Harper’s Story at SCIE



2020 graduate of SCIE, studying at University College London

“Causes formed in the past will be manifested as effects in the present.” I was taught by this saying at a well-being session before the finals at Grade 10. However, it was not until three years later, when my application season came to an end, that I fully resonated with its meaning.

Self-exploration before SCIE

Before detailing my two years at SCIE, please allow me to outline my pre-SCIE-hood, because I think my preparation to study abroad can be traced back to the days well before. Early at nursery school, I was “left” in the English class by mom, and started struggling to spell “motorcycle” and mumbling to my foreign teachers. Finally having coped with spelling and pronunciation, I then started wrestling with grammar at primary school. When I reached puberty, the journey of English continued. I enrolled in an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) course at a language centre. Looking back from now, it seemed that every extra effort on English has built me a path heading to international high school and to overseas universities. However, I “accidentally” went off the track for a while – I went to a Chinese public high school for two years before transferring to SCIE. Two years – it took me this long to realise that I was not for Chinese educating curriculum. I found myself having greater potential in exploring and researching on the disciplines that I am interested in rather than coping with tricky questions within limited time. So in April of 2020, I decided to applied for SCIE. Fortunately, I became a new A1 student in August.

As a new A1: what to do, how to do, and preparation

Right after the first semester was started, I began to get nervous about my application since I was like a piece of blank paper, with no records, having no idea of what to prepare for. After a few meaningful conversations with Ms. Sonia, my Biology teacher, and some generous and helpful alumni, my anxiety of not knowing what to do converted into the concern of how to do it well. At the first semester, along with AS learning, I took part in a three-month synthetic biology project produced by Bluepha Lab in Shenzhen with another 2 schoolmates. Although I did not refer to this experience a lot in my personal statement eventually, it was still worthwhile for all the precious lab experience, academic improvements and research skills I gained from it. When the first academic school year ended, I followed a medical PhD at Sun Yet-sen University who was focusing on breast cancer. Meanwhile, I was reading books on the university booklist which I was interested in, So that summer holiday was basically all about staying at the lab, taking lab logs, having online lectures, reading, reading, reading, and taking notes of some inspiring random thoughts of my personal statements… Besides, during that holiday, I decided to push myself further – I would apply for Natural Sciences in Cambridge. Woo, I would say it was one of the most fulfilling holidays ever!

As a A2: hectic and anxious, but surrounded by endless support

When I became a A2, I started the hectic application routine as many of my supportive and excellent peers did: revising my personal statement with subject teachers and counsellors  for many times, submitted UCAS profile, accomplished SAQ, prepared for NSAA, interview practice with peers, mock interviews with Ms. Sonia and Mr. Greenwood, and finally, the actual interview. Here I just want to express my huge thanks to people who offered great support during this time: to my peers, who have always been my role model for the entire procedure; to Mr. Greenwood, who has arranged a set of precious mock interviews and carefully revised my personal statement; to my Biology teachers Mr. Sonia and Mr. Jamie, who have always been so willing to answer our questions; to my counsellor Mr. Neff and Ms. Iris and all UCO counsellors, who have always been there to relieve our worries, to guide us through the whole tough periods and to cheer us up when we  were less motivated.

After the results: re-examination and transformed mindset

My application season ended in February, with three rejections and two offers. It was not a happy ending in every sense of the word. Initially, I thought it was unfair and unacceptable: I have  devoted so much effort on it, but why the outcome was still worse than expected (given that I did not have overestimated expectations)? Afterwards, my resentment turned into self-denial: there must be something wrong with my self- assessment – I was not as hardworking as I thought, or none of my hard work was truly effective. Lucky enough, the saying “causes formed in the past will be manifested as effects in the present” saved me. This Buddhist motto, although sounds similar to “no pain, no gain”, has distinct interpretations when you dissect it: 1) Apart from “pains” or hard work at the moment, causes also include multiple factors such as timing and all the preparation accumulated beforehand. So do not blame the result on insufficient diligence solely. 2) Effects always match with their causes – if you lack required causes, even though you have strived for your goal, you might still fail to fulfil your ambition. So pain does not always contribute to gain. 3) As long as you have been proceeding along the path, the destination is reachable and promising, just the matter of time. Then, I stopped ruminating and assessed myself rationally: on one hand, spending two years in Chinese high school brought me some inevitable deficiency compared to my SCIE peers. For example, I  was not exposed to much knowledge outside of the textbook or classroom, I had no competition experience which is a precious access to delve into my academic interests, I did not engage in activities outside of my academic pursuits such as volunteer teaching to demonstrate that I am an all-round applicant, and I was not able to express myself as confidently and fluently as some of my peers did… On the other hand, however, it was impossible for me to receive the offers without my endeavour all the way through! So I let go the past, and came to a realisation that I am still on the way. There is a sharper resolution rooted in the deepest part of my heart. I will be climbing up the ladder step by step, towards my goal, my vocation, in a more poised manner.