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A Day in the Life of a Sixth Form student at Sacred Heart - Emily Donohoe

December 21, 2017

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Alumni Case Study - Aoibh Bourke, University of Cambridge

December 14, 2017

I left Sacred Heart in the summer of 2017 and I’m currently in my first year of studying Medicine at the University of Cambridge. 


The goal of Sacred Heart is to prepare every student to leave school to pursue something that they love. Becoming a doctor has been my greatest aspiration for many years and I am now fortunate enough to be able to study in a Medical School that suits me perfectly. However, I would not be where I am now without the support I received from school, starting from my first day and continuing long after I left. 


The apprehension I felt on my first day at Sacred Heart was quickly replaced with a sense of comfort and belonging. It was this friendly and non-judgemental atmosphere that pushed me into trying many activities in sports, music, academia, charity work and much more and ultimately led to a boost in confidence which had a positive benefit on many aspects of my life both inside and outside of school.


When I first voiced my interest in Medicine in Year 9, I was met with overwhelming support from my Science teachers and Head of Progress who guided me towards books, documentaries, public lectures and volunteering opportunities to further explore my interest. In Year 10, a group of us were taken down to Cambridge. It was here that I fell in love with the university and the way in which the medical course was taught. I remember my Head of Progress at the time promising to do everything he could to help me get there. When I was in Year 11, I sat my GCSEs. This can be a hugely daunting time for any 15/16 year old, and although I felt challenged I never once felt as though I was alone. 


Aoibh (pictured far right) is currently studying Medicine at the University of Cambridge. 


The community feel within Sacred Heart intensifies during Sixth Form; your classes become much smaller and you develop much closer relationships with friends and teachers. This tight knit support network makes the jump between lower school and sixth form so much easier. I received an incredible amount of academic support over these 2 years. 


  • Extra lessons for anything I struggled with; 

  • Tuition and resources for the entrance exams I sat (UKCAT and BMAT); 

  • Interview practice with various people with connections to Oxbridge and Medicine; 

  • Weekly sessions discussing issues concerning Medicine; 

  • Meetings about my personal statement and university application; 

  • Work experience in a hospital. 


However, academic achievement is only one of many aspects of Sixth Form. The main focus of the 2 years is not to simply obtain qualifications but to enable you to spend the rest of your life doing something you love. There is a huge emphasis on personal development through non-academic activities to increase your awareness of global and local issues as well as improving skills such as public speaking. Some of the things that I got involved in were the Justice and Peace Group, the Debating Society and the Head Girl team.


When I first started Sacred Heart I was incredibly shy and public speaking was my biggest fear, yet last week I presented a project I’d researched in front of over 350 people at Cambridge. I will be forever grateful for the confidence I developed due to the unique atmosphere at Sacred Heart which supported and encouraged me in everything I did, nurturing a sense of self belief that I may not have developed otherwise. 


I can’t say I miss A-levels but I miss the atmosphere in Sixth Form. There is a unique ethos in Sacred Heart endorsed by staff and students alike whereby everyone is made to feel like an important part of the community. From the students who made it impossible for someone to walk from one end of the building to the other without being stopped for a hug and a chat to the cleaners who always made an effort to cheer up everyone who stayed behind to work after everyone else had gone home. It is an environment where people genuinely care about one another, one of the receptionists even cried when I got my offer for Cambridge because she knew how much it meant to me. 


Although challenging at some points, my time at Sacred Heart is ultimately one I remember very positively. My advice to anyone working towards exams would be: 


  • Figure out a routine that works for you by finding out when and where you work best and try your best to stick to it. 

  • Slow and steady wins the race. There’s a lot of work to do but if you split it up into small amounts every day it’s manageable. This might mean you’re working when no one else is early on in the year but when exam season hits it will be far less stressful, trust me on this one. 

  • Always be there for your friends and let them help you if you need it. 

  • Your mental health is ALWAYS more important than your grades.

  • Make the most out of it. Choose subjects you love, surround yourself with people you love and take advantage of all the opportunities available to you.




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