Two bright pupils from Rivers Academy West London have received offers to study at the University of Oxford this September.
It has been a five-year journey that reflects the support and guidance that they have received from teachers and former Rivers pupils that have helped them achieve their dream, which began with the Brilliant Club.
Kyle Nunes and Vignesh Iyer are hopeful to attend the prestigious university in the autumn after passing their entrance interviews and being given conditional places.
Both pupils credit Rivers Academy for giving them the confidence to apply and subsequently be offered places at the prestigious university.
Vignesh, 18, is hoping to study BSc Chemistry at Oxford’s Balliol College, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious of colleges at the university, and will need to meet the entry requirements of A*AA.
He said: “In Years 7 and 9 at Rivers, we took part in the Brilliant Club, which gave us early exposure to Oxford as we went on trips there from an early age.
“Rivers runs the programme for high ability pupils, where pupils are set work by a PhD candidate who comes and sits with you each week at school. The programme is completed with an essay submission and then a ceremony at the University, which fuelled my fascination with Oxford.”
Vignesh revealed that he found the application process very daunting, as he recognised that other prospective students were discussing their preparations, and some had completed a number of mock interviews for the selection processes; which is a common theme in public schools.
Rivers Academy, however, works tirelessly to ensure that high ability students are given the same amount of support as any other Post-16 institution in the country, and the school was able to help Vignesh in several ways for his application.
Vignesh said: “We have a maths teachers called Mr [Graeme] Wallace, who studied PPE at Oxford, and he really guided me through the application process, giving me advice when I wasn’t sure what to do when I was nervous for my interview. On the day of my interview, he was emailing me throughout the day to see how I was getting on.
“Also, Ms [Palmira] Joao put me in contact with a former Rivers pupil, Saloni Pun, who is in her final year of Chemistry at Oxford; we met up in a coffee shop because I was really nervous for my second interview, and she helped me to devise a plan to keep me cool for my interview.
“The fact that the teachers have a network of pupils who can help in these situations is really nice!” Vignesh added.
In his interview, Vignesh revealed that he used online resources to research what interview questions have been asked for Chemistry in previous years, and not just at Oxford, but also at universities like Cambridge, Newcastle, and Swansea.
Vignesh said: “They asked a lot of maths-based questions, which I wasn’t that prepared for because we were yet to cover that content in our syllabus, but they were sympathetic to that.
“It was less about the content that you already know, and more about understanding the way in which you think.
“If I was going to give aspiring Oxford candidates any advice, I would say that you should be fully researched on the course that you want to study. If you don’t feel genuinely passionate about the area of study, they will probably know!”
Kyle Nunes, 17, has also been at Rivers since Year 7, and he is hoping to study BA (Hons) Economics and Management at the scenic Worcester College at OXford, which is also dependent on the achievement of A*AA in this years’ A Level awards.
Kyle didn’t begin thinking about which university he wanted to go to until the end of Year 11, and after finding an Oxford summer school online, his teachers encouraged him to apply and it was there that he realised how much he wanted to attend as a full-time student.
He said: “The summer school gave me the opportunity to understand the Economics and Management programme better, and spend time with the professors while engaging in relevant discussion with them.
“It was in that week that I realised how much I liked Oxford as a city, not just the prestige of the university. I really enjoyed being there and it felt like a really nice community, which is why I ended up applying.”
To prepare for for his entrance interviews, Kyle would repeatedly re-read his personal statement and the notes that he had made of books that he had mentioned in his applications, so that he could answer anything the interviewers asked him.
Kyle said: “My first interview was economics specific and included economics-linked puzzles or thinking games, having to figure things out with limited information.
“My second interview was more about myself, my personal statement and what I can bring to the course” he added.
Although he felt nervous when he travelled to Oxford for his interview, he said that he felt like he was mentally prepared due to the confidence that his time at Rivers has instilled in him.
“When I arrived in Year 7, I was quite unsure in myself, but the school has made sure that we regularly present things to our classes and discuss the future frequently, which has allowed me to be more confident in myself, more ambitious, and more assured in my ability to do things” Kyle said.
Kyle’s interest in economics and management was boosted by participating in the trust-wide Aspirations Employability Portfolio, where he was able to gain some vital experience in business.
He said: “I had work experience opportunities, such as working at Heathrow and helping to problem solve there, as well as working in the school canteen to find ways to encourage more pupils to eat there.
“This was all great experience as it taught us how to work on difficult projects in a group and how to overcome disagreements on what may be the best way to make things work” Kyle added.
Evidently, both Vignesh and Kyle have long been active members of the student community at Rivers Academy, and will be valuable additions to the alumni network of any university.