What Makes a Great Oxford Summer Course Student?

12 May, 2024 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge

Attending an Oxford summer course comes with a variety of exciting benefits, like experiencing new teaching methods and exploring a historical city of learning!

An international summer school offers an unparalleled opportunity to develop your academic and social skills, and boost your CV in preparation for your university applications.

The skills you develop during an Oxford summer course will equip you to start the new academic year as a more confident, experienced and independent learner! It’s a great way to grow as a student, and there are a variety of skills that you’ll not only bring to your summer school but also develop during your studies.

Before we start, it’s worth pointing out that there are a number of different Oxford summer schools held in the city of Oxford, often using Oxford University accommodation – but it’s important to remember that Oxford University doesn’t offer courses for international teenagers. We’re one such summer school – the Oxford Scholastica Academy, and you can read more about our relationship with Oxford University here.

Right, let’s outline the qualities that make a great Oxford summer course student, so you can begin to cultivate and practise these skills ahead of your application!

Understanding Your Academic Goals

A great summer course student will have clear goals for what they want to achieve over the summer. Before you pick a course to apply for, make sure to define your academic goals and areas of interest. Once you’ve worked out what you’re aiming for, you can align your goals with the right summer course for you. 

Taking the time to work out exactly what you’re interested in before applying will help you craft a purposeful and impactful application. 

Regular reflection and goal adjustment

It can be really useful to self-reflect regularly on your achievements and setbacks, as well as the impact they’ve had on you. Looking backwards can often help you to work out how you’d like to move forwards. 

Adjust your goals based on your experiences, and use your past to help you refine your academic aspirations – as well as your personal ones!

Two Oxford Scholastica students laughing at a table

Researching Your Summer Course Options

Our website has a range of resources and information about our different summer programmes, so take some time to explore before making any decisions. 

It’s important to understand the specific requirements and expectations of each programme, so you can select the course that’s right for you and submit a great application. 

Virtual and in-person opportunities

When researching, make sure to explore both virtual and in-person opportunities. Both have their individual pros and cons, and both can provide a unique and enriching learning experience. 

Online courses and workshops offer more flexibility, for example, whereas attending events and programmes in person can provide you with valuable networking experiences. 

Maintaining a Strong Academic Record

One of the key markers of a great summer course student is a strong academic record. It’s important to work hard and demonstrate your commitment to learning, so engage as much as possible with your subjects, and delve into detail where you can. 

This is a simple way to make a positive impression on a summer course application. We love our summer schools to be full of students who work hard and really care about the work they’re doing, so show us your passion!

Continuous Skill Development

As you progress through education, it’s important to keep developing your skills, whether you’re honing pre-existing talents or learning new ones from scratch. As well as strong grades, we’re looking for students who engage their brain outside of the classroom. 

If you’re interested in our Creative Writing course, then write as much as you can – and experiment! If you’re interested in our Computer Science course, then practise coding a few times a week and explore different coding languages.

Building a portfolio or project

It’s always impressive when a student creates a portfolio of work in a specific field. By curating work samples, essays or projects you’ve completed throughout the year, you’ll demonstrate initiative, creativity and drive. 

Portfolios and projects help to develop your organisation and independence as well – valuable skills for a summer school, where you’ll be living away from home and managing your own time.

Exploring extracurriculars throughout the year

Clubs and societies can be a fun way to let off steam, make new friends and take your mind off school work. However, they also enhance summer school applications, demonstrating consistent dedication and a well-rounded profile.

How Can I Improve My Summer School Application?

Four students jumping in the air, outside of an Oxford college building

1. Be curious and enthusiastic

An Oxford summer course is all about gaining new academic and personal skills to develop as a student and individual. Therefore, it’s important to be curious about new ways of thinking, collaborating and engaging with the people and places around you.

This curiosity should extend to the classroom, where intellectual enthusiasm for different subjects and topics – many of which aren’t offered on a regular high school curriculum – is central to the summer school experience.

Practise asking plenty of questions, participating in discussions with teachers and peers, and going beyond the curriculum when producing your own work.

A great Oxford summer course student will seek new knowledge and skills both in and out of the classroom, demonstrating a deep passion for learning!

2. Practise communicating

Our Oxford summer schools are centred around small class sizes and group discussions, so a great student should practise a variety of communication skills.

International summer schools attract a diverse cohort of students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Being able to communicate effectively and collaborate with others will boost your experience, as well as the experience of others, helping to create a welcoming and inclusive setting. 

This might look like practising active listening skills, or learning to articulate ideas in a clear and concise way.

3. Bounce back from setbacks

An international summer school – much like university or college – can come with a range of challenges or temporary setbacks. However, these can often be a great way for students to grow as individuals.

A great Oxford summer course student should be able to comfortably bounce back from unexpected setbacks, demonstrating resilience and adaptability

To best prepare for a summer course, it’s a good idea to reflect on how you cope when faced with new challenges. Consider different ways of looking at situations, and try to develop your problem-solving skills by tackling obstacles in new and creative ways.

Group of Oxford Scholastica students posing for a photo at graduation

4. Be a team player

Given the small class sizes and discussion-based teaching during our summer school, a great student will also be willing and eager to collaborate with their peers.

There are many benefits to working in groups, like developing communication skills and experiencing other interests and perspectives.

To prepare for a summer course, practise actively participating in group activities and respecting other people’s opinions and ideas.

5. Be open-minded

The global scope of our Oxford summer courses is one of the many unique parts of enrolment. Everyone is encouraged to participate in meaningful cross-cultural exchanges in and out of the classroom, like during our International Boat Ball! 

A great student will also actively contribute to a respectful learning environment so every student feels encouraged to participate. Practise being open to new ideas, work to challenge your existing preconceptions, and use the summer to foster a global mindset.

6. Reach for the sky!

Ultimately, we’re looking for students who understand the impact of personal growth and self-reflection. While these are skills that are enriched during an international summer school, they’re also traits that you can begin to practise before the programme begins. 

Consider setting some personal goals, reflecting on your individual strengths and areas for improvement, and seeking out feedback and guidance.

Summer schools are about pursuing your passion, and delving deeper into your favourite subjects. If you’re passionate about a subject, and work hard in pursuit of knowledge and new skills, your application will reflect this! 

If you invest effort and dedication, you can craft a compelling application for a transformative summer school experience. 

Good luck!


By Adam Kluge

Adam (he/him) recently completed his MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Oxford. His research exists at the intersection of law, politics, and history – and he welcomes opportunities to further explore these areas through personal and pedagogical practices. He completed his undergraduate degrees at Columbia University and will begin a PhD in Criminology at Oxford this autumn.


& Jessica Mason

Jessica is currently studying a BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in Early Modern theatre. She enjoys writing articles and has lots of experience in student journalism.

Looking to take part in a truly international Oxford summer course?

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