Gifted Sixth Former’s Week at Imperial College London

One of our many academically gifted students at South Wirral High School, Ellen Roberts (year 13), embarked on an exciting mission during the summer holidays: Chemistry Summer School at Imperial College London. A competitive course that is only offered to one in every six applicants.

Ellen relished the opportunity to travel to London (for the first time), on an all paid ‘taster’ of undergrad life at a university ranked number 4 in the Russell Group table. As well as practical sessions in the Chemistry Department conducting fun experiments, Ellen enjoyed the social aspect of uni life, hanging out with other Sixth Form students, from varied backgrounds and locations all over the country.

“This course is for students who are highly motivated in studying science, high achievers in top 10% of ability range and typically achieving A* to B across their studies.” Imperial College London

We asked Ellen to tell us about her experience, and why she was given the opportunity to apply for such as prestigious Summer School place.

“I had a chance to experience life at a leading university and gain an insight into what it’s like to be an undergrad student. I had never been to London before, let alone travel there by myself! My anxious and proud parents waved me off at Lime Street Station, Liverpool, at a gruelling 6am, where my journey to a taste of freedom began. When I got to London, it was so busy. People were rushing everywhere – that’s what everyone says, but it’s true! I couldn’t almost believe how big London seemed. I had a rush of adrenaline but was so happy to have arrived in one piece! Before heading off on the tube, I was starving, so hunted around for a bakery. £5 for a waffle! I’m definitely in London now, I thought! After savouring the most expensive waffle in the world, I successfully navigated, after getting lost, the underground to reach my destination, South Kensington, which was more beautiful than I ever imagined.


The most expensive waffle in the world!

I met up with other students, who were down to earth, and lovely, and from all areas of the country, such as Essex and Nottingham, and as into science as me! We got our timetable and met with our student mentors, who made us feel welcome and relaxed.

The schedule included academic sessions during the daytime, in which all subject content was aimed at us as if we were first-year undergrads. Some of our practical sessions included synthesizing esters (perfume), Luminol (the chemical in glow sticks) and silicone polymers. I really enjoyed it.


Every evening, activities were held to keep us entertained, including meals out in London, and going out on campus, just like being real students! On the last night, I attended a formal dinner at the Millennium Hotel, and many of the academically acclaimed staff at Imperial College attended. It was such an unbelievably fantastic evening; I felt incredibly privileged!

Dinner at the hotel

Dinner at the hotel

It made me realise how much I want to go to university; a Russell Group, ideally. South Wirral Sixth Form has been so supportive of me, and the brilliant teachers have enabled me to achieve my academic goals. Every student is treated as an individual, and because the teachers know you, and your abilities, you get the best from Sixth Form – that’s why one of my teachers told me I should apply for this course. I would recommend South Wirral High School to anyone!”

Ellen Roberts, year 13, achieved 3A*s, 6As and 2Bs, GCSEs, at South Wirral High School.

*The Sutton Trust fully funded the year 12 Residential Summer School, at Imperial College London.