Stretch and Challenge

Varndean College provides an extensive range of opportunities for students who join the college with high GCSE grades or specific talents. At their interview, students will have the opportunity to discuss the additional programmes on offer to support their studies.

Applying for Oxford or Cambridge

  • Potential Oxbridge applicants are identified early in the second term of Year One and following a meeting in January for interested students we contact individuals who wish to apply to either university. After a personal interview, we then direct students to university open days to help them make their choices.
  • In February the College hosts an annual event led by admissions staff from Oxford and Cambridge, where students can learn more about the application process.
  • In September of Year Two, applicants are given extensive assistance with the writing of their personal statements and completion of their application form.
  • In November, we then help candidates prepare fully for their interview, following which we then debrief candidates in order to gain information which may be of use to next year’s students.

Applying for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science

The College runs a programme of activities and support for students interested in progressing in the highly competitive fields of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

  • We have established links with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and students receive practice interviews from admissions tutors and ex-Varndean medical undergraduates.
  • We keep students closely informed of any local and national events such as conferences and meetings organised for those preparing to apply for medical courses.
  • We can advise on and help arrange work experience and volunteering in chosen career areas to add weight to any application and provide evidence of a genuine commitment.
  • We will show students how to keep up to date with current medical ethics issues.
  • We will explain the personal qualities and experience which admissions tutors are looking for and guide you in how to construct your personal statement.
  • We will recommend extension activities to support your application and help prepare for interview, such as the EPQ and the Chemistry conference.
  • Speakers are invited into the College to talk on current medical and veterinary issues.
  • We arrange for ex-Varndean medical students to come in and talk about their experience of the application process and life as an undergraduate.

Subject-Specific Activities and Achievements

Additional activities are provided both within the normal curriculum and beyond.

  • A strong team take part in the RSC’s annual Chemistry Olympiad and finish with an impressive list of awards each year. In 2017 we won 13 Bronze and 6 Silver medals; in 2018 13 Bronze and 3 Silver; and in 2019 2 Bronze, 5 Silver and 2 Gold.
  • We also take part in the RSC’s Annual Analytical Competition having reached the National Final in 2 out of the last 5 years, as well as the University of Reading’s ‘Heroines in Science’ competition.
  • Our Year One students undertake the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge in June and every year achieve Gold medals.
  • All Chemistry students attend the annual Varndean College Chemistry Conference at the University of Brighton. We have presentations ranging from talks on drugs to medical advances to energetics and the enigmatic 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.
  • Year 2 A Level Biology students have also been entered into this year’s Gold CREST Awards. CREST is a national scheme which helps inspire young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers. With six competition levels available, the scheme helps children and young people become independent and reflective learners through an enquiry-based project.
  • Mathematics students take part in the “UK Senior Maths Challenge” each year and in 2018 achieved 5 gold, 15 silver and 8 bronze awards, and in 2019 4 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze awards.
  • Visual Arts students benefit from workshops/talks from artists and designers, as well as competing for the annual Kellie Miller Art Award. One of our second year A Level Textiles students also won the Knitting and Stitching Show’s Dressmaking Competition in 2019.
  • Dance and Creative Media students collaborate together each year to form their own company and devise their own production called ‘Breaking Boundaries’ at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton.
  • The English Literature Extension class challenges students to read ambitiously beyond the exam syllabus. Several of our students have either won or been shortlisted for external essay awards, such as Cambridge’s Woolf Essay Prize and NCH Essay Competition.