For sixth form and college students, the decision about what to do after A-Levels or BTEC qualifications can be a long and arduous one at the best of times. These decisions have been rendered even more difficult for some by recent Covid-19 related events. We decided to speak to local student Aaron Fiori to gain an insight into how he went about making the decision to move on to higher education and his hopes for the future.
Hi Aaron. So we are catching up with you in mid July, around 2 months to go before you are due to start a BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science at University Centre Peterborough (UCP). Tell us about your background and how you came to make the decision to apply for University.
I joined St Ivo School in year 7 (having moved to St Ives from another part of the country). Originally I didn’t excel in sports and I preferred English as a subject. When I reached year 9, I undertook a sports vocational GCSE. This was a two year course and it gave me a grounding of what it took to teach sports to secondary school-age students (part of the course meant teaching to a year 10 group at St Ivo). This course was based around learning skills within sport and I was tasked with designing and teaching a block of six lessons to fellow students. It was when teaching athletics that I discovered a love for competing myself and I made the 1,500 meters my specialism and went on to compete in this for Huntingdonshire Athletics Club (Hunts AC).
So logically, this led to you choosing sports-related A-levels?
That’s right. I decided to do a Cambridge Technical course (a vocational course similar to BTECs which are equivalent to 2 A-levels) in sports which was offered by the St Ivo Sixth Form Centre. This involved more teaching experience and I ended up teaching badminton to the year 8 students at St Ivo. It’s safe to say I didn’t know as much about badminton as I did athletics so I had to do a lot of Googling beforehand! Although it was out of my comfort zone, I really enjoyed it and it helped solidify my interest in teaching sports.
There is also a requirement to undertake work experience on the Cambridge Technical courses and I ended up doing mine at a Ski School in Crans Montana, Switzerland. This involved getting involved on the skiing side but also working in other parts of the school such as the kitchen and food service area.
Sounds great! Can you talk us through the process you went through when choosing and applying for higher education?
St Ivo registers for UCAS applications relatively early (at the end of year 12, while most schools are at the beginning of year 13). My form tutor advised me to thoroughly research my options before making any decisions and I ended up picking three sports courses that took my interest: one at Southampton University, one at Loughborough University and one at University Centre Peterborough (UCP). I registered with all three to attend open days.
The first open day I attended was at Southampton University. I made a two-day visit to the campus and got to tour the site and speak to students attending the university about their experiences.
The next one I attended was at Loughborough. This was a one day visit to view on-site facilities and speak to current students.
With both of these universities, I was a little concerned about class sizes and the lack of 1-to-1 support. I’m of the opinion that good student support can make the difference between good grades and no grades at all!
Makes sense to me. The more support you have then the better you are likely to perform. So tell me about UCP:
I became aware of UCP through an advert I had seen on social media. On clicking through to the information page there were a number of things that caught my eye: small class sizes, 1-to-1 support and the offer of help in securing a work placement (the onus is on the student to arrange this themselves at other universities).
There were other notable benefits from choosing UCP – for a start it’s perfectly commutable from St Ives by train or car so I could save money by continuing to live at home throughout my course. The course itself required two full days of attendance per week (others are a minimum of three days) which leaves me time to work (Aaron is currently employed by Royal Mail) and earn money alongside my studies.
I attended an open day at UCP in March and got to meet with the course leader who explained the course activities and the support that was on offer. It’s fair to say that I was impressed enough to make UCP my first choice!
Talk us through the application process:
It was quite straightforward really. I wrote a personal statement (I wrote quite a few drafts to get it right!) and then applied through UCAS.
Within a few days, UCP had replied to my application with a conditional offer. I then applied for student finance to make the necessary arrangements and I was good to go. Looking back, it really was a very easy process.
So where do you see yourself after graduating from UCP?:
Well, my first choice would be to secure a career in teaching sports at secondary school level. The experience I have gained in doing this as a part of my GCSEs and A-levels has made me realise that I have a real passion for passing on knowledge and seeing others grow in confidence as a result. Should teaching not work out for any reason then I am also interested in becoming a personal trainer in the police or the army.
Thanks for talking to me today Aaron, it’s been a pleasure. Just to finish, can you tell me what you would say to someone who is considering applying to University but isn’t sure it’s for them?:
Go for it! I’ve never considered myself to be a natural academic and I wasn’t sure that University was for me at first. Once I had done some research and found that UCP matched my requirements then it was a simple decision to apply and the process was really easy. I would say that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying and I’m really looking forward to getting started!