Benefits of Attending Academic Conferences
Everything from picking your morning Starbucks order to deciding the subject(s) you want to study at university can cause stress and uncertainty. This is shown very clearly by the fact less than half of recent graduates believe they were prepared for success after high school (48%).
So, how can you make sure you’re choosing the right subject to study when you might not have even studied the course at school?
That’s where subject-specific conferences come in; conferences are not only a great way to meet academics and professionals in the field, but also to find out the skills, attributes and entry requirements universities expect from successful applicants.
5 Benefits of attending conferences for students
Let’s explore the top 5 advantages of attending conferences for students and how they can influence your academic path.
1. Narrow down your academic interests
If you’re biting your nails deciding which course to apply for, participating in a subject conference might help you to focus your thoughts. Getting a clear idea of the opportunities available in your field of interest is essential to picking a course and sticking with it; 61% of recent graduates reported they would change their undergraduate studies if they could go back – you want to be in the 39% who wouldn’t.
Conferences are designed to give you access to leading, inspirational figures in your field of interest, which can either whet your appetite to learn more, or direct you towards a different field of interest.
Oxford Scholastica Academy’s online conferences, for instance, provide subject conferences in various fields, such as Business, Medicine and Law. Attending such events will allow you to quiz representatives from different fields on their daily tasks and challenges, including the journey they took to get to their position. It is always helpful to learn from other people’s experience, and these conferences give you an opportunity to ask if there are any things they wish they had known before applying.
Just one intriguing answer can spark an interest in a field you might not have considered before, and set you off on a completely new path.
2. Reignite your passion for your field of interest
In the midst of revision and exam preparation, it can sometimes be difficult to visualise the end result of your studies, leaving you frustrated and uninspired. By meeting and listening to aspirational leaders in your prospective field, you’ll find yourself invigorated by their passion and love for your subject.
Sometimes, you need to look outside your classroom texts to sharpen your academic interests. Conference attendees return from a conference with new ideas and approaches that enhance how effectively and efficiently they work. Conferences force you to break out of your comfortable, classroom shell and let you interact with professionals and academics you may never have dreamt of meeting.
Conferences invite speakers with cutting-edge insight, allowing prospective students to pose up-to-date, engaging questions about the future of their careers.
3. Strengthen your university application
By taking an active step towards deepening your subject knowledge, you can provide prospective universities with evidence of your interest in your subject, and demonstrate initiative in pursuing your interests beyond the classroom.
Not only do they impress interviewers and admissions officers, conferences demystify the university application process for your subject, including any relevant admissions tests that prospective applicants must take. Many conferences will offer advice on writing a UCAS personal statement and tips on how to survive an interview, allowing you to stand out from an average applicant’s profile.
4. Build valuable connections early on
Applying to university can sometimes feel incredibly intimidating, and even lonely if you don’t share the same interests as your school friends. Meeting a group of other, similarly minded prospective applicants can make all the difference to your mindset.
Many students can feel like a fish out of water upon reaching university, so actively making new connections beforehand is great preparation for Freshers’ Week; your fellow participants may be your future cohort, meaning these friendships could ease your entry into university social life.
Conferences (particularly those that take place online) bring together people from all over the world who share common interests and ambitions. At a conference you will be able to get together with people from a wide range of backgrounds, beyond your hometown or school, to learn about your subject from a range of perspectives.
5. Develop critical thinking skills
It’s never a bad idea to listen to an illuminating podcast, or read an insightful blog concerning your area of interest. However, you may find this research passive and it can offer little chance for critical thinking.
By participating in a conference, you will take on an active, exciting role in the discussion. Between putting questions to speakers and discussing the various talks with your fellow participants, conferences offer the perfect opportunity to apply your own thinking to the topic at hand.
In order to make the most of your experience, you might like to do some reading around the topics the conference will cover before it begins. This can help you understand what’s being covered more deeply, as well as giving you an opportunity to prepare some insightful questions.
How to attend virtual conferences from home
With the recent pandemic putting a stop to many in-person events, lots of conferences have been moved online to ensure as many applicants as possible can experience them. You won’t be losing out on any of the benefits of in-person events. Virtual conferences, like those offered at OSA (Oxford Scholastica Academy), can connect curious students from around the world with subject experts more easily than ever before.
Virtual conferences can even enhance a participant’s experience; OSA offers recordings of each talk after the conference has ended, including the Parents’ Seminar, meaning you can access a wealth of information at any time and watch it as many times as you need.
Are conferences worth it for students?
Conferences offer a wealth of useful information about various university courses, and the careers they can lead to. As well as helping you to choose your course, they will help you develop specific areas of interest within your field and prove this interest to university admissions boards.
Learning from and connecting with professionals and other students interested in the field will boost your own enthusiasm, while giving you the perfect opportunity to network. With virtual conferences, you’ll also learn to see your subject from a range of different perspectives, thanks to the ease with which people from around the world can come together.
Your next steps in conference participation
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