If you search online for STEM opportunities, particularly for summer schools, you may find that many cost several thousands of pounds and are run by profit making organisations – but don’t fear, you don’t need to start taking out loans to pay for such courses.
Is it really necessary?
All these courses claim to be ‘essential’ for successful university applications to top universities – but this really isn’t the case. There are a huge range of ways of demonstrating your interest in your subject without attending a summer school abroad, and in fact showing your own initiative could demonstrate more passion and creativity than following the crowds spending money on glamorous courses. Have a look at the article on how to explore your interest in STEM at home for some inspiration.
Look at free/ affordable alternatives
Many universities run similar programs as part of their outreach activities, subsidising or offering free places to students meeting certain eligibility criteria. Popular examples for UK students are the Headstart, UNIQ and Sutton Trust summer schools, although there are many more too – have a look through the database to search for relevant opportunities. Bear in mind that these are often quite competitive, particularly if you apply for one at a well known university or for popular courses such as medicine, so take time to prepare your application materials well.
A word of warning – don’t feel pressured to pick a course based on which university is offering it, instead focus on the subject and course content. It’s all very well attending a course at Oxford, but if it’s on medieval history it’s not going to be much help for a chemistry degree application!
Are there other sources of financial support?
If you have your heart set on doing an expensive program, have a look to see if there are any scholarships available, for example for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. You can also ask your school if they have a fund for these activities or apply to organisations such as the Rotary club for funding. Consider raising money by offering to write an article about your experience in a local newspaper, or ask your relatives if instead of Christmas/ birthday presents they could contribute towards your fund.
If you take part in any STEM outreach events, don’t forget to get in touch to share your experiences! You could be mentioned in a previous participants quote in the database or write a guest blog post!