Lyra first came to the UK to study in September 2019, when she began her A Levels. She has been working with her current mentoring team – Corina, Elena, and Li – since January 2020, and over this period, she's achieved inspirational academic and personal improvement.
Initially, Lyra was studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and Economics. The situation was one that the mentoring team has seen time and again: while her teachers recognised Lyra's desire to do well and quick intellect – particularly her mathematical skill – her language skills difficulties created a barrier to gaining subject knowledge, a problem that compounded as Year 12 progressed. The disruptions of COVID-19, which really took effect in the UK in March, added another dimension to the challenges Lyra faced. By the end of the Easter holidays, she was beginning to feel hopeless, and was even considering dropping out of Sixth Form altogether.
Working closely with the input of Lyra's school teachers, the mentoring track devised a multiple-part strategy to get her back on track, keeping a focus on her core long-term academic goal: to attain a place at a top Russell Group (ideally, G5) university to study Engineering. First, we reviewed the selection of A Levels Lyra was taking. Even though the average UK Sixth Former will only take three subjects to A Level, Lyra was determined to take four, and she switched out the linguistically-challenging Economics course for Chinese.
Already, this was a step towards gaining a set of great grades at A Level – the key to realising her Higher Ed dreams. Next, we developed a detailed revision schedule for Lyra's summer, with a particular focus on practice papers, as recommended by her teachers. We held her to account on this schedule, checking in regularly. We evolved our suggestions over the summer, to reflect Lyra's growing understanding of her own study habits and traits.
Since these interventions, Lyra has raised her average grades by multiple points across the board and is now targeting A*AAB, bringing her university dreams well within reach. In addition, she has made incredible strides in her ability to express herself in English, and has learned to enjoy life in the UK, as she explained here:
1. What were the main challenges you faced when you first started at Sixth Form?
First, the issue of English. Second, feeling nervous about fitting into a totally new system. On top of classes themselves, I also had to learn how to study within this system. Third, starting a new period in my life, namely, living on my own without my family.
2. How did your mentoring team help you understand these challenges?
My mentoring team were always there to take my calls and really cared about what was going on in my life, that put me at ease. I can tell them about any problem I’m facing, and they will always listen and try to offer advice. When I come off the phone with them, I feel less stressed.
3. What was the most helpful advice your mentor/mentoring team has given you to help you improve academically?
I had some time management problems when I started remote learning, and they shared with me strategies for planning my time for studying. Their advice was really good. Also, they supported me a lot over the university application period. They used their experience of this process to help me solve whatever problems I had.
4. How are you finding school now?
Currently, I'm back in China, and I'm really missing my friends, teachers – and the seaside!
5. What's your biggest immediate academic goal now?
Now that I've done all my applications and received four UCAS offers, my goal is to meet those offers in my final A Level results.
6. Are you happier with your school career now, and if you are, what do you think was the biggest thing that contributed to that?
I think I am – at the beginning I really wasn't satisfied with my school career. I joined the school choir and did different activities with them, such as performing at concerts, and this really made a difference. Through choir, I made friends and met different teachers, and they were all so supportive.
7. What are you hoping to achieve for the rest of your time in the UK – uni, career?
To be honest, I don't know for sure. My first goal is to get my Bachelor's degree, and hopefully after that, a Master's degree. However, I think I might like to explore a different subject besides the one I am planning on studying at uni.
8. If there was a piece of advice you could give to other students starting Sixth Form in the UK, what would it be?
First, don't bring too much stuff! You can buy everything you can want here, though it is expensive.
Second, if you're facing any issues at all in school, you musn't be shy – just ask for help.
Third, find a club or activity that you enjoy, be it a sport or a choir or anything else. All that matter is that you enjoy it, and you will be able to make friends, including getting to know teachers better, which is really nice.
Currently, Lyra is holding offers from several top Engineering courses, including at UCL. She is working hard to prepare herself for her final A Level assessments, with the continued support of the mentoring team. She is looking forward to staying in the UK for her university studies, and is even beginning to think beyond that, towards Master's degrees.