Over the years, Excell3 have impacted the lives of thousands of students and parents across the nation. Here are a few testimonials from the journeys we have impacted.
- I would strongly advise any and every student, if they get the chance, to, apply to be on the Apex Universities programme – Javon Springer
Katherine Garner - I can’t believe I got into Oxford
I am typing this article from a city which I still can’t believe I am in. I am second year student reading History at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and yes I still love saying that sentence. It was hard getting here I won’t deny that but there are groups and individuals who have made the journey a little easier.
I first took an interest in Oxbridge when I got a new history teacher at GCSE. Mr Barnard was passionate about his subject and showed me both that I had a skill and that Oxbridge wasn’t just for Eton elites. At 14 it felt like nothing more than a pipe dream and an aim I would sprinkle with clauses- “it’s not like I’d get in anyway”- every time I spoke of it. With no experienced family or friends to rely on steps like the interview and dreaded History Admittance Test seemed like insurmountable obstacles which I would do anything to not face. The Apex programme made the whole process just a little more imaginable for me. I went down to Trinity College, Cambridge (a beautiful if intimidating building) to meet other state school students who, like me, had an aim that felt impossible. We discussed the kind of complex issues which we would have to face at interview and that equally hated subject, student finance. It was more than a basic understanding of the process that I came away with however. It was a heightened sense of confidence in my ability to deal with that process; the towering mountain crumbled slightly and footholds became clearer.
There were some unique challenges in my journey to Oxford which not every student faces but a support base was still there. My profound deafness on my right side introduced me to student support services and later on Disabled Students Allowance. Oxford was immensely supportive throughout this whole progress. I received a vibrating fire alarm at interview and once I gained a place a plan was written up to support me waking, sleeping, working and socialising. I even received radio aid technology I didn’t know existed from DSA to help me face the lecture halls university is synonymous with.
It is sometimes natural to consider something easy once you have surpassed it but I won’t deny it, the Oxford admissions process is stressful and hard. Apex introduced me to the skills I would need throughout my three years here including both formulating and trusting your ideas. There are times when I felt that others social background gave them a confidence I lacked in but what is really needed to help able students succeed is a level of support which validates what they want to say. The HAT (History Admissions Test) was passed with the help of practise papers and, I admit, a lot of work on not getting confused over the complexities of Irish history! Practise is also the key to the interviews but it can sometimes feel like there is a secret code to passing that no-one is telling you. All I can say is find someone who will challenge you and loves your subject as much as you do; your interviewer is both of those things and I promise you they are not wishing for your failure.
One thing I have learnt about advice is that you don’t really believe it until you have surpassed your difficulty and are telling it to others. So I suppose I must just say good luck- and come find me in the Bodleian if you choose Oxford!
Katherine joined the 4 year Apex Universities Programme in 2014. Katherine is now a strong ambassador for the Apex Universities programme. Whilst doing ambassadorial role, speaking to new Apex Universities students at Oxford, was received the good news that her application to study a postgraduate degree at Oxford was successful. She serves as an ambassador and peer mentor on Excell3’s Apex Universities Programme
Yedidiah Tilahun - I’m so grateful to my Head of Year for choosing me for the Apex Universities Programme
It was in Year 10, when one day in the summer term, my Head of Year pulled me and a few others out of our lesson and took us to another room. At this point, I was very confused, but, soon it was explained that we were here to sign up for a programme called Apex Universities Programme run by Excell3. This was a sort of out-of-the-blue moment, I had never heard of this organisation or programme before or what it entailed, but, at least we knew the purpose of Exell3’s Apex University programme was to help us with our future.
The story then picks up further in Year 11 when I was sent an invitation via the Apex Universities Programme to attend Reach Society’s Career Fair. If I was to be honest, I really had no intention of going, I thought that this was too close to the GCSE exam season and it would clash with my revision timetable. However, it was my mum who had me leave the house to go with my Dad and attend the Career’s Fair.
I was blown away by the Fair. It cannot be stressed how inspiring it was, and the outpour that could be felt of an overwhelming sense of ‘anything is achievable’.
Here, I must give context to the story. In wanting to study medicine at university, I had been advised by well-meaning professionals to seek out and undertake work experience, or else, especially for medicine, I will not be able to study this course. However, where I was not advised was on how difficult it is to get the relevant work experience in an hospital. It soon dawned on me, that it was a matter of “who you know”. I had sent in multiple applications, and wrote several emails, even to medical doctors who had come into our school to give us talks, but only ended up with no replies.
Therefore, when a medical doctor, who was well-renowned in fact, turned up at the fair and gave us a talk, my ears were wide open. When the presentations were over, I was able to speak to the doctor about my ambitions and explain how it had been near-impossible to get the necessary work experience; then I asked if he would be able to give me the opportunity. The doctor then proceeded to give me his email and told me he was more than willing to help me. Hence, in the summer of the same year I undertook a two-week shadowing placement at Newham General Hospital. This placement was included in my personal statement, and, also, came up in my university interviews. The result of which is that I am now at the University of Oxford reading Medicine.
For this I am really grateful to the teams at Excell3 and Reach Society who actively reach out in accessing more students to bridge them to higher aspirations and had organised events such as what I had attended. I also want to thank the doctor, Professor Frank Chinegwundoh for providing me with the opportunity to have this work experience and allow me to shadow him in the hospital.
Javon Springer - I would strongly advise any and every student, if they get the chance, to, apply to be on the Apex Universities programme
I would strongly advise any and every student, if they get the chance, to, apply to be on the Apex Universities programme.
The programme enabled me to try out new things, discover my interests and helped me clarify what I want to do with my life. There were some excellent presenters on the programme, one of them helped me discover a different way of seeing maths and I got a lot of useful hints and tips as to how to prepare for my exams. I discovered my learning style, and this helped me to learn more effectively.
It was extremely useful to have our training at different university sites as this enabled me to get a feel of different type of universities and to make informed decisions.
I obtained really relevant and useful tips as to how to go about university applications and the whole procedure which can be quite daunting.
The programme motivated me to really apply myself to my studies as well as open my eyes to what is on offer to universities. For my GCSE’s I achieved 1A*, 4A’s in Geography, History, French and English Language and 7B’s. I am now studying A level Geography, Economics and Religious Studies at a college.
My advice to young people is that they should take full advantage of programmes like the Apex Universities programme, plus it also looks good to say you’ve been on the programme when applying to universities.
I wish you all well in your GCSE’s/A Levels and with your desired career paths, stay focussed and humble.
George Starkie - I discovered I could play sports and still study
I’d never seriously considered the possibility of going to university until my involvement with the Apex programme from 2013. The prospect of accessing university was always pushed to the back of my mind by (what I once believed to be) more important issues; chiefly sports and video games. I suppose my barrier to learning was my apathy toward development, satisfied with getting by rather than setting goals and realising my potential.
I had always been a bright pupil, but never took education seriously, placing a higher value upon friends and sports; especially rock climbing- which I love. I think that a part of this attitude originated from a fear that I would fail if I tried. And anyway, having good friends always seemed more practical than spending hours studying subjects that may or may not have a real life application. I only produced the bare minimum of work needed to get by. Lessons didn’t stimulate me and I spent my evenings training in the rock climbing gym instead of doing homework and revision. I knew that deep down that I was neglecting my God given talents; I was failing myself.
The Apex programme was the first step in making me realise that I wanted to go to university and, what’s more, that I had the ability and appetite to study. The sessions at Cambridge University were really memorable – the beautiful architecture gave me a sense of the massive history and events that happened there over the centuries. I discovered what it was like to be in an actual academic environment, making me realise that this was the sort of place I wanted to be. I even found out that my Rock climbing hero George Mallory studied at Cambridge before his attempts to conquer Everest, proving that I can indulge both my passions rather than having to choose between them.
The final wakeup call I needed came in the form of a pretty nasty rugby injury. It took one ambulance ride, two torn knee muscles and several surgeries for me to realise for me to fully realise the importance of education. I wouldn’t be young forever, and I needed an education for when I could no longer do sport. I had a lot of free time over the course of several wheelchair-bound months and was able to read. I found out that I really enjoy reading about oriental history, especially, although probably unsurprisingly given my adventurous personality, the history of the Samurai. 18 months later I was back in the climbing gym, but by this time I had found the balance between work and play, able to enjoy the benefits of both. I got good GCSE and AS grades and read history at Sheffield University.
For me, Apex programme shed light on the importance of an education and provided me with crucial insight and skills. It helped to focus my goals and self-expectations also realise that I had the potential to study history at University. I doubt I would have been in such a prepared position, going on to attend university, had it not been for the help of Sean and the Apex team.
Despite several surgeries to repair two torn knee muscles, George also completed Excell3’s accredited distance learning course “Overcoming Barriers to Education” for which he received a level 2 award.
Adam - Sickle cell anaemia +++ yet he overcame.
Adam is an extra special boy. He has had a challenging 14 years of life, punctuated by such things as pneumonia, meningitis, septicaemia and 2 collapsed lungs that caused him to spend lengthy periods in intensive care on a life-support machine. Despite being born with sickle cell anaemia and having to undergo regular blood transfusions, he has achieved and excelled in school. During his school life, he has in some years, managed only 60% attendance but this has not prevented him achieving well. God has enabled him to be positive in life and see his potentials. In Year 9 he insisted on going to school to take his SATs exams when he was ill. Despite his illness he achieved level 6 in all the exams he took. He attended the Oxford Black Boys Can program, following hospitalization for over 7 days and is currently researching ways of making his first step onto the property ladder (a joint venture with his sister).
Sean - I speak on behalf of Black Boys
“I am appealing on behalf of all black boys in this country, who against all odds have achieved and are successful, but haven’t been heard. For too long we’ve been written off by the education system and society’s expectations of us are low. However, no black boy wants to be an underachiever, so please give us a chance. So, if you’re serious about our education, our achievements and our opportunities, here’s our chance to make a difference. Isn’t it time for black boys to put back into society? We don’t want to be a drain on our society! So what we require from you is: equal access to education, to be heard and given a chance to show our capabilities. Teachers only see us as rappers, 100m runners and graffiti artists, but if you look through our eyes, you’d see that we want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers etc. However, in order to achieve our ambitions we need to successfully get through the education system. What we basically want is for you to invest in the education of black boys and our futures. I am just an ordinary black boy who joined the ‘Black Boys Can Project’ when I was 10.This year, I took my GCSEs and I got not 1, not 2 not 5, but 11 GCSEs grade A*-C. I want other Black boys to be at least given the opportunity to get access to the type of support I received from the l Black Boys Can ”.
Rosh - The Overcoming barriers to University accredited programme really prepares one for Higher Education.
Rosh’s Head of Maths at Cardinal Newman School in Luton and her mother encouraged and supported her application for the Apex Universities programme.
Rosh successfully engaged with Excell3’s Apex Universities Programme over 4 years, completing our accredited distance learning programme “Overcoming Barriers to Education” which she said gave her a head start in understanding challenges she would have to face in her academic journey and also prepared her for university. Staff at the London School of Economics, publicly commended Excell3’s ‘Overcoming Barriers to University distance learning programme for its “Independent Learning Skills” component.
Rosh was successful in gaining a place at Coventry University, where she completed her degree in Medical & Pharmacological Sciences in 2020.
She presently works with the UK National Bio Centre in Milton Keynes, and is also now pursuing her Master’s in Pharmacology/Drug Discovery.
She credits the Apex’ Oxford Residential at Oriel College, the interesting activities she engaged in on our university days, testimonials from Apex students and meeting like minded students from across the country who were on the programme as driving her motivation to successfully apply to university. Her advice to students thinking of applying is to definitely do so and she also says “the modules in the accredited programme really prepares one for Higher Education.”
Adejoke - It helped me explore difference academic options
Adejoke successfully applied to Excell3’s Apex Universities Programme with support from her parents and Lead Practitioner for High Achievers at Eltham Hill School in London.
She fully embraced and participated in every aspect the Apex Universities Programme.
Adejoke harboured ambitions for a career in Science, but was uncertain which direction to take. What she described as being most useful was learning about university life from former Apex Universities Programme students and the Widening Participation departments at host universities and exploring her subject options which leaned heavily towards STEM subjects.
Her Apex cohort also had a very high percentage of students who were interested in Science related subjects, so Apex delivered a STEM Careers day at the London School of Economics, where expert practitioners in the field gave them insight into the range of career options available to them.
Adejoke received guidance in completing her draft Personal Statement and successfully applied to Queen Mary University of London where she graduated in 2020 with a 2:1 in Neuroscience.
Her advice to students thinking of applying to Excell3’s Apex Universities Programme is to do as the programme allows you to remain focused academically and explore different academic options.
Muhamed - The prospect of attending a Russell Group University seemed daunting
Coming from an inner city London neighbourhood and from a family background without a history of attending university, the prospect of attending a Russell Group University seemed daunting for him.
Muhamed was supported by his Head of Year and his parents in his application for a place on the Apex Universities programme. During his 4 years on the Apex Universities Programme participated in all the masterclasses, and completed Excell3’s accredited distance learning programme “Overcoming Barriers to University.”
Muhamad discovered the benefits of gaining speedreading skills he left the programme having doubled his reading speed whilst still maintaining comprehension. Muhamed described this as enabling him to read with intelligence his text books and other academic material.
Attending Apex’ bespoke workshops at Oxbridge and other Russell Group Universities such as the University of Nottingham and the London School of Economics, demystified the whole university process for him. Undertaking the “Overcoming Barriers to Education” Muhammid found the reflective journal aspect of the course which helped him to look at his perceived obstacles and arrive at strategies for overcoming them.
Muhamed successfully applied to Imperial College London, where he completed his MSci in Theoretical Physics in 2020. During his time at Imperial, he worked as a Quantitative Analyst at Commerzbank AG during the summer and also served as the “Physics Well-Being Departmental Representative.”
Apex he said exposed him to the world of academia on a completely different level and instilled in him the belief that he could successfully apply to the nation’s top universities. Interacting with students from across the country who themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds with high aspirations was also positively motivating for him. He encourages students desirous of fulfilling their academic potential to apply to Apex.