In her own words, Ella Kyle wasn’t originally intending to study at Oxford or Cambridge when she was applying for sixth forms – but then the Oxbridge Pathway at CSMS caught her eye and her aspirations changed.

Now in her second year studying Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, we spoke to her about her experience of the Oxbridge Pathway and how her time at CSMS helped prepare her for university life.

Hi Ella! Tell us about your experience at CSMS.

I didn’t go to Camborne Science and International Academy (CSIA) for Years 7-11 so I joined in sixth form primarily to study at CSMS. I did Maths, Physics and Geography and an EPQ. I enjoyed being in lessons where discussion, hard work and passion for the subject was highly valued by students and teachers alike.

I did Maths and Physics with other students from CSMS but I was the only one doing Geography which was a subject at The VI Form Academy. This meant I was able to experience both sides and overall it definitely let me make more friends – it complimented the STEM subjects I was studying. The teachers were great for Geography too so it was nice to have the combination.

What was the draw to CSMS?

I live in Camborne so the location was initially why I started looking at CSMS. Then I realised they had special programmes, and all the extra opportunities like the trips abroad looked really exciting. I went to an Open Day and started chatting with teachers, and I realised quite quickly that I felt like I would get on well in class.

You were on the Oxbridge Pathway at CSMS. Did you know you wanted to go to Oxford before you went to sixth form?

I was part of the first cohort on the programme at CSMS and the Oxbridge Pathway was definitely the initial inspiration behind applying to Oxford. I wasn’t thinking I about going to Oxford or Cambridge when I was applying for sixth forms, but then CSMS looked at my predicted grades and told me that their Oxbridge Pathway was something that I could apply for, so I started to think yeah maybe. It planted the idea in my head so I started looking at Oxbridge courses, applied, and got in! The Oxbridge Pathway was a good opportunity

You’re now studying Earth Sciences at Oxford University. How’s it going?

It’s basically geology but really broad and relates to anything science-based on the Earth using a combination of Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics. We identify rocks and fossils but it goes beyond that – for example we touch on planetary science and how the universe was formed and things like that. I’m going into my third year but I’m on an Integrated Masters so will be graduating in 2024.

I’ve actually just got back from the Lake District where I was looking at the geology of the area around Coniston for my independent mapping project. I will use my field notes to produce a geological map and write a report on my findings.

How did CSMS help you prepare for university life?

I think it definitely helped me prepare for university life because CSMS encouraged us to become more independent. They gave us a lot of structure, for instance they told us how to plan our time properly when revising so, when I got to university, I had already been practicing that way of working for the last couple of years! The EPQ definitely helped too; I’m doing a project now over the summer and all that structuring and referencing work is coming back to me, so it’s great that I had that practice with my EPQ at CSMS.

What other opportunities did you get involved in at CSMS?

CSMS was great at making us aware of any opportunities that were available, for example I got funded to go to a summer school in Glasgow. CSMS also told me about a unique summer school at Oxford called UNIQ, which is solely an opportunity for state school students who fulfil certain criteria such as being the first in your family to go to university – it was actually one of the things that inspired me to apply to study Earth Sciences there!

I went to Singapore for a science fair too, which was amazing. We presented a project at the event, which was really fun and we got to meet international students. I kept in touch with some of the people I was in a group with and one of them is coming to Oxford from Singapore next year to study!

The CSMS lecture series was also really useful. Someone came in to talk to us every week, like university lecturers or business people from Surfers Against Sewage for example, so there was lots of variety. They’d do a talk and then we were encouraged to speak to them and ask questions afterwards. It felt like university when you go to a lecture, so it was really cool.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at CSMS?

Singapore was definitely a highlight, but what I remember most is just sitting in the common room with friends and a cup of tea, chilling after we’d done all our work for the day.

What would you say to someone who was considering studying at CSMS?

I’d definitely recommend it; if there are subjects you like and you’re interested in going to university, it’s a great opportunity to get lots of support with that. The class sizes are small too.

What are your big dreams and aspirations for the future?

I’m not too sure yet! I’m focusing on getting my degree first, and I’d definitely like to do something with Earth Sciences but it’s quite a big field so I’m going to look for internships, explore what opportunities come up in the next few years and see where it goes from there.