We have now found 10 extremely interesting and impressive young people who will make up our first cohort of students for the LMH Foundation Year, starting this autumn.
 
Since I last blogged on the subject we’ve been busy. We had set ourselves a tight timetable and we worked hard to make sure the right people knew about the opportunity.
 
We started with the core groups of schools in the six local authority areas with which LMH is linked.  We couldn’t possibly travel round all those areas in the time available, but we made personal visits to at least a dozen schools.  There were other schools with which members of the college had had links in the past. We Skyped into a few more schools and as the information travelled by word of mouth we began receiving applications from all over the UK.
 
The visits were labour intensive, but productive. For some, they were the first contact they’d had with an Oxbridge college for a long time.  In other schools they’d had virtually no dealings with Oxford or Cambridge in years, if ever. Nearly all of the heads or deputy heads we saw felt they could identify a student or two who could be good candidates for the Foundation Year, even at what was, admittedly, short notice.
 
One head had a student he felt had the potential to be an outstanding scientist but who had not managed to secure even an interview at Cambridge.
 
Another had someone in mind who had just scored a B in history – not enough to catch the eye of an admissions tutor. “But she’s only been speaking English for two years,” he said excitedly. “Imagine the potential there!”
 
These visits were very useful for us: we hope to have made connections with  schools who will think of LMH in future – either for the Foundation Year or for general undergraduate applications.
 
Given our timetable we had no idea how many applications we’d have for the first course in the six week window we’d allowed. In the end we had more than 90.
 
All the applicants had to write a personal essay saying why they wanted to come to LMH. If they’d encountered obstacles in their lives which had made their education difficult, they were encouraged to tell us about them. We asked them to tell us about any financial, family or educational circumstances which might be relevant to their academic journey.
 
We invited 28 for interview. Each was seen by the relevant subject tutors. Some very hard decisions were made to whittle the cohort down to 12.
 
We went into this with no idea who might come. What we got were excellent students from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The average joint parental income for the nine of the 12 who declared it was £13.3k.
 
The references from schools speak of young people who have sometimes overcome hardship or difficulties, and shown resilience and determination. One referred to the student’s formidable work ethic and love of learning which would be enhanced by further study skills support. Another spoke of a student who was the most highly motivated young person they had come across in their 15 years of teaching; wisdom and maturity characterised another. The financial support available was cited by one teacher as helping to reduce strain on the family which might have been an obstacle to applying.
 
In turn, some of the young people spoke of the challenge of leaving home. One said being able to study at Oxford felt like a realised dream, another said it made them feel like they had a chance, despite the challenges faced throughout their educational life. Some spoke about how confidence and self-doubt was holding them back academically and that Oxford felt beyond their aspiration, an unknown world both financially and emotionally. One said how the Foundation Year would inspire others from similar backgrounds to consider applying to Oxford.  
 
We strongly believe – as Trinity College Dublin discovered with its own 17-year old scheme – that the multiplier effect of these young people back in their own communities will be significant.
 
When A level results were published on August 16 it was evident that two of the 12 who had been offered conditional places would not, alas, make the final cut.  So we will start the new academic year with a cohort of 10. They will be studying Biology, Biochemistry, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, English, Law, Maths, Music and Physics. 
 
We can’t wait for them to start.

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