UCAS and Oxbridge Support
Academic departments at Harrow arrange mock interview exchange programmes with a number of local state schools. Pupils applying for degree courses within a given subject area are given a mock interview by a subject specialist, with follow-up feedback to help them reflect upon and improve their interview performance. A programme of academic lectures and seminars is also circulated each term to local state schools, who are invited to attend relevant talks with groups of interested pupils. In 2015, pupils who had attended Lumina, the free summer school for year 12 state school pupils applying to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, were also offered feedback on their personal statements from a subject specialist at Harrow.
Initially, interview practice for small groups of pupils from Chelsea Academy and Whitmore High School came about through existing contacts between those schools and Harrow. It quickly became apparent how mutually beneficial such exchanges could be, with all pupils involved gaining much from the experience of being interviewed and challenged outside their normal 'comfort zone', such that a formal drive not just to continue those partnerships but to expand such exchanges to other local state schools came into effect. More recently, Harrow's focus on super-curricular engagement spawned the idea of producing and circulating a termly calendar of academic events to which local state school pupils could be invited, to assist all pupils concerned with building evidence of super-curricular engagement for subsequent applications.
The project takes place in various buildings in Harrow School during the first half of the autumn ter each year as pupils finalise their applications and prepare for interview.
Precise numbers taking part vary from year to year, but up to ten state schools are involved in any given year. 'Exchange visits' are often arranged, whereby Harrow boys and state school pupils applying for the same subject have an opportunity to be interviewed by and receive feedback from a subject specialist from their counterpart's school.
The project has proved to be both popular and successful, with pupils from both systems finding the opportunity to gain experience of being interviewed in their subject by an unknown specialist in unfamiliar surroundings very beneficial in terms of preparation for the real interview and in providing an opportunity for reflection upon their learning and preparation to date. Some collaborations have developed into long-standing arrangements, such as those with Chelsea Academy and Whitmore High School. In 2016, at least five state school pupils involved in interview exchanges are known to have gained Oxbridge offers.
Personal statement feedback to attendees of the Lumina Course was offered for the first time in 2016 and proved popular. A number of pupils have subsequently contacted Harrow to say how helpful they found this. It is planned to offer this again in 2017, as well as to continue the current model of interview exchanges and invitations to academic society events at Harrow.