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Sarah A

"Your support has been so encouraging and always motivating. I found A levels challenging but with a mentor like you, it felt much more realistic. I don’t think that I have the words to say how grateful I am."

Anastasia, UCAS Mentoring

  • Interview Preparation

  • Oxbridge Applications

  • Personal Statement Support

  • Senior School Entrance

  • University Applications

Academic History

Sep 1991- June 1995 Cambridge University BA Hons Law and MML

Sep 1984 – June 1991 Godolphin and Latymer School – STEP Spanish (2) A Levels French (A) Spanish (A) English (C) GCSEs 10 subjects

About Me

I have worked within the independent school sector for many years having started almost immediately after graduating from Cambridge. I have worked as a Deputy Head and as Head of Careers and UCAS at a leading independent day school. I have a huge amount of experience with Sixth-formers in particular and I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

My specialism is helping students with their applications to university, both the application and the interview, where relevant. In addition, I help students to prepare for 11+ and 16+ interviews, having spent the best part of my career interviewing for Sixth-form entrance and more recently for the 11+. As a Careers Adviser, I also guide students in making their option choices for GCSE and A Level/IB.

University applications and personal statements

I can help students through the process of applying for any subject at university. The application can be a source of great stress for students and a real mystery for parents. The main reason for this stress is the personal statement, a brief document aiming to convince admissions tutors that they should give a place to your child. It has to show that the student is interested in the chosen subject and has the academic potential to cope with studying it for three or four years. It’s challenging to get it right.

So, even before students put pen to paper, they need to research their subject in order to be certain that it really is something that they want to study. I really try to get students to appreciate the importance of this stage and of starting it early, so that if they change their mind, it’s not too late to do another round of research. I have taken a student from Art History to Japanese Studies in a matter of days, having made her look very thoroughly at what would be taught on an Art History degree. We realised quickly that she, like many students, had chosen the subject simply because it was the subject that she did best at in her A levels. But being good at something does not automatically mean your child should study it intensively for three years. Some digging around and a lot of talking can really help to find the right fit.

I think that what helps me to be successful is that I love what I do. I enjoy working with teenagers and helping them to do their best. I am keen to help students find out what they love and get them to the best university that they can get to, if university is the right thing for them.

I listen carefully and I believe that is imperative when it comes to working with teenagers in particular, who so often feel that they are not listened to. Underneath the most challenging of students is something that needs to be listened to and addressed. It doesn’t mean we have to be soft, not at all! But it’s always vital to keep our ears open.

Recent tuition

Some of my recent clients have included:

Olivia, 11+ interviews

I worked with Olivia over a six-week period prior to her interviews. We had to work on organising her thoughts so that her answers were well structured, as well as ensuring that she remained on track in terms of answering the question, as she had a tendency to forget the question. She had so much to say and was so enthusiastic that her answer could get lost, so we worked hard on that and on her confidence levels. Her unique and creative approach won her places at Queen’s College, North Bridge House and Portland Place.

Harry, Personal Statement

Harry left boarding school with great A level results but did not have any real idea of what he wanted to study so had decided on a gap year. He eventually settled on Archaeology as his chosen degree subject and then contacted me in order to help him to write the best personal statement he could. Harry took a while to get going, but once I had seen him a couple of times and set him targets and deadlines, we moved swiftly and he completed an excellent application which resulted in him being offered a place at all of the Russell Group universities to which he had applied.

Lulu, Personal statement and mentoring

Lulu was recovering from an eating disorder, which had meant that she had missed rather a lot of school. Eventually she left her boarding school and moved to a tutorial college in order to complete her A levels. She was procrastinating and needed some extra individual support in order to ensure that she understood what was required in the personal statement. I worked closely with Lulu and her mother to get her moving. She was terrified of writing the “wrong” thing and so she would often choose not to write anything at all, rather than face the prospect of what she perceived as failure. Having started the process early, I had time to work very gently but firmly with Lulu to guide her through what was needed and to encourage her to move forward with a little more confidence with each draft. She eventually submitted an application which gained her four Russell Group offers and an interview at Oxford, though sadly no offer from the latter.

Polly, Personal Statement

Polly wanted to apply to read Anthropology at Bristol, Edinburgh, Exeter, Manchester and Sussex, but she needed more guidance on her personal statement than she felt her school was able to give her. I showed her the best way to structure the statement and sent her away to do a little more subject-based reading that we could talk about in the statement. She worked with discipline keeping within the structure I advised and after four drafts, she submitted the statement within her UCAS application and received offers from all of the universities to which she applied.

India, University application long-term assistance

India is at boarding school and her parents are keen to ensure that she has access to as much support as possible whilst she decides on her degree subject and universities and eventually makes her application via UCAS. India had initially thought that she wanted to study Art History at university, partly because she does well in the subject at A level and partly because her father is an art historian. On further investigation and research, India realised that she was choosing the subject mostly because she did not know what else to do. Through getting to know her and some very extensive questioning, she revealed a love for all things Japanese and is now going to make an application to read Japanese Studies. Each month, we review tasks which I have set her, all of which aim to ensure that she has researched the subject and the courses for which she is going to apply, that she has gone to Open Days, lectures, seminars and masterclasses and can feedback on them. I aim to make sure that she is certain that she is applying for the right subject at the best universities for her and that she is fully prepared to make, with my guidance, an application which reflects all the hard work she has put in.

Oxbridge applications

I have authored four editions of the guide “Getting into Oxford and Cambridge” under my maiden name, Alakija. It was rewarding to work with admissions officers so closely to ensure that the advice was correct.

Mentoring clients

Many of the issues which have brought students to me for mentoring can be a little difficult to describe without upsetting people. In addition, my clients would be able to recognise themselves in these scenarios and so I have chosen not to write about them on an individual basis. In general, I have tried to listen and guide students who, for example have been or are being bullied at school, students who suffer with anxiety whether due to the stresses of school or otherwise, students who are rude and aggressive, students with eating disorders, procrastinators, those who terrify their parents by self-harming and students who feel that they can’t even get themselves through the school gates. Being a teenager at school brings both positive and negative issues with it. I just try to help them to balance the two out a little and to help them see the light. I am NOT a counsellor, but I am an independent educationalist with a sympathetic ear, and a gentle relentlessness where required. No miracles, just ears, wisdom and a safe space!

Hobbies and Interests

I take ballet lessons and love to watch it performed by those far more experienced than me! I also love watching flamenco performances. At home, I like to read and cook and have also recently taken up training as a voiceover artiste.

Client Testimonials

“Your support has been so encouraging and always motivating. I found A levels challenging but with a mentor like you, it felt much more realistic. I don’t think that I have the words to say how grateful I am.” Anastasia Z

“We are thrilled about L’s place at Cambridge and I don’t think she could have done it without you. Your encouragement and wise counsel have been so appreciated.” Mrs F

“You’ve truly been the best mentor I could have ever asked for. You’ve given me so much confidence with your positivity and great advice.” Kirti M.

“Thank you for marshalling me to the end of the beginning. I wouldn’t have made it without your help. I am so grateful.” Nick R.

“Thank you for pushing and inspiring me to achieve my goals. You helped me to see the light in the times of darkness.” Poonam S

“I can’t even begin to describe how thankful I am to have had you as my mentor. I wouldn’t have been able to get back in to school, let alone enjoy my time at school without you. Thank you for being there for me and making me take the leap of faith.” Katie H

“Your kindness and understanding have been instrumental in guiding M back from some very dark places and back into the light.” Mr and Mrs D

“I did it…I got through the hell that has been my high school career. And I truly mean it when I say that I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for all the support… Thank you for holding my hand and holding me together. Please know that you have almost – quite literally – saved my life and I think that you are a saint.” Ernest

  • Mentor