they’re looking for they’ll be interested to hear your thought process and how you approach the question.
Remember, everyone who applies to Oxbridge has exceptional predicted grades and well-polished personal statements, so it really is the interview that’s the deciding factor, so make sure you demonstrate that you can think beyond the A Level syllabus and, most importantly, be genuine.
During my time at Cambridge I was part of St John’s College; one of the biggest colleges at the uni. Through the college I was able to get three years’ accommodation (which not all colleges offer), so this is something to bear in mind when researching which college to apply for.
I started on a natural science degree, but switched to computer science after the first term, as I felt this was more suited to my strengths.
I’ll be honest, I found the first year tough. I’m a shy person and don’t adapt well to change, so I found it a little overwhelming. Plus, there’s no settling-in period at Cambridge; you’re working from the off. Terms at Cambridge are only eight weeks long, compared to 12 at other unis, so the level of work is pretty intense.
By the second year, however, I’d got into my stride. By now I was used to the routine of lectures every day, 9am – 1pm, followed by supervisions in the afternoon with various people, such as PhD students. Because each college is fairly small at Cambridge you soon get to know everybody, including all the academic staff, so there’s always someone around to ask for help or advice.
It was a conscious decision to move back to the South West upon graduating. I was inundated with firms offering me jobs in Cambridge, but I didn’t want to be just another cog in a machine. I wanted a job with variety and where I felt valued.
I have been incredibly lucky, as I’ve just secured a job as a systems administrator at Sparx in Exeter. I realise these sorts of jobs don’t come up round here very often, so I feel very fortunate.
Sparx are an education research company that use technology, data and daily involvement in the classroom to scientifically investigate how we learn, so I’ll be directly applying what I’ve learnt at uni to a work situation.
By coming back and talking to students at Petroc I hope they can see that I was in their shoes four years ago and that going to Oxbridge isn’t something other people do – it’s something they can do if they put their mind to it.”
Tyler is now studying maths at university, and has just secured a lucrative placement with Disney
Former Petroc Student - Mid Devon
A Level Maths, Psychology and ICT
“I’ve always loved maths – it’s a subject that came naturally to me, even at primary school. I like how there’s always a right or wrong answer – it’s not subjective – so if you know your subject and understand the theory, you’ll always do well. I excelled at GCSE, so it was a natural choice to study it at A Level.
However, initially I didn’t think I wanted to study maths at university and instead applied for occupational therapy. At the last minute, though, I decided this wasn’t for me and decided to stay on at Petroc for a third year. I’d got a B in maths and I knew I was capable of getting a better grade, and by this point I was seriously considering studying a maths degree and knew I’d need an A to get into a top university.
I enjoyed my time at Petroc and feel it prepared me well for university. All my lecturers were really supportive and nothing was ever too much trouble if I needed extra help with any of my subjects. Having said this, they still encouraged independent study which I’m grateful for, as this is a big part of university life. You have to be very motivated and disciplined to succeed at degree level.
I successfully completed my third year at Petroc and secured a place at Brunel University in London to study maths.
I think my combination of A Levels has really helped me at university, and gave me a head start in my first year. The university I am at focusses on research, something which I was very familiar with thanks to my study of psychology. Also, I’m glad I already had prior knowledge of Excel, thanks to ICT, as this features heavily in my course. Also, I studied physics at AS Level, so had an understanding of mechanics which helped, too.
For our third year at university we have to find a placement, to gain experience in industry. I applied for a position with Disneymedia+ and, out of 1000 applicants, I managed to secure one of just eight places during an all-day assessment in London.
I’ll be based at their offices in Hammersmith, working with a research team looking at audiences of a range of Disney products with a view to selling targeted advertising.
In the future this is exactly the area I want to work in; research and statistics. I find it fascinating, so was thrilled to get such a lucrative placement with Disney, as it’ll look great on my CV and stand me in good stead for whatever career path I choose to follow.”
Tom is studying A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths
A Level Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths
“Ever since I was five or six I’ve wanted to be a doctor and this goal has shaped my decisions over the past few years, particularly in my choice of A Levels.
I’ve always been interested in the science subjects. For some reason I find them easier to learn and am more driven to do well in these subjects.
Over the past year I have taken part in a number of activities to improve my knowledge ahead of applying to Medical School. I spent three days in Nottingham at a Medlink event, which gave me the opportunity to attend lectures and workshops with doctors and surgeons, to learn more about what to expect from the profession. I found it very interesting and would definitely recommend it to anyone considering going to Med School. Also, I took part in a Medicine Masterclass at Cambridge which looked at how medicine affects science.
I really enjoy being a student at Petroc. The facilities are great and my tutor has been particularly supportive of my ambitions to go to Med School, and has helped me find extra-curricular activities to enhance my knowledge and boost my application.
Spending potentially seven years at university doesn’t faze me. I think it’s worth it to do a job you love. So many people I hear about end up in jobs they don’t enjoy and I don’t want to be one of those people. That’s why I’m prepared to put in the hours now; hopefully it’ll pay off in the end.
I’m also taking part in a few other activities, such as a ‘reading buddy’ partnership with the High School, and I’m even thinking about running for Student President, as I know this’ll be really interesting and will also look great on my personal statement.”
If you've been inspired by Tom's story, why not apply to study A Levels at Petroc in 2015?
Molly is studying A Levels in French, English Literature and Classical Civilisation
A Level French, English Literature and Classical Civilisation
Molly gives an account of her time with Petroc’s Academic Academy, and what it’s like to interview for one of the country’s top universities.
“In December I had an interview at Oriel College, Oxford, to study Classics and English. And, last week, I heard that I’d been offered a place. I’m still in shock, I can’t believe it!
Because I’d applied to do a joint honours course, I had to undergo three interviews in Oxford, spread over two days.
The first interview was all about my aptitude for languages. I’ve never studied Latin before – a requirement for my degree – so I will need to spend an extra, preliminary year at Oxford, learning Latin. The test is designed to determine your ability to analyse how languages work, using a ‘made up’ language to gauge how rapidly you understand its structure and patterns.
The next day, it was my English Literature interview. I was given time to read a poem and then had to talk about it. I thought this had gone badly, as I struggled to answer some of the questions.
The third and final interview was for Classics. Prior to going into my interview, I was listening to other applicants, who were chatting about all the plays and classical dramas they’d read. This made me nervous, as I suddenly worried I hadn’t done enough preparation. The actual interview is a bit of a blur. At one point they asked me ‘What myth do you think is tragic?’. I remember giving some long, drawn-out answer, skirting around the subject. I’m cringing just thinking about it!
Afterwards I was certain I hadn’t got in, as all I could think about was the answers I messed up. That’s what made it so unbelievable when I found out I’d been offered a place.
I owe an awful lot of this success to my lecturers and my involvement in the Academic Academy. Both my English and Classics lecturers helped me with the essays I had to submit prior to interview, and they recommended reading and helped construct mock interviews beforehand, too. This got me thinking about how to react in certain situations and helped me structure my answers in the interview.
As part of the Academic Academy, we took an online interview preparation course, which also really helped build my confidence. We also spent time interviewing each other, to get as much practice in as possible.
Throughout my interview process, there was good cohesion between my lecturers. It could have been difficult, as I’m doing a combined degree, but my lecturers helped me make the connection between English and Classics.
Between now and starting in September I think I’m going to book onto a Latin summer school, to give me a bit of a head start when it comes to learning the language.
I’m looking forward to the independence that university will bring. However, I chose Oriel College because of its family feel. That’s what I like about Oxford; although it’s a huge university, it’s split into lots of colleges so you establish a community.
Oxford really is a truly inspirational place. I will feel privileged to be surrounded by collections and exhibitions that people travel for miles to see. It’s really exciting.
My advice to anyone thinking of applying to a top university would be ‘go for it!’. The whole process is really educational. Even if I hadn’t got a place, I know I would have still enjoyed the whole process. It was a great experience and the offer at the end is just a bonus!”
Read what Oxford said about Molly’s interview:
Molly was invited to interview on the basis of her general academic profile, and her excellent performance in the ELAT, that placed her in the first of four bands. She performed very well for English at interview, showing good analytical ability when faced with the poem she was given, excellent comprehension, and flexible responses to new ideas. On the Classics side, Molly scored well in the Language Aptitude test and gave a very good follow-up language interview. Her Classics interview in Oriel was similarly impressive; she was perceptive and articulate in tackling the assigned English poem and spoke very well about her reading of Ovid's Metamorphoses. This evidence was assessed by our subject tutors against the selection criteria and, as a result of this assessment, Molly was placed amongst the strongest applicants across the faculty. We are delighted to be able to offer her a place.
Kristi came to Petroc from Bideford College and is currently studying A Level Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
"The opportunity to join the Academic Academy and the Medics Academy was the main reason I chose to come to Petroc, as I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Medicine. I also really wanted to do Critical Thinking, which wasn’t one of the options at school.
College is very different to school, but in a good way. It feels much more mature because everyone is the same age as you, and you’re surrounded by like-minded people. Lecturers promote and encourage independent study, which prepares you for university, and the atmosphere is similar to the feel you’d get at a university campus.
It’s important to understand that A Levels are a big step up from GCSEs, and require more discipline to succeed. Speaking to friends who stayed at school, who were still learning in the same way and environment as GCSEs, they found it a real shock to the system when it came to sitting their end of year exams.
When I first came to college I didn’t know many people. However, thanks to the induction week and events like the fresher's fayre, I soon made friends and found my way around college. During those first few weeks everyone is in the same boat, so it’s really easy to bond and make friends.
As well as the Academies, I’ve also been heavily involved in the Student Union as the Communications Officer and Secretary. Showing that you’re keen to get involved in extra-curricular activities will look great on your UCAS application. And, demonstrating experience in communication can really boost a medical application.
I’ve always been interested in joining the forces and did cadets for four years when I was younger. Then, when I was 16, I won a scholarship with the Army, so my medical study at university will be funded and I will join them as a medic when I graduate.
For anyone thinking about going into Medicine I would highly recommend joining the Medics Academy. During my time at college I’ve taken part in trips to the hospital and hospice and have attended talks from industry experts, such as doctors and researchers. I also attended an oncology summer school at Oxford, where I got the opportunity to attend lectures and complete assignments, to get a taste of what life would be like studying medicine at university. I was also able to make friends with people applying for the same course as me, and we’re still in contact now and support each other with our applications, assignments and revision."
Posted last week