Things for children to do during the summer. Getting ready for university: preparing for your personal statement.

Friday July 19th, 2019

July 2019

Most UK independent schools broke up in early July.  With eight or more weeks of summer holidays stretching into September, we thought it would be a good time to explore the sorts of things children could do in their down time.  So in this issue we’ll focus on how you can help your child to be as prepared as possible for starting or continuing their education in the UK come the autumn.

Wider reading (and viewing and listening) 

Most UK independent schools and universities will issue a reading list designed to prepare learners for the next level of their education.  Suggested reads over the summer are usually based on the institution’s exam syllabus; that is, the texts students will study next year and on which they will be examined.  Some reading lists offer ideas for more extensive reading to provide a broader context.  We’ve collated a few additional ideas to give you and your child food for thought over the long summer days and evenings.

Read the book, watch the film 

This exercise isn’t just for pupils preparing to study literature or film; it’s a great way to encourage children of any age to think more deeply about the philosophical concepts of truth and reality.  Reading a book then watching an adaptation of that text helps children begin to understand the crucial role that interpretation and perspective play in all aspects of our lives.  Does the portrait they paint in their mind having read about a particular character match the director’s interpretation on screen?  In forcing the plot to fit the length of a typical feature film, has anything been changed or lost?  Does it make a difference whether you read the book first or watch the adaptation first?  Most people favour the former approach – but it can be interesting to try it the other way around too.  Sometimes watching a story unfold on screen makes the written version seem more attractive and far less intimidating.  This can certainly be the case for classics such as Dickens’ Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend and Great Expectations – when the sheer size of the physical book and the length of the sentences can seem daunting!  Expertly adapted for the BBC in serial form, as well as in film format (you can watch Pip’s infamous rise and fall in at least a dozen different adaptations) – these make some of the best introductions to ideas around social reform and self-awareness as well as history, literature and language.

Fun things to watch at any age

When we Googled ‘thought-provoking articles for teenagers’ we stumbled across this thoughtful answer to a thread about the most inspiring films for teenagers: We like it because it features family-friendly films in a fun but reflective way, suggesting something for everyone and the themes they explore.  It was posted six years ago so plenty has happened since, but it still covers some classics from the last 40 years!  The Will Smith film mentioned is actually called ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ (with an intentional typo) and Will (famous for his motivational videos on social media) stars alongside his young son in the 2006 hit.  Smith could be seen on the big screen again this spring with the musical Aladdin, a stunning live-action remake of the 1992 Disney classic based on the original Arabian Nights folk tale, told in ‘glittering visual detail’ with a nod to political questions amidst the usual Disney themes of friendship and good vs evil.  Another Disney remake exploring trust and self-belief is the live-action/CGI remake of The Lion King featuring Beyoncé and premiering in the UK on 19 July.  The 1994 animated original made our ‘inspirational movies’ list above.  Check out this summer’s remake to see how it compares.  Or catch the musical currently in its 21st year in London’s West End.

Subject-specific recommendations

For students planning to specialise in literature, one of the most useful and accessible books on literary criticism and theory is David Lodge’s the Art of Fiction.  His user-friendly and entertaining guide gives an enjoyable insight into the study, evaluation and interpretation of literature as well as the more philosophical discussion of its goals and methods.  Each short chapter focuses on a specific literary device, exemplified and explained through analysis of a particular work of literature.  Not only will it help students understand and analyse authors’ techniques, but it will also give some great pointers for further reading with its intriguing snippets from novels of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

If you’re considering a new subject for A Level or as an undergraduate, reading around the subject can be a huge help.  Whether you’re still deciding or you’ve committed to your subject choice(s) – try some of these texts for an insight into the sorts of things you might be studying…


Several books endeavour to introduce readers to the thought-provoking world of philosophy (literally ‘love of wisdom’).  Some of the most successful and accessible include Sophie’s World by Jostein Gardeer, a novel that engages your imagination and takes you on a tour of philosophy’s historical roots. Breakfast with Socrates draws on psychology and politics as well as philosophy to contextualise great thinkers’ ideas in our daily routine.  Even if you’re not planning to choose philosophy – books like these give you food for thought which can prove helpful at milestone moments like Oxbridge interviews.


For younger readers, the new Usborne book ‘Politics for Beginners’ is the perfect introduction to everything from human rights to fake news.  Shortlisted for Children’s Illustrated / Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards 2019, its infographics complement clear text that will clarify much about this confusing topic.  As the UK waits to hear who will be its next prime Minister, we’ll refrain from making any comments about who else might find it a helpful guide!


If you’re considering a career in law, here is some suggested summer reading for you:  Some useful insights and ideas for prospective lawyers here too:


It sounds like there are some great reads on this list for aspiring medics and anyone with an interest in physical health and mental wellbeing.  In fact, for anyone with an interest in the big life and death questions about what makes us human: You can also see other useful tips on this site regarding topical issues, revision techniques and the UCAT (previously UKCAT) test – University Clinical Aptitude Test, required for entry to a medical or dentistry degree at many UK universities.


The Engineering and Technology website collated its top seven podcasts for young engineers back in 2017:  For current recommendations on all aspects of engineering from becoming a sound engineer to the history of technology try:

Getting ready for university: preparing for your personal statement

Much of what we’ve covered so far would give you a great head start to your preparation for university in the UK.  The application process is all about showcasing you as a person – your ideas, values and self-confidence – not just your academic achievements.  We talked about self-confidence in a previous blog; discussing how it’s one of the key ingredients that an education at top UK independent schools can instil and encourage.  Whatever the subject, interviewers overseeing undergraduate selection want to meet a prospective student who has the self-confidence to express their ideas and opinions on a whole host of topics.  They want to know you can defend those opinions and back them up with evidence, but with the humility to acknowledge they are interpretations and not necessarily ‘absolute truths’.

However, before you can impress your prospective tutors and lecturers at the interview stage, you’ll need to nail your personal statement.  Loved and hated in equal measure by university applicants, this section of your UCAS form is arguably the most important.  Although the earliest you can apply for 2020 entry is 4th September 2019, it’s worth spending some time this summer thinking about what you can do to make your personal statement stand out.  Think about the skills, experience and values you want to highlight.  Could you offer to volunteer for a local charity over the summer?  In the UK this is a popular way to gain experience and develop skills in a mutually beneficial way.  Whether your interests lie in healthcare, science, medicine, animals or overseas aid – there’ll be a relevant charity that could benefit from your assistance whether you can provide it remotely or in person.  Take a look here for inspiration: – or if you know of or follow a particular charity then simply get in touch to see how you might be able to work together.

Could you start your own blog in your specific area of interest?  This gives you the structure and discipline to develop your ideas over time and the perfect way to showcase them.  What about work experience?  Do you or your family have contacts in companies at home or abroad where you could gain an insight into a specific career?  Is there a particular challenge or goal you’d like to work towards?  Maybe it’s learning a language, a musical instrument or something more sporty?  Whatever your preference, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to try something new or build on existing talents over the summer.  You could even try mentoring or coaching younger children in something you’re skilled at.  If you’re a member of a group or club, talk to the people in charge about what you’d need to do.  Helping others learn is immensely rewarding and great for your own self-awareness and confidence too.

For students of any age or stage of their education, it doesn’t hurt to look ahead.  This website collates a variety of blogs written by undergraduates at different stages of their studies in a range of subjects:  And for career ideas, the BBC hosts a great career section on its Bitesize resource:

Don’t forget that at Regency Education, we’re very happy to provide advice and ideas tailored to your family’s needs.  Do get in touch for a no-obligation chat – we’d love to hear from you.