Shrewsbury School

Reflections from our Oxbridge candidates

Thursday 17 January 2013

We asked the 15 pupils who have received offers of places from Oxford and Cambridge this year, to tell us a bit about their time in Shrewsbury's Sixth Form. Their varied reflections make for interesting reading.


Tom Bland (Rt) has an offer from Magdalene College, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences

I have thoroughly enjoyed my entire Shrewsbury career, especially life in the sixth form. Entering the sixth form I relished the opportunity to finally study the subjects I enjoy the most in greater detail, whilst saying goodbye to some that I was not so fond of. Biology, Chemistry and Maths were obvious choices for me, as I wanted to continue with my long-standing interest in those subjects. As a fourth subject I decided to have a go at the previously unknown subject of Economics, and I have enjoyed having the opportunity to pursue interests in a wide range of different subjects.

Outside of the classroom a definite highlight has been my expedition to Malawi last summer, where among other things I was given the amazing opportunity of pursuing my scientific interests in a small African hospital. I have also enjoyed representing my house on the sports pitch, being a member of the school charity committee and making the most of the wide range of lectures and trips that the school has to offer.

Tom Bland, in the snow

Ed Elcock (Rb) has an offer from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences

Sometime around two years ago I committed to choosing my subjects to study at A level. Having decided upon physics and further maths, I noticed most people doing those subjects would choose chemistry or biology as their fourth. Therefore I took the obvious option of taking French. As a result I have found myself surrounded by both arts and sciences in my final two years at Shrewsbury, allowing me to pursue the interests I developed in both during my first years here. With the addition of Global Perspectives as my complementary study there have been a great number of times at which the workload got on top of me but in the end I think it will have been worth it.

Beyond the classroom, I used to be quite heavily involved in music, playing French horn in the orchestra and other groups, but I made the decision to phase this out through lower sixth to focus on my work and other hobbies. Fortunately I have managed to keep involved in drama and debating, which I really enjoy. My favourite extracurricular activity at school is MUN, and I wish I’d given it a go before sixth form. I will be going on my fourth conference later this term to Edinburgh which I’m really looking forward to. Probably the most beneficial addition to my studies has been participating in the International Young Physicists’ Tournament, which involves researching and building presentations on physics problems throughout the year. Going to the tournament last summer in Germany was a great experience and really useful, both for physics and public speaking skills.

Xavier Greenwood (Rt 2007-2012) has an offer from Balliol College, Oxford, to read Classics

After three years in which my enjoyment of the humanities was largely overshadowed by a somewhat troubled relationship with the Sciences, Sixth Form offered me complete academic freedom for the very first time - I took Latin, Greek, English and Economics to AS, dropping Economics at A2. Certainly, my love for Classics grew as the set sizes shrunk; a spirited four man Greek AS set taught by JAS was my first taste of the various idiosyncrasies one can extract from Classics (such as the medical basis - google at your peril - behind the luxation of Kebriones in The Iliad), and indeed tea and biscuits in our two man A2 set with Doc. Godwin brightened up even the dullest of winter timetable days.

The freedom I enjoyed in Sixth Form was not merely confined to the classroom. In the Michaelmas Term of Upper Sixth, my – eventually futile – pursuit of a place to read English at Cambridge instilled me with the flawed theory that it would be a good idea to give up almost all my non-academic interests to focus on my application. It was fortunate that my final two terms allowed me to make up for lost time, whether in MUN, in the McEachran prize, in the Hunt, or in underground journalism, as my decision to focus all my attention on a failed application stressed to me the importance of the Delphic inscription μηδὲν ἄγαν, nothing in excess – Shrewsbury offers balance and it should be sought. That being said, despite somewhat going against the archetypal Salopian's modus operandi, there is one thing I have learnt from reapplying, a decision which until I received my Oxford letter filled me with doubt; don't be afraid to be ambitious.

Sherry Jin (EDH) has an offer from Wadham College, Oxford, to read Chemistry

I am so pleased that I came to Shrewsbury School for my Sixth Form, since the school has provided me with the best academic support and comprehensive extracurricular activities.

I applied for Chemistry in Wadham College, Oxford. Chemistry has always captivated me, that’s why I am a ‘regular customer’ for the School Library. Reading through those valuable Chemistry Books has not only enabled me to acquire as much beyond-A Level knowledge as I can, but also gave me the opportunity to get a place in Wadham College successfully. Moreover, I love challenging myself, so I took part in the School Chemistry Olympiad Training last year and have also participated in several British Chemistry Olympiad Competitions. My other A Level subjects are double Maths and Pre-U Physics, which is an excellent combination for studying Chemistry further; double Maths reinforces my capacity for dealing with high standard calculation and Pre-U Physics builds up my ability to get a thorough understanding for some abstract chemistry theory.

The Sports which I have enjoyed most so far at Shrewsbury are badminton and squash. I got a lot of superb training for squash last year, and have gradually fallen in love with such a creative and fabulous activity. I played it almost every single day when I went back to my country this Christmas holiday. 


Seren Kell (MSH) has an open offer from Oxford, to read Biochemistry

Outside of lesson time (for my AS levels I took English, GPR, Biology and Chemistry) I have found myself most often in the music department. I play violin and piano and, as a member of a wildly ambitious yet spectacular orchestra, a string ensemble and chamber choir, I have been unfortunately forced to neglect the other two members of Shrewsbury's holy trinity - drama and sport. Meanwhile I've taken the opportunity to attend regular lectures (mainly scientific and literary) and a couple of societies (philosophical and political). Participation in MUN has allowed me to benefit from conferences in both Edinburgh and Paris.

However, all these things will seem dry in the context of any Salopian's sixth form career; what I genuinely most value from my time at this school have been some good, albeit occasionally eccentric, company, and most of all a persistent sense of fun.

Mark Lawley (S) has an offer from Jesus College, Oxford, to read Psychology & Linguistics

I have very much enjoyed all aspects of life at school in the sixth form, especially. Academically, I have really appreciated studying fewer subjects in greater detail, as that has really allowed for my interests in those subjects (French, Maths and Physics) to flourish, which then sparked my interest in Psychology and Linguistics which wouldn't have been possible without the mix of science and languages, as well as some great teaching and support from my teachers at school.

As far as extracurricular activities go, I have been able to relax and enjoy my self greatly with my admittedly recreational level of sport, such as house football leagues, and have expanded my horizons with the great selection of talks, lectures and trips that the school has provided.

Ed Mallett (S) has an open offer from Oxford, to read Chemistry

I have been at Shrewsbury since the third form and since the first weekend I have been known as a runner. I trained hard throughout third form but an injury in fourth form diverted my attention elsewhere and the new aim was an honorary scholarship after my GCSEs. I flew through GCSEs, picking up the targeted honorary scholarship and arrived in the sixth form thinking life would be simple.

At the start of the Sixth Form, the change was clear, new people in classes, complicated concepts which didn’t float so easily into the mind and, like many, it took me longer than I expected to acclimatise. My AS mocks came around and I achieved one A, which, with a little help from PRV, reminded me that I had a bit of work to do. I got my act together and the final exams passed safely by.

The Upper Sixth saw me take on the mantle of Huntsman and hopefully many successes will follow this season with the main aim being to regain the National Relay’s title. While working hard in the classroom I also believe that it is very important to have other targets, such as my running. “To give anything but your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Anna Olerinyova (MSH) has an offer from St John's College, Oxford, to read Biomedical Science

I got the opportunity to study at the Shrewsbury School two years ago thanks to a scholarship from HMC and a great school funding system. Coming from a small school in Slovakia, I was very excited and scared, but soon I became a part of the school and started loving it. Being more of an academic person, I devote a lot of time to studying in lesson time as well as lectures and various societies. My personal favourites are the student-run philosophy club which we established with my friend last year and MUN – a society where we discuss current issues in the style of United Nations and prepare for many conferences. I also enjoy taking part in many school or national competitions, such as the Chemistry Olympiad or Maths Challenge.

The best thing about the school though is that is gives me the opportunity for development in every direction. I regularly go to gym and play squash and last year’s Art and Design classes pushed my artistic skills way beyond what I thought were my limits. It is a great experience and I really enjoy my time here, and am excited now about pursuing my interests further at Oxford!

Rosie Parr (EDH) has an offer from Christ Church College, Oxford, to read Classics

Throughout my time here, I always knew my goal was to try to get into Oxford. After hard toil I have finally achieved this aim and now know that one day I will reach the Elysian Fields. The teachers have been incredibly supportive – in fact ‘teacher’ is not good enough, as they reach the same pinnacle of wisdom as the philosopher kings.

Alongside my academic pursuits, I try to play as much sport as possible. I enjoy fives and hockey, both of which can get rather aggressive; remind anyone of Nero with the Christians in the Circus Maximus?

All in all I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Shrewsbury, and to quote Cicero, ‘cultivation for the mind is as important as food for the body’.

Hannah Partington (MSH) has an offer from New College College, Oxford, to read Biomedical Science

My time at Shrewsbury has been a positive experience. I have been presented with opportunities I would not have had elsewhere including my upcoming expedition to Madagascar, which I am really looking forward to. Also, the diverse community of Shrewsbury has allowed me to meet people from all corners of the world with whom I have made lifelong friends.

Though I have participated in the sport side of the school my primary focus has been academics. I have enjoyed my subjects and all my teachers have been enthusiastic and helpful, especially in regards to my application to Oxford and my Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).  Completing an EPQ on stem cell research helped to consolidate my interest in Biomedical Sciences and was also of considerable benefit in connection with my University application, particularly at interview.

My one piece of advice to any new comers to the Sixth Form at Shrewsbury is the more you put in the more you will get out of your time here.

Hannah Pritchard (EDH) has an offer from Queen's College, Oxford, to read French & English

Reading has been my passion at Shrewsbury and I have dedicated most of my time to pursuing this interest and studying in the library. Albeit that such a busy school can provide many distractions, choosing books over a trip to Starbucks or watching a film in house with your closest friends is always extremely satisfying… To work in the midst of some of the world’s most treasured writers, favourites of mine including Camus and Baudelaire, provides comfort even on the coldest December afternoon, (alongside the eagerly anticipated Grot breaks I am prone to taking with my Grot-obsessed contemporary, Rosie Parr).

So as to avoid falling into the occasionally obsessive and one-dimensioned life of an Oxbridge applicant, I have indulged in many of the activities which Shrewsbury has to offer outside of the classroom. Sport is my preferred pastime for the channelling of any academic pressures and stresses, thus hockey, fives and netball have dominated my school afternoons. I have particularly enjoyed fives and I would like to add that this is because of the exceptionally strenuous nature of girls’ fives… rather than the (potentially edible and potentially chocolate) gifts that come from the wonderful white car making its way to the courts from the Day Boys direction…

Judah Rand (R) has an offer from Oriel College, Oxford, to read Engineering Science

It was a bit of a surprise to find myself a Riggite at Shrewsbury School in the Third Form as I’d planned to go to Adams Grammar. I soon realised what a lucky break I’d had. From the first, Shrewsbury has been a happy place to live and learn.

At the beginning of my Fifth Form I reached a crossroad in sports and left rugby to give all my efforts to rowing. It is no coincidence that my excellent tutor (who is also my chemistry teacher) is one of the rowing coaches, Mr Lapage. My biggest focus in the Sixth Form has been my rowing, no matter how much my academics have mattered. Traipsing through the cold and the wet in order to spend my afternoons at the boathouse every day has kept me sane and focused in my busy Salopian life. Some of my fondest memories will be of racing, and winning, in a yellow Empacher racing shell with 7 other oarsmen and a coxswain.

My academics in the Sixth Form have largely involved solving problems in double Maths and Physics, which is mostly entertaining and definitely less work than Humanities.  All my teachers deserve credit for my Oxford offer, as does my Housemaster, Mr Middleton.

At Oxford I hope to continue with both problem-solving and rowing and whatever I do in future years, my happy Shrewsbury years will guide me.


James Steele (O) has an offer from Jesus College, Cambridge, to read Computer Science

James's reflections will be added to this page in due course. 

Ratanon Suemanothom (G) has an offer from Hertford College, Oxford, to read Engineering

Looking back at the things I have been involved in surprises me. I think I did a lot. The list goes from Maths, Physics and Chemistry competitions to MUN and debating, as well as music, fencing and DofE Gold. Most were fun. Some a bit less fun, but still much better than if I sat around doing nothing. One required travelling to Germany during the summer, another means a trip to London in February, and others just a walk to nearby school buildings. All of them took some time and effort (in varying levels). So, yes, I believe I was involved, learning life’s lessons along the way. I look forward to doing the same at Oxford.

Now for more intellectual matters. What’s important about learning is not to learn to do textbook questions correctly but to learn to 1) understand and 2) like learning about your subject (I know this is very clichéd but it is quite true). Then things will fall into place. Also, it’s good to know, in 2012, that Einstein was still right…

Chris Williams (I 2007-2012) has an offer from St John's College, Oxford, to read Human Sciences

My sixth form started with a new housemaster and a new headmaster, but one thing in Ingram's did not change. We continued to succeed in a large variety of academic and extra curricular activities. My involvement in these extra curricular successes included captaining the winning house debating team, captaining the school fencing team and gaining 2nd most improved at the Public Schools tournament, being a member of the winning 1st League team two years in a row, acting in two successful house plays, playing the guitar and enrolling in a music tech course. As well as being involved in all these activities I also managed to find time for my academic work. I got involved in Maths, Chemistry and Biology competitions including the Biology Olympiad in which I won a Silver Medal.

Since leaving school I have worked at a Nuclear Engineering firm and have enrolled in Point Blank Music College London before I depart for Biarritz to complete an 8 week French Language course. I very much miss the camaraderie in Ingrams and around the school. I certainly enjoyed my time at Shrewsbury and feel very privileged to have attended for five years. I fully intend to keep in touch with the school and hope to contribute to its long term future success.

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