Queen Elizabeth School

Former Students


A sample of personal stories from former students to help you explore options for your next steps after sixth form

Law at Oxford - Freya's Story

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Law at Oxford - Freya's Story

For me, the UCAS process has been a nerve wracking, challenging but extremely enjoyable journey.

I’ve known Law is he subject for me since I was in Year 9, when a combination of taking part in the Mock Trial and enjoying subjects such as English which involve structuring arguments made it clear it would be something I’d enjoy.

Over the following years, I began to discover more about the subject through wider reading and and Work Experience. What I find so compelling about the study of Law is how a structured, analytical approach is coupled with a need to engage on a compassionate, ‘human’ level with an array or aspects of life.

During year 12, I attended various open days as well as the UNIQ Summer School in Oxford – a free programme for state school students which I would highly recommend. In September I submitted my UCAS application, and took the National Admissions Test for Law. This led to an invitation to interview in December for which I prepared through mock interviews with members of staff.

There were definitely moments during the process when I felt daunted by the prospect of interviews, yet the three days I spent in Oxford completely surpassed my expectations.

I thoroughly enjoyed both my interviews, which were discussions about some legal scenarios, as well as things from my personal statements. Only a small part of the three days was actually spent in interview, so I was able to get to know other people interviewing at the college and explore the city.

I was absolutely elated to find out in early January that my application was successful and so, all being well with exams in the Summer, I will be Starting at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in October.

My piece of advice for everyone with your UCAS applications would be to take all the advice you can from members of staff, whether that’s for personal statements, mock interviews or just as calming chat, and, whatever your aspirations, just put your all in and go for it!

Orthoptics at Sheffield - Leah's Story

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Orthoptics at Sheffield - Leah's Story

By Leah Tomison

My story is a bit different from everyone else’s as my course is quite unique and when I say I’ve applied for ‘Orthoptics’ the question I often get is “What is that?”

For me, the UCAS journey was a process I’d been sick of hearing about from my three older siblings but once it got to my turn to look into courses and universities, it seemed much more exciting and I found things that I’d not even have considered this time last year.

Only after going through multiple eye problems which resulted in me undergoing a corneal transplant did I even contemplate a profession in eye care. The UCAS website was a brilliant way for me to research the range of the options available for me to study at university.As it is quite a specific course, only 3 universities in the UK actually run this as a degree. (Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow Caledonian)

This left me with the problem as to whether just to apply to these 3 when I knew I could apply for 5 courses. In the end I made the choice to stick with just the 3 courses for orthoptics because then I was able to make my personal statement specific. If I had included 2 other courses, I would have had to broaden the content of my personal statement too far. This showed to the universities that I was committed to doing orthoptics and nothing else.

I was thrilled when I received a conditional offer from both Liverpool University and Glasgow Caledonian University only two days after applying and without the need for an interview and then a week later I was asked to attend an interview at The University of Sheffield.

Now I look back on it, I think the interview day confirmed my choice in Sheffield because it gave me more of an idea of the student surroundings and I got to meet the tutors and lecturers. My interview consisted of 3 mini interviews where I was asked questions about why I wanted to do the course, my hobbies and achievements outside of school and my views on the NHS values.

Although nerve wracking, I like the idea that Sheffield hold interviews as it allows the course leaders to actually meet the prospective students in person and consider if their personalities would suit them taking up a profession of working with people.

My advice to you is to start looking at courses early as there are so many options and it’s a good idea to apply as soon as you can because it gives a good impression to the university as it shows promptness and that you’re keen to do their course. I would also suggest going to visit all of the universities you’re interested in on their open days before making your application.

Engineering at EDF - Thalie's Story

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Engineering at EDF - Thalie's Story

By Thalie Yuill

Thee months ago I started my first week of an engineering apprenticeship with EDF Energy. It’s was a team building week at an outward bounds centre Ullswater, designed to give the apprentices a chance to get to know eachother before living and working together for the next couple of years. It was a fun yet very busy week which ended in a tough climb up Helvellyn and some great friendships which made the moving away from home a lot easier for people!

It’s a 4 year apprenticeship in which you spend 2 years doing training down in Portsmouth, living on a naval base, then 2 years working at Heysham power station. At the moment I live with 95 other apprentices from all around the UK which is this year’s and last year’s intake.So each day we travel to HMS Sultan to do our BTEC level 2 and 3 Engineering, with the opportunity to do our HNC in year 3.

I am really enjoying all of it! I love the work aspect which is both academic and practical, and I enjoy the extra-curricular activities too.

There’s a lot of time out of work where you can continue with your own hobbies, and EDF help cater to allow you to do whatever you want to do. There are all kinds of clubs and facilities on the base. I have continued with my climbing, playing music and learning French because of the ease of access to the facilities.

We are provided accommodation and food, as well as being paid, as we are seen as employees right from the start. During the working day there is plenty to get involved in if you wish, by putting yourself forward as a representative for the forum meetings. I was selected as charity rep which has enabled me to continue with this interest, where I have tasks to do on a weekly basis. It’s fun to be involved in, and there are other positions available e.g. sports rep or academic rep where you can make a difference.

Already it’s so much more than I expected, and I think I’m going to have a great few years.

It’s a hard apprenticeship to get onto, with a long application process, but definitely well worth applying for if it is something you are even slightly interested in.

If you do, I recommend Work Experience, it gives you a head start and something to make you get noticed.

For me, this is such a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to the next few years!

Conservatoire Success - Amy's Story

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Conservatoire Success - Amy's Story

By Amy Thompson

As well as discussing my journey so far, I have tried to use this opportunity to give you an honest and realistic insight into what being a musician involves, and included some ideas for other artists.

In today’s society the vast majority of activities have short term rewards, from baking a cake to going kayaking on holiday. However, skills such as learning a musical instrument involve huge amounts of dedication and hard work. It’s easy to look at great musicians and assume they are extraordinary, and that they have achieved what almost everyone else cannot.

In reality though, this is simply not the case. In about 1760 a young Mozart played his first notes, as did Beethoven a number of years later. From the very beginning each and every artist has spent hours refining their skills, and this is the reason they become exceptional; it’s not ‘natural’ talent.

For me, it boils down to these key ingredients:

1) A love for ‘your thing’

It’s what you do daily and (when not pushing yourself too much) naturally, it’s what you never stop talking about, it’s something life would be fairly empty without. However, don’t think that you will spend every second loving it. There are days where, quite frankly, I’d love to throw my bassoon out of a window! Occasionally, there are even days where I seriously question whether I am truly passionate enough, whether I will ever be good enough etc… These are perfectly normal thoughts and experiences and don’t make you any less of an artist.

2) How dedicated you are

Don’t compare this to other people. For example, saying ‘x person does 6 hours of practice per day and I only do 3’ isn’t helpful. There are times where I have been physically and mentally able to do 4+ hours a day, every day, for significant time periods; equally, there are times where it would be damaging to do more than two. This week I had 3 days without playing in a row (although that is rare and only happens when things are being physically or mentally problematic). I know professional musicians who do 7 each day, and equally wonderful musicians who do 2. It can be dangerous to do too much practice, putting yourself at risk of RSI and focal dystonia, for example. Dedication should be a measure of how much energy you are putting in compared to the best you can possibly give.

3) How efficiently you work

If there is one piece of advice I’d give a musician, it’d be to focus on practice technique. I.e. think about your practice and how you can make more progress in less time. It’s amazing how few musicians do this until later on in their careers. Here’s a brilliant website to get you started and show you the kind of thing I mean: The Bulletproof Musician (particularly the blog).

I realise that this hasn’t directly been about my journey into higher education so far. This next bit isn’t either!

When David Beckham was a young boy, he did keepy uppies in his garden. He practised until he could do several hundred without dropping the ball once. He then went to the local park to practise where there was more space. Strangers started to watch him in amazement as he kept going without dropping the ball. There was, however, one person who was not surprised; his mum. For every time he had kept the ball in the air, she had seen the many times he had dropped it and started over again. She had seen the process, and the fact that Beckham was able to do several hundred in a row was a natural progression from this.

The point is that successful auditions, exams, and performances are never surprising once you have seen inside the process. The results themselves are not outstanding because they don’t just happen out of the blue. It is the hard work put in, and the combination of ingredients outlined above, that is the admirable part.

Having been a pianist for some time, I started bassoon three years ago (at 14 years old that makes me a fairly late starter). I love the range of expressions that can be achieved and its unsung versatility in different genres, using different tone colours. Over the past few years, the bassoon has become another tone of my voice, in addition to singing or whispering or shouting.

I have never understood musicians who feel that music itself is a vessel used to express emotions, particularly negative ones. For me, it is almost the other way around; music sheds light on the unbelievable range of emotions and sensations it is possible to feel and allows me to connect them to everyday experiences. A bit like trying to understand the sensation of déjà vu! I’ll play a certain passage only to find that it has the exact same feeling as a train leaving a station (chugging, gradually getting faster, breathy), for example.

I love talking about things like this, although quite tricky to articulate, and the complex, stimulating nature of being a musician is a feeling like no other. This is one of the many reasons I have applied to UCAS Conservatoires as well as UCAS.

After a rigorous month of auditions (and grade 8!), I received offers from Durham, Manchester and Leeds universities to study science subjects, an unconditional offer for Birmingham’s Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences course, an unconditional from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, an offer at Birmingham Conservatoire with the option of direct entry into second year, and offers from Royal Northern College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, and Royal College of Music (RCM). I have also been offered scholarships from all of the conservatoires I applied to.

After a lot of thought, I chose to accept my offer to RCM. It has a phenomenal bassoon department, and the standard of playing in London is incredibly high.

Whilst this seems like an extensive list of offers, it’s important to remember that my playing isn’t even close to the standard I want it to be. These are external rewards for something highly based upon intrinsic motivation and there are plenty of people who get into the best conservatoires only to burnout, sometimes due to the fact that they have always been a ‘big fish in a small pond’. That changes, of course, at music college.

Over the next few months, I look forward to doing some more settled practice, putting into use the endless amounts of advice and critique on my playing (one benefit of auditions and consultation lessons), and getting back to work on some quite tricky technical problems.

Good luck to anyone applying at the moment, but a cautionary warning: the correlation between hard work and achievement is incredibly strong. Even if luck is involved, it’s not something you can control and probably not worth worrying about. If you have a passion, work hard! If you are a student who would like some advice on practice, what auditions might be like, or anything else just get in touch.

If anyone needs me I’ll be in the practice rooms!

Photojournalism - Rebekah's Story

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Photojournalism - Rebekah's Story

By Rebekah Middleton

I find it quite crazy to think that I have applied to university as this time last year I could never have imagined me doing so!

Throughout Year 12 I was so undecided about whether or not I would go to university, I mainly swayed towards not going, just because I had no idea about what I would study.

However, I can tell you now that I have applied to three universities to study Photojournalism, receiving an offer from each of them and I could not be more delighted!

Two of my offers from the University of South Wales and Staffordshire University involved having an interview. Before I attended these interviews I had to build up a portfolio of a mixture of my work in the field of photography, in and outside of the classroom, which turned out to be very rewarding when the interviewers told me how much they loved my photographs and how I have a real talent for the subject.

I plan to be at Leeds Beckett University in September pursuing both my love of photography and writing, where I will be able to tell stories to others and make them aware of the world’s issues.

Ultimately, I hope for this course to lead me onto my dream career of being a music photographer, where I can travel the world following bands and promoting them and their shows.

With the support and guidance of this course at Leeds Beckett, as well as my own hard work and perseverance, I will make this my reality and I could not be more excited.

Jaguar Land Rover Degree Apprenticeship - Jamie's Story

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Jaguar Land Rover Degree Apprenticeship - Jamie's Story

By Jamie Thrippleton

If you’re looking to pair further education with relevant industrial experience and tuition then a Degree Apprenticeship Scheme should definitely be something you consider when figuring out your next move after sixth form.

When coming to the end of Year 13, I no longer wanted to focus purely on academia, and instead I wanted to get out and experience what industry had to offer. As such I started to look at what apprenticeships were available and what the benefits were.

The cost of going to University was another thing I was anxious about, givem that my year was the first time when University fees had come into place. So the option to study, gain experience and earn all at the same time was a large incentive to consider other routes.

I am now in my 5th year (6 total) of the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Degree Apprenticeship Scheme and have completed both my Foundation Degree (2 years with industry experience) and 2.5 of my 4 years at Warwick University studying Manufacturing Engineering.

My time in JLR has been spent within the Power Train Manufacturing Engineering (PTME) department; more information available via this link. This department is responsible for delivering facilities globally to produce world class engines to all JLR vehicle manufacturing sites.

Throughout my time I have rotated through many of the teams within PTME to help develop production systems.

My involvement ranges from generating layouts for facilities to developing environmental systems, designing, installing and commissioning manufacturing equipment. Along with time spent working in the Forward Planning and the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies functions to help determine what the future of manufacturing looks like for the business.

Throughout this time I have in parallel, been undertaking studies at Warwick University in a range of subjects. These range from business focused topics such as Finance and Project Management to detailed engineering subjects such as Material Science, Control Systems and Computer Aided Design (CAD).

Some of the main positives of the course and why I chose this route are highlighted below:

  • Qualifications including BEng (Hons) Degree with industrial experience to support learning, which is sponsored in full by JLR.
  • Competitive salary with incremental increases to scale to full time engineer.
  • Industrial support from engineers.
  • Experience different departments of a leading business.
  • Opportunities to enhance technical and communicative skills whilst being given the responsibility to deliver projects.
  • Experience enabling applications to professional institutions.

Applications and all details relating to this are available on the Jaguar Land Rover Careers website available via this link.