Before you even start your application, don’t miss these top tips to maximise your chance of success when applying for an extracurricular or outreach program such as a STEM summer camp.

Check the Eligibility Criteria

All programs will have a list of essential eligibility criteria – anything from age or school subjects to ethnicity or household income. This is particularly the case for outreach initiatives, as they typically aim to reach students who are underrepresented in higher education.

If you do not meet the essential eligibility criteria, unfortunately there is little point applying to the program as you will likely be automatically rejected by their application system. The exception is if they have a more flexible list of criteria or state that “preference is given to applicants who meet the criteria” but they will consider those who do not.

Put yourself in their shoes

Before beginning your answers to the application questions, think about the motivations of the person reviewing applications. Why are they offering this program? What type of students are they looking for?

Often, universities organise these type of programs as a way of promoting their degree courses to those students who do not usually apply. You may therefore wish to mention in your application why you are interested in their university specifically.

Consider your personal motivations

Think also about your personal motivations for applying to the program and what you hope to gain from it. This will help your application stand out by showing more of your individuality, passion and long term goals – rather than appearing like a generic application submitted because your teacher/ parent told you to apply.

Some ideas of topics to consider include:

  • How would the program provide you with additional insight beyond the school curriculum?
  • Do you want to explore the real-life applications of your favourite subject or find out about possible career options?
  • How will the program support your current and future studies?
  • What additional skills might you learn, such as coding skills or how to use specialist scientific equipment?
  • Will the program help you make important choices about your A level subjects or university applications?

Prove your passion

Make sure to provide clear evidence of your passion for your subject and the program you are applying for.

  • Are there any other activities you have done (insight days, competitions, projects, etc) which demonstrate your interest in learning beyond the school curriculum?
  • Have you read any related books or magazines which have inspired you to apply?
  • Are you doing an extended project or other independent research initiative related to the subject?
  • Have you won any awards or other major achievements which demonstrate your passion and academic excellence?

These all provide real evidence that you are interested in learning about your subject outside of school, and are not applying for the program on a whim or just to help your university application. Remember that they are looking for some who really loves learning about the subject!

Structuring your answers

A useful technique for structuring your answers is the “PEE” approach, in order to explain why you are interested in the program and persuade the reviewer to offer you a place:
Point: What are you passionate about
Evidence: What evidence do you have that you are passionate about this?
Explanation: Therefore, why are you applying to the program? How will it help your future plans?

For example:

I would love to participate in the engineering summer camp because I am interested in exploring careers which enable me to combine my love of physics with creativity and logic. My extended project qualification investigates how different designs affect the strength and cost of a bridge. It has been really exciting to learn how engineering combines physics, maths, creativity and even economics in order to solve real life problems. I hope that the summer camp will enable me to discover more about the real-life applications of engineering and talk to experienced engineers in order to learn more about their day-to-day job role.

In this example, you can see that the student has clearly stated that they are interested in a career in engineering, given evidence from their extended project qualification that they have been seriously considering this for some time, and explained how the summer camp will enable them to learn more about the real-life applications and life of an engineer.

Another popular structure is the STAR technique, which is great when giving more detail about your previous experiences and skills:
Situation: Briefly set the scene and introduce the situation
Task: What task did you need to complete?
Action: What did you do in order to complete the task? What skills did you demonstrate? How exactly did you resolve the problem?
Result: What did you achieve at the end?

For example:

During my extended project qualification, I needed to design and evaluate different types of bridges to cross a river. I conducted extensive research into different bridge designs, built three model bridges, and tested their compressive and tensile strength. Finally, I analysed experimental results alongside data on material costs in order to compare the bridge designs. This project has developed my ability to design and manage my own scientific investigation, as well as improving my analytical and critical thinking skills.

Proofread

Before submitting your application, make sure to proofread it for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors! We would also advise asking a parent, guardian or teacher having a look through it to.

To improve the quality of your writing, try to keep your sentences concise and clearly state your points without unnecessary “waffle”. Avoid starting every sentence with “I”, instead vary your sentence structures and lengths to add more interest.

Once you’re happy with your application, it’s time to submit! Be sure to send everything through before the application deadline, and let us know if you are successful!


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